ODF Notes and Reports from All Over (Installment VI)

Last fall, when things were moving quite rapidly in the ODF/OpenXML (then called "Microsoft XML reference schema") front, I did a c. weekly series of blog entries titled as above, pulling together most of what I thought was worth reading from all manner of sources on this topic.  Today, there are a number of sites that are fulfilling that function (Bob Sutor's blog is one of the most thoroughly and reliably updated), so I have not felt that this to be as necessary a task as before. 

Recently, however, the volume of news and commentary has risen to the point that perhaps there is a need for a new service for those interested in the ODF story: not a gathering, but a winnowing function, selecting those pieces of information, and those analyses, that are particularly worthwhile and shuffling them into some sort of coherently arranged bouquet of contrasting insights.  That's what I'll try and do in this entry, and will continue to do on a periodic basis in the future if the chore seems to be worthwhile.

 So here goes.

Let’s make that an even 100:  I’m certainly not the only one that reads Bob Sutor’s blog — ZDNet blogger David Berlind is another.  Last Tuesday Bob piqued David’s curiosity with a prediction on what level of government adoption progress to expect by year’s end, saying that he expects to report another government adoption (Malaysia was the expected domino du jour last week) “about a hundred or so more times around the world,” concluding cheerfully, “Looking good.”  David followed up with Bob to press him on the subject, and reported the next day:

In terms of a checklist of nations, while Sutor said there’s no formal list, it’s clear that IBM and others have prioritized the countries that are “more likely to adopt ODF next” or ones that appear ready to “fundamentally revise their IT strategies around open standards.” Sutor mentioned Thailand and Japan as two countries that it became much easier to have discussions with once ODF was ratified as an international standard by the International Organisation of Standardization (a process that I’ve found to be dubious at best).  “Some countries aren’t ready for that discussion” Sutor said.  “For example, ones that are currently going through elections or a war.” 

It’s an ODF world after all:  And speaking of three digit numbers, the membership of the ODF Alliance,  launched just this March, now stands at something like 240 and counting.  

Was that a Google I saw in there?  Remember those 240 ODF Alliance members I just mentioned?  It seems that one of them is a certain search company whose name begins with “G,” which quietly joined the Alliance recently but who’s addition to the membership page did not long escape attention.  It also did not fail to reignite speculation over what it’s acquisition of Writely earlier this year might mean for the future of Office. 

Try it, you may like it:  For those of you that would like to roll your sleeves up rather than simply read about ODF readers and converters, check out the alpha version of the ODF Fellowship’s ODF viewer for the FireFox open source Web browser, which you can download here; this page will also tell you what the current version will, and won’t (yet) let you do.

You say converter, I say… splat: Speaking of viewers, converters and suchlike, Pamela Jones at Groklaw showcased a blog entry by  Rob Weir, one of the most knowledgeable ODF experts around (he’s on all of the OASIS ODF Technical Committeess).  Rob has a pleasantly irreverent Website called An Antic Disposition (“Thinking the unthinkable, pondering the imponderable, effing the ineffable, scruting the inscrutable”).  Rob is less than impressed with the recently announced Microsoft converter, finding it, presumably ineffable.  The most detailed and entertaining of Weir’s three entries on the MS converter is called A Game of Zendo.

Another state heard from:  Last week, it was Croatia that came out in favor of open source software, or at least so Nick Farrell had it at the rather off-beat and irreverent Inquirer.com in a story titled “Croatian government adopts open software policy (and subtitled, “Apply Open Sauce on the Balkans”).  Farrell supplied a link to the report, but as it’s in Serbo-Croatian, I can’t say whether it endorses ODF as well or not.

You want open source with that?  And finally, you may remember from last fall there was quite a bit of interest in what the covenants not to assert by Sun and Microsoft, relating to ODF and OpenXML, respectively, would and would not permit, especially as regards open source software implementations.  On July 12, the Software Freedom Law Center posted an “OpenDocument Opinion Letter” drafted by open source advocate Eben Moglen on behalf of his clients, the Free Software Foundation and the Apache Software Foundation.  That opinion concludes that all patent claims held by the OASIS members (including Sun Microsystems) that helped create the ODF standard “are available to all implementers of ODF on terms compatible with free and open source software licenses.”

Reading the tea leaves:  And speaking of open source and search companies, give a read to the press release issued by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) on the Moglen opinion.  It just happens to include this quote:

I’m pleased that the SFLC has definitively spoken on ODF.  Free software developers need to be able to use ODF without worrying about litigation or licensing fees, and it’s great to hear the SFLC say they can do just that.

Who said that?  Chris DiBona, who just so happens to be Open Source Program Manager for a search engine company whose name just happens to begin with a “G.”

 Of course, there is more that could be reported, but the above should suffice to convey the (accurate) impression that the support for ODF adoption continues to broaden, deepen, and become ever more inevitable.  Tune in next time for more of the same (and who knows what else).

For further blog entries on ODF, click here

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