Google should switch to ODF to gain market in Europe

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Microsoft is definitely not happy with the UK government’s decision to use ODF for government documents. The UK has made the right decision as Microsoft’s file formats create a vendor lock where only Microsoft can offer software, cutting out every single player on planet earth. Microsoft works really hard to make its documents almost incompatible with every word processor out there.

If you have created document in MS file formats, using Microsoft software, you have created document which will lose data if opened with non-Microsoft software. You may blame LibreOffice, openOffice, Calligra or Google Docs for ‘losing some data’, but the blame goes to Microsoft. So the best solution is to move away from Microsoft file-formats, so that you can break this vicious cycle.

But how many people use ODF? Not many that I know of. The reason is simple, Microsoft pushes its own X formats which it claims to implement the OOXML specification. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is that Google also pushes X formats and has one of the most pathetic supports for ISO approved open standards ODF.

When I talked to Chris DiBona he said there is no demand for ODF, that’s why its not their priority. A company size of Google doesn’t things for demands, they create demand for their products. Google can create demand as well as make ODF the default file format of the digital world quite easily. Before we go there let’s see how broken in Google’s ODF support. In a nutshell you can’t open and edit ODF files across Google platforms including ChromeOS, Chrome Browser, Android and Google drive. If you get a file saved in ODF formats such as .odt, Google products will refuse to open the documents. Google will happily show the preview of a docx file as well as offer to edit it. When you download a file from Google Docs, the first or the default option is docx. Google doesn’t even bother to offer Open Document Format while downloading a presentation.

What Works With Google Services?
Only Microsoft’s controversial X formats. If you get a docx file, you will get a red carpet treatment in Google services. Android will show preview and allow you to read docx files, same is the case with Chrome OS and Google Drive.

If you uploaded a docx file without conversion Google Docs will show you a preview and also open and edit it. But if you upload an ODF file without conversion, Google Drive won’t offer any preview and will also refuse to open it. You will have to download it and then upload again with conversion on.

So, in a nutshell you are forced to use Microsoft’s OOXML formats if you are a Google user.

Why is Google not offering full support for ODF?
Why is Google not choosing ODF as the default file format instead of Microsoft’s messy X formats? To add insult to injury, Google’s own Docs don’t work well with Docx files and you would lose some data. I am left with puzzling questions why is Google not supporting ODF and locking users into an incompatible and vendor-locked messy format?

Google should switch to ODF to gain European markets
What ever the reason may be, Google needs to change this love for X. With UK government moving to ODF, Google will cut itself out of a huge market they are creating where European companies will be able to offer document solutions, breaking the ‘abusive’ monopoly of Microsoft. It will create a lot of new businesses any one would be able to offer solution in a market previous locked down to Microsoft.

If Google doesn’t switch to ODF it risks losing markets in Europe, as no one will bother to use a product which can’t support vendor neutral, open standard file format ODF.

Ironically even Microsoft has a far better support for ODF in its products than Google does.

Your move Google!

Swapnil Bhartiya
A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005. You can follow him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
  • tanghus

    Couldn’t agree more, though I use neither MS nor Google products and hardly ever have to write other than plain text.