ODF Alliance Growth Spurt Sprouts a Director
- By John K. Waters
I sort of waylaid Marino Marsich on his first official
day on the job yesterday. Marsich is the newly appointed managing director of
the newly formed ODF
, and he gave me some time on the phone from his newly established
office in Washington, DC. (Did I mention that he's new?)
As regular readers will know, the ODF Alliance was formed about six weeks ago
with 36 member orgs to promote the proliferation of the OASIS OpenDocument
Format for Office Applications. The group this week announced a major growth
spurt that added 102 new members to the roster.
Marsich's job is, of course, to implement the goals of the Alliance, which
include educating policy makers on the benefits and opportunities of the ODF and
working to see it used by governments and other organizations. He has a varied
constituency to serve—a plurality of the Alliance membership is based in
Europe—but he seems to have the right background for the job: He worked for the
US State Department on the policy planning staff, the National Association of
Manufacturers, and the European Commission in Brussels.
''You could say that I've been involved in various efforts at the
cross-section of trade and technology standards for more than a decade,'' he
The Alliance is now actively supporting adoption of the ODF as a worldwide
ISO (International Standards Organization) and IEC (International
Electrotechnical Commission) standard. But Marsich says the group is going to do
more than sound the clarion call for office doc standards and lobby the
ratifiers. In addition to providing resources like cost models and guidance for
governments assessing migration options, the Alliance plans to provide actual
tools for adoption. There are a few on the Alliance Web site right now developed
by its members, with more to come, Marsich said.
''This is a marketplace in which the mantra of industry is now 'openness and
interoperability,''' Marsich said. ''There's broad interest out there for open
systems and open document formats. The central challenge is to overcome the fear
of change. We've lived in a world of proprietary formats now for more than 20
years, and the default of most CIOs is to stay in that world. But find me a CIO
of any organization who really wants to be in a closed system based on
proprietary document formats. You can't do it. Our core task is to show them
that they have a choice.''
But the question (now that it has been asked) is no
longer whether we need a standard document format,
but which one. The other proposed standard—the one that is, for all intents and
purposes, that default—is Microsoft's
Open XML, which is currently in the hands of the European
standards group Ecma International, from whence it will wend its own way to
ISO. Microsoft says it intends to document the format schema and allow
third parties to write software for it under a royalty-free license.
''Right now Open XML is more of a faith-based initiative,'' Marsich said.
''It's being submitted to a standards body prior to the completion of the
specification. They [Ecma] are being asked to support a spec that hasn't really
been developed yet.''
I'm not laughing.... I'm not.)
''Look, documents are now being created by people's thumbs and on
telephones, not just laptops and your machines,'' Marsich added. ''With so many
documents being created on so many different platforms and with so many
different applications, the demand for interoperability is only going to grow.
And that's the chief advantage of the ODF. People want the ability to access,
retrieve, and use their records without regard to the platform or application.
So I'd have to say that favorable conditions exist right now for the ODF to win
hearts and minds out there.''
Final decision on the ISO ratification of the ODF is right around the corner. The balloting began in November and
ends the first week of May.
I'll keep you posted.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached