Subject: Re: Mass. Bill to Block OpenDocument Format Standard
From: DV Henkel-Wallace <gumby@henkel-wallace.org>
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 2005 04:37:40 -0800


On Nov 7, 2005, at 19:25 , Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

>>>>>> "g" == DV Henkel-Wallace <gumby@henkel-wallace.org> writes:
>
>     g> OpenDocument itself won' t make much of a difference if all
>     g> that it does is allow you to run an inferior opffice suite.
>
> As far as I can tell "inferior office suite" is a redundant phrase.  I
> know very few people (except those who have only recently graduated
> from pen-and-ink to electrons) who are _happy_ with any office suite.

C'mon.  Once you've decided to use these office packages, you almost  
always get a significant benefit from using the dominant standard:  
file interchange, lower training cost and opportunity for third-party  
integration.

>     g> Somebody needs to develop a cool (i.e. useful) app that only
>     g> works with Open Document -- a web app, a mobile app, something
>     g> new -- in order to make it worth switching.
>
> That's pessimistic.  Remember, we're talking _a requirement for
> government documents_ here.  We have a _big_ customer saying "we
> _require_ interoperation by protocol design, not embedded in anyone's
> proprietary software."  This is the same kind of motivation that
> drives second sourcing, which has been the source of significant
> profit, enough to make AMD competitive with Intel.

Essentially second sourcing matters in a monopsony (or small-number- 
of-buyers) situation.  On an engineering basis, second sourcing from  
time immemorial only mattered to the OEMs and sometimes governments.   
It is of little interest for the end user, and never really has been.

OK, we do have a big customer saying that interoperation matters, but  
if and when MS fails in ejecting the OpenDocument requirement, their  
next fallback is to support OpenDocument...and then all the MA  
offices will buy Word and will "accidentally" keep exchanging .DOC  
and .XLS files.  MA's action is a wonderful shot across the bow, but  
hardly a significant one.

By the way: Ian and I (and others not on this list) tried to start an  
email server business.  We found that although people understood that  
Exchange sucked, they just didn't care much.  The sysadmins had  
invested in learning how to manage it, the big companies could spend  
their way out (by buying massive hardware setups and some headcount)  
and they had other problems.  As the CIO of BP said to me: "yes, I  
understand thd Microsoft issues very well but I have bigger risks to  
deal with than that."  Also, many of these systems have an estimated  
life of 3 years or less so as long as they don't have to make a  
discontinuous shift companies don't fear lock in as much as we might  
like to think.

-g

PS: BTW don't pooh-pooh training costs.  Again, in the mail case, I  
saw Exchange beat out (the then) Netscape mail server here in Palo  
Alto's city government even though, for Palo Alto's 1200 workers, it  
was $50K more.  Why?  Training.  Users would see new icons and freak  
out -- they'd want to be sent to training class and to buy books at  
Stacy's on "how to use Netscape Mail."  So clunkiness or whatever  
_just don't matter to most people_.