Let There Be Light: Promoting OpenOffice.org with Sun

by Glyn Moody

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) just keeps on getting stronger. It is now an official ISO standard; there are numerous applications that support it, with varying degrees of fidelity, including Google's online word processor and spreadsheet; there's an official Microsoft-funded plug-in for Microsoft Office that allows it to open and save ODF files, and a program that converts between ODF and the Chinese UOF XML office format; and the ODF community has largely sorted out issues of accessibility that threatened to de-rail its adoption by Massachusetts.

At the same time, Microsoft is clearly beginning to feel the pressure. Its attempts to ram its own XML format through as an ISO standard, and the unseemly haste with which its 6000 pages of documentation were approved as an ECMA standard, are an indication that it is playing catch-up in this sector, even if it remains the dominant player.

ODF's strength comes at a time when Microsoft's focus is elsewhere. The recent launch of Vista has not caught the public's imagination in the way that Windows 95 did. Back in 1995, there was no doubt that this was a defining moment that would radically change the computing landscape; with Vista, on the other hand, even Bill Gates seems to be struggling to articulate why anybody would bother upgrading from Windows XP:

NEWSWEEK: If one of our readers confronted you in a CompUSA and said, “Bill, why upgrade to Vista?