Open for Business

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Will OpenDocument Affect the Desktop Landscape?

We are used to news about Microsoft loosing accounts to open source but the winner is usually Linux and it's typically on the server and I have quite a few blog entries about Linux displacing Windows especially in governments and more often than not in Europe and emerging countries. So why am I interested in this news? Simply because so many of us are frustrated with the lack of competition and innovation on the desktop, therefore it is refreshing to hear news like the one we heard this week. The state of Massachusetts has decided to kick Microsoft out of their provisioning system which will affect about 50,000 desktop PCs that will have to be migrated to products that comply with the OpenDocument standard. Such products include, StarOffice, KOffice, and IBM Workplace. Oracle Collaboration suite will probably join this list of OpenDocument supporters soon.

Microsoft which dominates the desktop/office market has said it is expanding the use of XML in its desktop products but does not intend to support the OpenDocument format. The OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) is a standardized XML-based file format specification for office applications. It defines requirements needed by text documents as well as spreadsheets, or graphical documents. For more information about OpenDocument read this FAQ. IBM said this week that more governments are seriously considering OpenDocument products to replace Microsoft Office including some Norway, Denmark and Japan, as well as other U.S. state governments.

Microsoft's answer to this news is simple; it's using impressive numbers to make this event irrelevant: Along with Windows, the Office suite is one of two cash cows for the software maker. The vast majority of the company's profits come from those two products. MS Office, which is upgraded about every three years and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, brought in more than $11 billion last year, or about 28 percent of Microsoft's total revenue.

For Microsoft, the need for innovation and compelling new releases becomes critical. Earlier this month, Microsoft offered developers a preview at the its plans for the next version of Office, code-named Office 12 slated for release in the second half of next year (something tells me we won't see it before mid/late 2007). Office 12 is supposed to increase workers' productivity by better making sense of ever-growing amounts of data. Office 12 will offer with Excel the ability to create dashboards and scorecards that offer a quick way to visually keep track of how a business is doing. In PowerPoint, Office 12 will help automate more of the graphics features from within the presentation program so users can create better looking documents without much design effort. Finally, Office 12 is supposed to introduce much closer ties between office products (such as Word and Excel) and Microsoft's server software which is pretty scary. This will make documents less interoperable with other products, less portable and even more proprietary.

In conclusion, I can't repeat this enough; I am as far from communism as can be. I am all for commercial software and rewarding innovation in fact, my paycheck comes from a company that does a great job at building and selling software. However my employer is a huge supporter of open standards and increasingly involved with the open source community.

What decisions like the one made by the state of Massachusetts (especially if we see more of them in the coming months) are certainly going to push Microsoft to innovate and consider interoperability more seriously by adopting standards like OpenDocument. My opinion is simple, if Microsoft has the best office suite, they should have no problem supporting open standards for document exchange and compete in an open environment. Even if it is tempting to keep an absolute monopoly on the desktop market, the last thing Microsoft wants to do is turn a blind eye to threats like open source or industry standards.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sorry, Oracle IS OPEN

After attending Oracle Open World earlier this week and listening to Charles' keynote and a series of sessions, I was happy to hear the word open (standards) so many times. I wanted to do my part and set the record straight about something Oracle is unfairly labeled as: the idea that unlike its competitors, Oracle is not a supporter of industry standards and produces proprietary software to lock customers in and trap them forever.

Here are some of the reasons why I think this is non-sense and that Oracle is much more OPEN than many people out there think.

1- Oracle is a major supporter of industry standards. Every component of Oracle Fusion Middleware as well as JDeveloper is 100% compliant with standards. The Faces support is JSR 127 compliant; the EJB support is JSR 220 compliant in fact Oracle's implementation is the base for the EJB3.0 reference implementation (RI). Oracle Fusion Middleware and tools also support J2EE 1.4, Java 5.0 as well as BPEL, JBI, JAX*, WS-I, WS-Security and more.

2- Oracle has also announced the "Hot-Pluggable Architecture" which allows IT organization to leverage their existing infrastructure investment by mixing and matching Oracle technologies with technologies from other vendors. What this means concretely is as long as other vendors comply with standards, Oracle products will seamlessly support and work with them. A good example would be Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Toplink or Oracle Portal (JSR 168 compliant) all run today on BEA Weblogic, IBM WebSphere or JBoss.

3- Oracle Fusion Middleware works well with non-Oracle databases including IBM DB2, Sybase or Microsoft SQL Server.

4- Oracle announced this week that Oracle's packaged applications will run natively (without modification) on the majority of IBM WebSphere middleware and its MQ messaging software, including its application server and portal, plus their recently announced Process Server. In other words, Oracle is opening its apps (#1 in the market - even in CRM with the addition of Siebel) layer natively to non-Oracle middleware.

5- Oracle Fusion Middleware also interoperates nicely with Microsoft .Net services. For example, Oracle BPEL PM seamlessly consumes .Net services. This can also be done from JDeveloper which support .Net services discovery and binding.

6- Oracle is a big believer in composite applications we already have many customers using Oracle tools and middleware to develop and deploy SOA-based applications. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) simply cannot work without interoperability and industry standards across the board. You cannot be 100% behind SOA like Oracle is and ignore standards. It doesn’t make sense.

7- Last but not least, (this is my favorite as you can imagine) Oracle is actively increasing its involvement in the open source community (beyond Linux) in a number of ways:

a. First of all I am here to help build a vibrant open source community around our tools and middleware projects.

b. Oracle is leading 3 of Eclipse projects (under WTP and ETP) and we have been joined by numerous vendors (such as IBM, BEA and JBoss) to collaborate on enhancing the design time experience more specifically in the areas of JSF, EJB3.0 and BPEL.

c. Oracle is currently working with Apache to contribute a rich set of JSF-compliant user interface components. These components are expected to join the Apache MyFaces project. Expect this contribution to make a big impact on modern web application development (aka rich clients – AJAX style). I can see some of you drooling!

d. Oracle middleware and tools are certified to work with a number of very popular open source projects such as Ant, CVS, JUnit, Log4J, Struts, Spring, XDoclet, Axis, MyFaces and more.

e. Oracle has been a tremendous supporter of Linux for many years. In fact, Oracle was the first commercial database available on Linux. Oracle's Unbreakable Linux support offering includes Linux operating system support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Novell SUSE, and Asianux. For more on this visit Oracle's Linux FAQ or Also check out what Oracle’s support of PHP.

In summary, I talked about how Oracle's middleware and tools are 100% behind standards, how they interoperate with non-Oracle products from competing vendors or open source and finally I mentioned briefly Oracle's involvement with the open source community (expect much more blogging on this). If some of you still think that Oracle is not willing to compete in an open environment (where the door is wide open to "Hot-swappable" non-Oracle products), using industry standards and supporting open source where appropriate; I am happy to hear from them and kick off a healthy debate.