OOXML, ODF, and migration costs
There is an important point I want to make about what people need to consider when contemplating whether to move to ODF or not.
Some people seem to think that the choice they have is to either stick with the status quo – Microsoft Office -, or disrupt the status quo and adopt ODF, with the assumption that the former is easier and a more natural progression than the latter.
This is missing a very important point: OOXML is NOT the status quo, it is a NEW format, just like ODF. As such its adoption presents challenges very similar to those of the adoption of ODF.
OOXML, just like ODF, requires a migration.
Moving to ODF, means deploying new software, training people to that software, developing support for it, etc, plus disrupting your work environment by introducing a format not everybody may be ready to deal with. The cost of that migration is undoubtedly the biggest barrier to the adoption of ODF. Yet, the same applies to OOXML.
Indeed, moving to OOXML means moving to the new Microsoft Office application, training people to it, developping support for it, etc, and, just like with ODF, disrupting your work environment by introducing a new format.
Even though I don’t have actual numbers to back this up, I think it’s fair to say that the incurred cost ought to be similar on the migration front. Given that, and considering that there are several freely available offerings for ODF, I’ll then venture to say that migration to ODF is actually likely to be cheaper because it saves you from having to pay Microsoft Office license fees.
In a desperate attempt to disrupt the momentum behind ODF Microsoft hurried to create a standard they could claim to support. Yet, this new proprietary format in disguise faces the same challenges as the format they are trying to stop: cost of migration.
So, remember that when it’s time for you to choose. The choice you have to make is not between adopting a new format ODF or sticking with Microsoft Office. It is between migrating to ODF or migrating to OOXML, both new formats, ODF being an open standard for which offerings are freely available.