Badda Boom – Badda Bing! OASIS Announces the ODF Adoption Committee

Hard on the heels of the announcement of the government-targeting ODF Alliance comes the announcement of a new initiative: the ODF Adoption Committee at OASIS, which will work to promote ODF adoption in the broader end user community.

This entry was updated at 6:00 PM EST 3/7/06; see the new material at the end

In the second part of a one-two punch attack on the entrenched position of Microsoft Office, OASIS today announced the formation of a new committee to “increase the demand for and availability of ODF-conforming products, resulting in a greater choice of tools and platforms and expanding the ODF community of users, suppliers, and developers.” The announcement of the new committee follows closely on the heels of the unveiling of the ODF Alliance on Friday, an organization that will focus on educating government about the advantages of requiring support of ODF in their procurement requirements.

With the launch of these two initiatives, the visibility and � if the new efforts are successful � the credibility of ODF should be substantially augmented. At the same time, the messaging and the structural reality of each of these new organizations emphasize openness, transparency of process and information, and responsiveness to the end user, who are invited to make their needs known, and to influence the further development of ODF.

Here are the organizational details of the new OASIS Committee:

As with the ODF Alliance, the founding members of the new committee include major vendors, other organizations that support ODF, and end users. The former category includes traditional ODF advocate-implementers IBM, Sun and Novell, as well as Oracle, which is newly committed to promoting ODF, and also a founding member of the ODF Alliance. The OpenDocument Foundation is named in the OASIS press release as a member in the second category, while founding end users include government agencies such as the National Informatics Center of the Government of India and the Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration, again underlining the strong interest in ODF outside the U.S.

As with the ODF Alliance, membership is open to all, whether or not they are currently a member of the host organization (OASIS memberships begin at $250; participation in the ODF Alliance does not require membership in SIIA, the host of the ODF Alliance). The first meeting of the new committee will be held by teleconference on March 28, and all committee documents will be publicly available. Those that wish to follow the progress of the Committee or to comment on its work may also sign up to a public email list without becoming an OASIS member.

In order to accommodate worldwide interest in this work, the Committee’s first meeting will be held on March 28 by teleconference. As with all OASIS projects, archives of the Committee’s work will be accessible to both members and non-members, and OASIS will host an open mail list for public comment.

What exactly will the Committee do?

Thematically, the tone for the new Committee is set in the press release in a quote from IBM’s Don Harbison, who is identified as the proposed chair of the Committee:

The life of a document may far exceed that of a particular software product or vendor. Users have a right to retain control over their workâ�”no matter when their documents were created or what tool was used to create them. Open standards in general, and ODF in particular, can help ensure that right. Our team will work to help users understand what’s really at stake here and the advantages ODF offers for platform – and application-independent documents.

More concretely, the Committee will:



[W]ork closely with the consortium’s technical committee to align market-based requirements and help guide future enhancements to the standard. Other activities of the OASIS ODF Adoption Committee include the creation of white papers, FAQs, overview documents, case studies, and other educational materials. The group will serve as a community-building resource by providing ODF information through the OASIS and websites, collateral, newsletters, webinars, conferences, and other outreach venues. The Committee will also host proof-of-concept demonstrations to highlight use cases of ODF with XML schemas and industry vocabularies that can be integrated with Web services.

 The above press release outtake contains two types of information of note. The more obvious of the two sets out the particular types of work that the Committee will perform in order to keep ODF in the news, to educate potential end users of its advantages, and to ensure that accurate information is available in the marketplace.



The more subtle, but no less important, of the two messages is contained in the first sentence: that the Committee will provide yet another avenue by which the ongoing development of ODF is pledged to remain responsive to the desires and the needs of the marketplace. This commitment stands in contrast to the terms by which the Microsoft XML Reference Schema specification was offered to Ecma, a European standards group that offers Microsoft a path to ultimate adoption by global standards body ISO (ODF is already close to the end of the approval process at ISO). At Ecma, the XML Reference Schema working group is tightly constrained by a charter that commands it to produce a specification that is tightly locked on Microsoft Office, in its current and upcoming versions (as noted here and here.

To date, Microsoft has not (to my knowledge) responded publicly to the announcement of the ODF Alliance. It will be interesting to see whether this new announcement elicits a reaction from Redmond, either in response to a reporter’s questions, or through the announcement by Microsoft of some new initiative of its own, as this high-stakes force/counterforce battle to capture â�“ or retain â�“ the hearts, minds and budgets of end users continues to play out in the marketplace.

Update: The full Call for Participation has now been posted at the OASIS Website. This public page includes, in addition to the details already outlined above, the following additional information, among other data:

– Committee registration details (see Webpage)

– Focus area details: “The OpenDocument Focus Area will be governed by an editorial board to be established by this committee and consist of members of OASIS. Content will include works created by the Committee, links to other third-party works, a wiki where users can contribute to a collection of best practices, forums, and other applications.”

– All work product will be made available on a royalty free basis

– Interaction with other initiatives: “The TC will interoperate with and support, but not duplicate the functions of the existing OASIS OpenDocument TC. External to OASIS there are 2 other initiatives, in various states of activity and visibility; the Open Document Fellowship, and the Open Document Foundation. Messages need to be aligned and consistent.”

– Meeting schedule: “Initial proposed meeting schedule will be bi-weekly conference calls, as well as periodic face-to-face meetings. A face-to-face meeting will be held at the OASIS Symposium, May 11th or 12th, 2006 in San Francisco, CA, USA.”

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