It wasn’t too long ago that all document formats were proprietary, and vendors that sold authoring and publishing software had a really unfair advantage over their customers because it was so difficult and costly for organizations to convert their content from one proprietary system to another. It was the granddaddy of descriptive markup, SGML, that led the way to the infinitely improved situation we have today with seemingly universal support for XML, and tools like XSL, XQuery etc. So, if most major software applications support reading/writing of XML, including the 800 pound gorilla of office documents Microsoft Office, hasn’t the issue of proprietary formats gone away?

If you are in charge of protecting your organizations content/document assets, you better not be thinking your problems are over. If you are involved in sharing content with other organizations or among applications, you already know how difficult it is to share information without loss — if it is that difficult to share, how easy will it be to migrate to future applications?

Our keynote debate in San Francisco next week is all about helping you understand how to best protect and share your content. While there are some differences between the Microsoft and Sun positions represented by Jean Paoli and Tim Bray, I think they agree more than they disagree on the critical issues you need to consider. We’ll be looking at different aspects of the issue including technology, licensing, cost, and complexity vs. flexibility. For some background see Jon Udell’s posts here and here, and the Cover Pages here. Both contain links to additional info.

I almost forgot… What does this have to do with my earlier posts on the future of content management and Longhorn? Well, Office applications, like all content applications, should benefit from an operating system that can manage content elements and attributes that could be described in XML. Would this make document interchange easier? I don’t know, but it might be fun to explore this question in the session.

If you have a specific question you would like us to cover on the panel, send me an email or add a comment to this post and we’ll summarize what happens.
UPDATE: Jon says he is in Jean’s camp on custom schemas and Tim’s on XHTML. At our Boston panel I think all of us agreed – of course neither Tim nor Jean were there. Jon is tagging his posts on the conference with gilbaneSF2005.

We are using the category and (more wordy) tag Gilbane Conference San Francisco 2005 for all our SF conference postings.

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