OpenDoc File Format: My Microsoft Office’s Lock Could Be Broken

Business Week tech writer Steve Hamm writes about OpenDoc, a new file format adopted by an international standards group. Steve writes What’s the big deal about OpenDoc? The technology specification is not owned by any company, it’s open for inspection, and it’s not covered by any patents. Documents created using it can be opened and edited in any application that supports it. So it has the potential to become the Lingua Franca of office productivity applications. Governments feel that, thanks to OpenDoc, they–not a software company–will have the key to access their archived documents into perpetuity.
I think that while file formats are important and one common file format, like Adobe’s PDF means that EVERYONE can read and write the same file format using a broad range of applications, it’s not everything.
Many people are getting excited because they THINK this means that the more Microsoft is pressured to enable the OpenDoc file format in their applications, other software vendors can have more of an incentive to have people buy their (often cheaper software) and compete even more with Microsoft.
However, it is NOT THAT simple. But almost.
Microsoft Office is popular and has a 90%+ lock on the desktop market not only because of a file format but because it provides:
1. An entire ecosystem of third party software to make it even better and more productive.
2. All of the applications work together – seamlessly with a common user interface.
Let’s say that Corel, Microsoft and OpenOffice’s application suite all used the same file format. This would mean that anyone could create any file and it would work the same in any other application. So sure, a common file format is important but my points 1 and 2 are another HUGE reason why people are NOT going to switch applications (even if its cheaper) just because a file format is common.
However, for businesses considering buying NEW applications, if they can be assured that documents they create in one suite will work in any other office suite then there is a reason to maybe not rip out their existing office suites but start using free or low cost suites on a much, much, much LARGE scale than they do now.
This is what would make Microsoft VERY nervous.