Lodahl's blog: OpenOffice.org Newsletter in Danish

28 March 2008

OpenOffice.org Newsletter in Danish

The monthly Danish newsletter is released and can be downloaded here: http://doc.oooforum.dk/Nyhed/2008April.pdf

Here is my own translation of one of the articles...
Standards and free competition

by Leif Lodahl, spokesman for OpenOffice.org in Denmark

The international organization for standardization ISO is about to decide if the document format from Microsoft can be accepted as an international standard.

The problem with standards is, that there shouldn't be more than one standard covering a single subject. Microsoft has being pointing out that OOXML as the format is called, covers another subject than covered by the already approved standard ODF. And furthermore Microsoft points that more standards will increase free competition.

Think about this example: If we had two (or more) standards covering the subject power outlets. This is a very good example how free competition should take action on the product and not the standard. With the standard in common, anybody can get access to the marketplace, if only you can fulfill the standard covering that subject.


Standards secures that we can change one product with another without worries. This is called interoperability: No matter what lamp you buy, you can be sure that the plug fits in the power outlet in your home. Interoperability was one of the most important arguments when the Danish parliament decided to implement open standards for office documents in the public sector.

Interoperability creates free competition. The situation today is, that Microsoft covers about 90% of the market for office applications in Denmark. Microsoft Office is the dominating product at that means that the document format used by this product becomes a de facto standard. If we can reach full interoperability, this will cause the end user to be able to decide what program to use. So Microsoft will loose the dominant position and more and more users will select other (less expensive) programs. Microsoft will then be forced to decrease the prize for the office suite. Microsoft is not motivated to reach interoperability.

Can't we just use one of those converter plug-ins ? Yes, but that will not be interoperability but compatibility. This will be the case when we have two different standards for power outlets. If you buy a lamp that doesn't fit in your power outlet, you must also buy a converter to but in between the outlet and the lamp. A converter can translate the power to another standard but you must expect to loose some quality.

Microsoft is trying to convince us, that interoperability between ODF and OOXML can be achieved using converters and plug-ins. What they really is trying, is to make us satisfied with compatibility. Microsoft is doing that by hinder true interoperability by not use or support ODF and by pushing compatibility by using and supporting the development of plug-ins.


If we can reach true interoperability, we as consumers can make a free choise. Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org or what ever you find most appropriate. If we don't reach interoperability, but instead accepts compatibility, we will continuously be tight up with Microsoft document format OOXML– no matter if we like it or not. Simply because 90% of us will be using it before we know it.

But can't OpenOffice.org just use OOXML as well ? Yes, but Microsoft will always be ahead. Because the core purpose of the format is to be a Microsoft format (thats how it is in the spec). We will not reach free competition.

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