The ISO vote on OOXML closes at midnight CET tonight. It's been a divisive topic, and while browsing for the last-minute volleys on the subject, I happened on this debate. It is mostly a one-sided set of rants about how much IBM will or won't support OOXML and what"support" really means.
But, buried down towards the end is a long-ish and mostly well-written comment from Doug Heintzman, "Director of Strategy for IBM Collaboration Technologies," which includes this paragraph:
Let's be clear. IBM believes that the monopolistic domination of the office productivity market has inhibited investment and innovation. We believe that XML based file formats have tremendous potential to improve workflow, activities, and team collaboration. We believe that a modern XML based file format will allow customers to perform business analytics, generate automated semantic information, improved searchability, and make the information contained in documents much more socially and process aware and increase its overall value to the customer. We think that documents will become much more seamlessly integrated into business applications and processes.
I was struck by how little the topic sentence:
"IBM believes that monopolistic domination of the office productivity market has inhibited investment and innovation"
had to do with what followed:
"We believe that XML based file formats have tremendous potential to improve workflow, activities, and team collaboration ...."
From his job title, I suspect Doug knows something about collaboration, and is credible in the main part of the paragraph. I believe he is right in that part and I think most people in the industry (including those at Microsoft) would agree. See this from http://www.microsoft.com/interop/letters/choice.mspx
Microsoft has long believed in the power of XML-based file formats to unlock data in documents and to help integrate front and back office processes – while providing significant opportunities for independent software vendors to create high-value applications
But why the disconnected opening sentence about monopolistic domination? Well, IBM cast the only "no" vote for ECMA approval of OOXML, and has done the same in the ISO Technical group. From ZDNet yesterday
A technical group formed to make a recommendation to the BSI's policy panel has voted five-to-one in favour of OOXML being accepted as an international standard, a source close to the process has told ZDNet.co.uk. There was intense lobbying by interested parties before a meeting on Tuesday, in which IBM was apparently the one remaining dissident. IBM uses the competing OpenDocument Format (ODF), which is already an international standard.
Given the trend in IBM's share of the collaboration market, I can understand a certain peevishness in Doug's opinion. But, for the same reason, he might do better to focus less on the economics of business, and a whole lot more on IBM's strategy for Collaboration Technologies.