IBM gives its first interview on the Armonk ODF meeting. Here's the context, and further details.
Bob Sutor at IBM gave the first public comments about the Armonk ODF meeting yesterday, interestingly enough in an IDG News Service interview with Elizabeth Montalbano, who wrote thefirst public piece on a meeting that wwas intended to stay confidential until after it was over, in order to avoid swirling rumors over what might be afoot.
Here are highlights of the interview, with some supporting information based on my own notes from the meeting and from the official notes distributed tomeeting participants yesterday.
First, the full list of attending companies is now public. They are as follows: Adobe, Apple, Computer Associates, Corel, Google, IBM, Intel, Nokia, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, Scalix, and SIIA.
The meeting was led by host heavyweights Bob Sutor, VP of Standards and Open Source, of IBM, and Hal Stern, Sun CTO and Simon Phipps, Sun Chief Open Source Officer.
Associations: CCIA, OASIS (including many individual members of the ODF Technical Committee), Open Office, and SSIA .
Individuals: Sam Hiser, Adelstein-Hiser; Peter Quinn, Massachusetts CIO; Stephen O’Grady, RedMonk; Leon Shimer (consultant to the Mass. TDF); yours truly (Andrew Updegrove, Gesmer Updegrove/ConsortiumInfo.org).
On the technical front, Montalbano reports that:
The first subcommittee could come together in the next several weeks, to address any technical issues that could preclude OpenDocument’s use as a global standard…[It will address] making OpenDocument more suitable for applications that provide accessibility to computer software for disabled citizens.
The general sentiment of those that attended (and what I expect to see, in more or less the following words in the press release that is currently being revised and cleared by the multiple corporate attendees) was as follows:
The assembled industry leaders committed to the creation of an accessibility subcommittee of the OASIS Standards Organization. During a plenary session, a number of industry executives committed to ensuring access for all regardless of age or ability, as well as advancing accessibility in both the ODF standard and supporting products. Such advancements in accessibility in the global market will only be achieved through harmonization of global open standards.
This commitment was in response to a plea from Peter Quinn at the beginning of the meeting: that those who participate in the process of further evolving ODF and creating products that will support it, “Make the accessibility issue go away,” something he can scarcely do on his own.
The other OASIS subcommittees Bob mentioned by topic in the interview would enable “OpenDocument’s support of digital rights management, and another for how companies can ensure their applications are compliant with the standard.”
On the strategy front, Montalbano quotes Stephen O’Grady, who attended on behalf of RedMonk, as follows:
Is this a competitive move? Absolutely. The [Office document] format is a control point for Microsoft and has been for years. OpenDocument gives more vendors a chance to participate and compete.
Some have wondered why so many companies that do not plan on offering office suite software would care so much about supporting ODF. One answer to that was provided by one participant at the meeting that explains why there is something to be gained by all technology companies from the displacement of a dominant and pervasive product that controls monopoly pricing: billions of dollars of IT budgets currently being spent on abnormally high office suite licensing fees could be redeployed to buy other products and services from the IT industry across the board.
Sutor also confirmed in the interview what I reported two days ago: that he is at work on a proposal to form a new organization, which he describes in the IDG interview as a ” formal OpenDocument coalition.” He hopes to provide that proposal to the Armonk meeting attendees within “the next several weeks.”
Peter Quinn himself had suggested the value of such an organization in his presentation, suggesting that the “Open Format Freedom Fighters Forum” might be an apt nom de guerre. Unhappily, I expect that something a good deal more boring and less T-shirt appropriate will be selected if indeed the coalition comes to fruition.
The global theme plays through in other parts of the IDG article, as in this statement by Sutor:
To be clear, this was not a meeting to convert anyone who might be an OpenDocument critic into being an advocate. This was very much a working group of like-minded people who think that what is going on with OpenDocument is a good thing. … We want to make sure it’s an extremely inclusive, global effort, not just in North America.
Underlining the point, Sutor is about to leave on a trip that will include India and Denmark, to deliver the same message.
The interview concludes with an evaluation by Stephen O’Grady’s of the efforts chances for success:
With these sorts of multivendor efforts, it’s often difficult to sustain on an ongoing basis, and difficult to keep everyone on the same page and participating. But I think OpenDocument represents a significant opportunity for a number of vendors. I think it’s in everybody’s best interest if the standards take hold, and I think that you will see significant accomplishments over time.
In the weeks ahead , there should be a joint press release, followed by other interviews and announcements by individual company attendees, and the likely success of the industry effort to promote ODF will be gauged by what is said, by whom, and by who speaks up to support it.
I’ll continue to provide context as these events occur, as well as news from the Massachusetts legislature, at least to the extent that our elected representatives deign to allow it to reach the ears of the citizens of the Commonwealth.