OASIS announced that its members have approved version 1.1 of the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) as an OASIS Standard, a status that signifies the highest level of ratification. The result of a collaboration between advocacy groups for the disabled and open source and commercial software vendors, this new version of the standard provides key accessibility enhancements to ensure that the OpenDocument format (ODF) addresses the needs of people with disabilities. OpenDocument 1.1 supports users who have low or no vision or who suffer from cognitive impairments. The standard not only provides short alternative descriptive text for document elements such as hyperlinks, drawing objects and image map hot spots, it also offers lengthy descriptions for the same objects should additional help be needed. Other OpenDocument accessibility features include the preservation of structural semantics imported from other file formats, such as headings in tables, and associations between drawings and their captions. The new version of OpenDocument reflects the work of the OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee, which is made up of accessibility experts from IBM, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), RNIB, Sun Microsystems, and others. The Subcommittee’s recommendations were incorporated into the OpenDocument specification by members of the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, which includes representatives from Adobe Systems, IBM, Intel, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and others. http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/office/, http://www.oasis-open.org
Bob Doyle at CMSReview has once again generously devoted his time and resources to record and produce one of the events at our recent Boston conference. David Berlind from ZDNet, who has tracked the controversial Massachusetts decision to standardize on OASIS‘s ODF on Between the Lines (a blog you should subscribe to) in more detail than anyone, interviewed lobbyist Morgan Reed from the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) before a live audience at Gilbane Boston. ACT, who lobbies for small businesses, but also Microsoft, is against the Massachusetts decision – Morgan was gracious enough to submit to David’s penetrating skepticism. Bob Doyle says he keeps this interview on his video iPod! Bob says you should use the QuickTime player. Here is the full interview, or you can choose chapters below:
Frank Gilbane – the Background
The Debaters – Morgan Reed and David Berlind
Lobbyist for Microsoft (MS) and Small ISVs
How Much Money Spent Lobbying Open Formats?
MS to Mass: Do you respect IP?
MS Press Release: Mass ODF Plan has failed!
By 2007 only ODF-compliant applications?
Does Massachusetts have any leverage with OASIS?
What if MS OpenOffice was chosen as standard?
Do MS and Internet Explorer encourage non-standard HTML?
Jon Udell wrote yesterday that we should really be getting beyond the office document format debate swirling around the Massachusetts decision, because all heavy footprint authoring applications are headed for oblivion in our increasingly net-software-as-service world. (David Berlind also weighs in on the death of fat clients apps.) Tim Bray is skeptical because “… authoring software is hard.” While my view of the ODF debate is much closer to Jon’s than Tim’s, I agree with Tim’s caution here. While my coding skills were never in the league of either of these guys I have spent a lot of time working on authoring software, and more importantly, collecting requirements from users. Admittedly this was well before the Web existed, but what hasn’t changed one bit, is the need for authoring software to meet a staggering array of complex user requirements. Authoring software has to be flexible and extendable to meet the always unanticipated user needs. Authoring software is hard, and differing formatting and integration requirements will keep it that way.
Note that extending software functionality is not unrelated to extending the encoding of the content, which reminds me that…
Ironically, the reason I agree with Tim here is exactly why I disagree with the ODF decision: extensibility should be the first requirement of a government decision on an open document standard, and ODF looks uncomfortably like a limited implementation. From a practical point of view, scope is critical, but as Jon says, “In theory, governments should mandate standards, not implementations.” Perhaps the way to think about it is that governments should mandate standards (XML) but adopt implementations (form OASIS and Microsoft and perhaps others). Realistically there will be multiple versions (implementations) of each anyway, so a single implementation will never be enough.