Lock-ins need lockpickers

Dominic raised the issue of legacy documents while commenting on my previous post, on the disaggregation of the desktop.

Ric followed up with some comments relating to weaning enterprises off Microsoft Office.

This is something that has been bothering me for some years now, and the deja vu sensations weren’t enjoyable. And it got me thinking. Somewhere inside my head, there is no difference between my buying a song via the iTunes store and my creating a spreadsheet via Microsoft Excel.

With iTunes, everyone’s up in arms. Everyone understands that DRM of that sort is not a good thing. And people find ways of unlocking the music.

How come people don’t feel the same way about Office documents? Isn’t that a form of DRM? How come nobody objects? How come we don’t have clever people finding ways of freeing up such documents from their lock-ins? After all, there is a tangible measurable market for such migration tools. A huge market.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

7 thoughts on “Lock-ins need lockpickers”

  1. I have a suspicion that it’s because people buy iTunes with their own money and MS Office with their employer’s. Bolstering that monopoly is why Student & teacher edition exists.

    You are absolutely right though, and it has been brought into sharp relief by the ODF shenanigans documented on Groklaw.

  2. Well ..clever people are working on so that there are no more lock ins in future. e.g major companies like IBM, SUN, Google are promoting ODF (Open document format). As far as migrating from MS Office is concerned it requires people, companies demand for it. What you have mentioned is desirable but companies do not feel the need to shell out money and effort to move towards open standards. So there wont be any migration bridges available soon.

    More over I think MS provides bridge to migrate from old Word/Excel format to their new open OOXML standard, though I am not sure about this.


  3. Ooooh don’t worry, JP – I certainly consider MS Office formats to be a very invidious form of DRM … we have allowed MS to control our own data, and ONE possible outcome is that we are held to ransom at some future point to access it. The Australian National Archives explicitly switched to ODF to ensure that future generations would always be able to access government archives, and potentially have a wide choice of software to do so.

  4. Now – do I use MS Office? Yes – at work mainly because we are a MS shop on the desktop. At home? OO.o all the way …

  5. It’s often easier to use OO.o to open earlier versions of Word documents than a later version of Word itself – and I’m the only person who can open some very old WordPerfect documents still kicking around …

  6. It’s also important to see governments trying to avoid the lock-in. India, Poland, Brazil, Italy, France and Belgium have all recognised and recommended ODF, and various states in the US have it under investigation.

    Microsoft’s OOXML’s delayed ISO standardisation and the number of countries with reservations against it in its current form could delay it even further and allow ODF to gain more of a foothold.

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