Convincing customers they have the better technology is the weapon of choice when it comes to winning business battles in high tech
First let's make one thing clear. At the highest level, ODF (Open Document Format) vs. OpenXML is a battle between two business competitors, IBM and Microsoft, each of which views itself as threatened by the other.
Despite what you read below, this is not a column about technology; it's about business strategy. What may mislead you is that when high-tech companies battle, technology is typically the tactical weapon of choice.
IBM and Microsoft have been in a battle for supremacy ever since they parted ways in 1991 over OS/2 and Windows.
As unlikely as it sounds, the current battle is over an open file format for saving files, ODF or OpenXML, especially for word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents but not limited to those.
To see whether I could sort out the differences between these formats, I gave both companies a call.
Supported by Big Blue and many other high-tech companies, ODF is a standard both of the ISO and OASIS, which has about 300 members. OpenXML is supported by a smaller European standards group, ECMA International, which has 21 members, 20 of which voted to make it a standard, with only IBM voting no. OpenXML has also been proposed to the ISO and will be voted on in September.
If OpenXML adoption is preferred, it closes the door on the opportunity for IBM to create a path to a myriad of IBM/Lotus on-premises and Web 2.0 products for such things as collaboration, unified communications, productivity software ,and even its WebSphere middleware platform.
If on the other hand, ODF adoption, especially with government entities, grows over time it could have a viral effect and threaten Microsoft's largest revenue producing product, Office, and help IBM regain market share it lost to Outlook and Exchange Server as well.
To that end, it seems naïve to run stories -- as many publications have, including http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB117807510482889225-lMyQjAxMDE3NzA4... ">The Wall Street Journal -- posing as if they have uncovered some horrible truth about Microsoft lobbying legislative entities against adopting ODF as a governmental standard for file formats. This is capitalism. What do you expect Microsoft to do?