I’ve had a long phone conversation with Sam Ramji today. It was plagued by some bandwidth problems on my side (next time I will have a dedicated PC for Skype) but it was definitely constructive for both of us: Microsoft and Associazione PLIO. We are both committed to start working about and around interoperability, maintaining our respective independence and therefore our different views on some issues.
During the call, Sam has pointed out that a very large percentage of OpenOffice.org users (close to 90%? maybe, although every Linux user and an increasing number of Mac users adopt it) are also Windows users (from the emails and phone calls that we receive on a daily basis, I would dare to say that all the Italians that use Vista have already switched to OpenOffice.org).
Therefore, interoperability is a key factor for Microsoft, because a malfunctioning OpenOffice.org on Windows would raise question marks about the operating system, and is a key factor for OpenOffice.org, because there are areas where performances can be improved with a better understanding of Windows.
Then there are document formats. During the recent press conference, Microsoft has stated the following:
To promote user choice among document formats, Microsoft will design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional document formats and to enable users to set these formats as their default for saving documents.
Unfortunately, only a few people understand the implications of standard document formats for the user. During the last couple of weeks I have talked with many Italian journalists about this subject, and I have realized that their knowledge is still limited and sometimes even confused. We have a long education process in front of us.
Given this limited understanding, the chaos around standard formats has raised more than one eyebrow in those who have followed the discussion on the press. It’s time to stop being negative and start being positive, for the sake of the user.