Norway is considering whether to make the use of the Open Document Format (ODF) compulsory in its government agencies. The Ministry of Government Administration and Reform will make a final decision later in the year after recommendations from the Norwegian Standards Association committee. Several European countries are also …
Well done, Norway
Now, will the UK and other governments please have the intelligence to copy them.
As an open format, there's absolutely no reason why the likes of Microsoft shouldn't create an ODF version of Office if it wants to remain in the market. Though I hope somebody will have the sense to validate it vigorously and fail it if there's the slightest incompatibility or additional feature beyond that which the ODF spec requires.
#1 - I think I might move to Norway.
#2 - So far as I've seen, no 2 implimentations of ODF are the same. If it makes its way into Office, even if it doesn't match the spec, hopefully they'll get enough market share that people will just make their software compatable with Office for now. I know that'd create problems in the long term (Think IE, but hopefully not as dreadful,) but I do think that any implimentation with large marketshare will be more likely to unite the format than any written standard. And Office is obviously in the best place to do that.
"the slightest incompatibility or additional feature beyond that which the ODF spec requires"
Given the current state of conformance and interoperabilty around ODF is not particularly stunning (http://develop.opendocumentfellowship.org/testsuite/summary.html) and that huge chunks of what's in the average ODF document is not specified in ODF it can be concluded that the only way forward is to return to pen and paper.
Not that this is necessarily a *bad* thing, mind...
It's a good time to switch
This is a good thing for all. There's no lock-out for those citizens who'd rather not use Microsoft products, and no lock-in for the document creators who have a wider choice of tools. (Which could *easily* include MS Office, if Microsoft weren't so scared of supporting a truly open format.)
As far as cost of switching goes, I'm led to believe that Office 2007's interface is significantly different to earlier versions. Which means retraining people how to use it. MS Technet even has an article which states "User education is required."
Granted, you'd have some retraining to move to OpenOffice or some other ODF-supporting alternative, but the interface is a lot closer to what your office suite users are already comfortable with, and at the end of it all you'd have escaped the MS Office trap and saved on licensing fees now and in the future.
Document exchange with less-enlightened organizations might be an initial problem, but different versions of MS Office tend to cause the same issues anyway.
As for the suggestion of standardizing around a Microsoft Office implementation of ODF, no way! Sorry but that's a Really Bad Idea. MS have plenty of form on this, where they try to subvert an open standard and twist it to their own benefit. Better to make sure the format is fully standardized and documented by a party that doesn't stand to gain or lose from it.