About Beijing, OOo, ODF and interoperability

Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time to elucubrate about what I’ve seen and heard in Beijing. Therefore, this is going to be a random collection of thoughts. Maybe, in the future I will have the time to add some comments.

Let’s start with a big thank to the organization. Kudos to everyone. The closing ceremony with the authentic emotion of RedFlag 2000’s managing director is something that will remain in my heart forever.

The sightseeings were also unforgettable. Pictures of everything are here.

A couple of remarks about the opening ceremony: four hours without a (coffee) break have been difficult to manage, especially a few days after a long flight and several hours before the usual time zone, and the slides in Chinese about UOF could have been translated and projected in English on the second screen (which was there). They were extremely interesting, but we have lost most of them because of the translation.

OpenOffice.org is a mature project, which over the years has scaled to a level which was probably difficult to imagine back in 2001. The real strength of the project is the community of volunteers, although we can’t forget the support of companies such as Sun – the founder of the project – plus IBM, Novell and RedFlag 2000.

Without the community, though, OpenOffice.org would not be where it is today, because Sun has still to identify a real strategy to monetize the effort and the investment, Novell is stuck in between the development effort and the agreement with Microsoft, RedFlag 2000 is still too young in the community to be a strategic asset, and IBM is taking a lot more than what is giving (and will continue to do so in the future, IMHO).

The community is going to be key in the process towards interoperability, although the companies would really like to keep it off the table. The community wasn’t invited by Microsoft at their interoperability labs, the community wasn’t invited by IBM at the Beijing interoperability table (I’ve assisted for a couple of hours).

The community is key to reach the users (the fact that OpenOffice.org is stronger in France, Germany and Italy, where there’s a stronger and better organized community, it’s not a coincidence, and should be taken in due consideration by the companies), and the users are key for the success of a file format (users are individuals, enterprises and governments, both local and national).

Today, both IBM and Microsoft sit at the ODF interoperability table, together with several individuals and organizations. I strongly support the idea that Associazione PLIO should sit at the same table, in order to contribute to the development of the standard.

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