OpenOffice.org recently announced that IBM will be joining
the open source project to collaborate on the development of OpenOffice
software. IBM will make initial code contributions that it has been developing
as part of its Lotus Notes product, including accessibility enhancements, and
will be making ongoing contributions to the feature richness and code quality
of OpenOffice.org. IBM will also leverage OpenOffice.org technology in its
This is a major boon for the OpenOffice project. Already a
relatively full featured software package, the clout of IBM creates instant
credibility for the open source project. While IBM’s contributions to the code
will be welcome, the biggest benefit to OpenOffice is IBM’s plan to leverage
some of the OpenOffice technology in its applications. If IBM employs
substantial portions of OpenOffice in its business applications it would
accelerate the adoption of OpenOffice for business and industry that is still
heavily controlled by Microsoft.
The greatest threat to Microsoft is IBM’s adoption of the
.odf format, which stands for “open document format.” ODF is designed to be
read and modified the same way by a variety of word processing packages. Microsoft
has strongly opposed the adoption of open formats, instead offering “modified”
open formats, which would still be effectively controlled by Microsoft.
Bottom Line: The
agreement between OpenOffice and IBM appears to be a classic win-win. If IBM
substantially integrates OpenOffice standards in its products it would
represent a major shift on the productivity software landscape and be a very
real threat to Microsoft Office’s dominance.