About a week ago, Rob Weir (of IBM) asked whether harmonisation is a sensible route to take in order to unify and establish a single universal document format. It is in everyone’s interest to have one single format. Based on Microsoft's admission, it is not truly necessary to have OOXML. Microsoft could adapt its applications (office suite) to ODF and then specify extensions which can be carefully learned.
The following writeup considers the feasibility of this, but it is not very optimistic.
This post has four points:
1. Translatability Informs Harmonization
Difficulty of translation is a rough indicator of the degree to which reconciliation of the formats is difficult.
2. Models Limit Translation/Harmonization
There is no assurance that either format is universal enough, in the sense that it can faithfully express all documents of the other format.
3. We Must Know the Differences
We need to know the severity of the model disparities and individual-feature differences before concluding how much useful harmonization is possible.
4. The Reality in the Punchbowl
That given, would it not be simpler for Microsoft to simply embrace ODF, which is the only international standard? India’s press has said more about the ODF advantage in the following new article.
“OXML needs a thorough review before India can commit anything. Rushing through the 6,000 page specification through the fast track process by ISO is not going to help. The ODF standard was approved after six years of intensive study,” said Venkatesh Hariharan, co-founder Open Source Foundation of India and member of Knowledge Commons, a Knowledge rights group.
By all means remember that charity in India was magically boosted by Microsoft amid times of voting on OOXML (India was bound to say “No”). See our previous writings about the role of charity in greasing up politicians and other decision-makers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].
The incentive for Microsoft to fully cooperate and fully interoperate should be greater given global antitrust pressures. ODF developers and supporters should take the opportunity to do likewise, thus improving format flexibility and choice.
Under pressure from the European Commission and with knowledge that an invitation was made to harmonise, it would be both rude and vain of Microsoft to carry on with OOXML. The world has spoken and it does not want OOXML. Virtually all OOXML support is paid for in one way or another. It is a story about corruption using money. █