I ran across a post over at An Outlet which questions why Apple does not support OpenOffice. For me, the more important question is: Why doesn’t Apple support the OpenOffice document formats? I have written about this in a prior post about how the Mac platform currently has little or no support for the OpenDocument format. This format, which is the default format for OpenOffice, is also becoming the format of choice for many Government agencies. Effective January 1st, 2007, The State of Massachusetts will be switching over to open formats, such as OpenDocument, and will phase out proprietary formats such as the current MS Word format. Once this goes into effect, Mac users will be at a disadvantage.
Personally, I think OpenOffice has an awful long way to go before it becomes a viable alternative to MS Office:mac or iWork for that matter. And yes, I know about NeoOffice, but that too still has a long way to go as well. What I’d like to see is Apple support the OpenDocument format in their applications. To date, Apple has had a decent track record supporting open formats. For example:
- iCal uses the iCal format
- iCal also uses WebDAV to publish & subscribe calendars
- Address Book supports the vCard format
- Bonjour (still Rendezvous to me) is an implementation of the Zeroconf spec
- iChat AV supports XMPP (aka Jabber)
- iSync supports SyncML
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Many of Apple’s applications are simply really nice GUIs to an open standard. Support for the OpenDocument format in the next release of iWork would a logical step in following Apple’s pattern of supporting open standards. Whether or not Apple adds OpenDocument support to iWork remains a mystery, at least until MacWorld 2007.
Considering that Apple is a member of the ECMA Technical committee to standarize Microsoft’s Office Open XML format, I fully expect iWork ’07 to support the new MS Office formats come MacWorld 2007. Windows users will have access to an ODF converter available for Office 2007 users, but it will not be available for Mac OS X. What is interesting about the converter is that at its core, this is an XSLT transformation. So it might be trivial for Apple to add support for both OpenDocument and Microsoft’s Office Open XML formats.
While having OpenOffice getting polished up and properly integrated into Mac OS X would be nice, it’s just not going to happen any time soon. Apple’s iWork is here now and is actually pretty good. If iWork supported both OpenDocument and Microsoft’s Office Open XML formats (and adds a spread sheet application), iWork could become a much more viable application suite. And we’d have a single application suite which could author the two major office file formats.