A interesting post by Bob Sutor. What is OOXML’s real competition, and how does that help ODF? The dynamics get interesting when you are hindered by your own install base. The main selling point of OOXML is its claimed 100% compatibility with the legacy binary formats. But if you are using Office 2000, and happy with it, what is the reason to move to OOXML? Why not remain using the binary formats? What justifies the migration?
The downside is clear. The minute you move to OOXML you have less choice with whom you can successfully exchange documents with. Office for the Mac, Windows Mobile, WordPerfect Office, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, SmartSuite, ThinkFree Office, users of these products, and the numerous 3rd party applications that can read and write the binary formats, these are now outside of the universe of people and applications that you can exchange documents with. Despite some early attempts from Sun and Novell, Linux users are left out as well.
So why move to OOXML? From the CTO’s perspective, if your greatest concern is legacy compatibility, what is the ROI argument for changing file formats? Wouldn’t the tendency be to remain where you are?
So the breakdown may happen like this:
- N% of companies put compatibility with legacy documents foremost. A% of these stay on Office/Windows and upgrade to Office 2007/OOXML. B% stay where they are and use the binary formats, and C% move to some combination of ODF and PDF.
- 100-N% make a decision primarily on factors other than 100% fidelity with legacy documents, such as ease of programmability, greater choice and diversity in applications and vendors, etc. X% stay on Office/Windows and upgrade to Office 2007/OOXML. Y% stay where they are and use the binary formats, and Z% move to some combination of ODF and PDF.
I think that B & Z may be the dominating factors. N is large now because it includes the inertial effects of Microsoft’s market dominance. Even companies that don’t make an explicit choice will end up with that path by default. But even the most passive company will not fall into choice A without some thought.
It is interesting to speculate on the initial percentages. But note that this is a network effect game, so the percentages will vary over time based on expectations.