February, 2008

  • Eric White's Blog

    ThinkFree: A Cool Implementation of Open XML

    • 4 Comments

    ISVs all over the world are implementing Open XML despite what some would have you believe about the specification being too complex, or that only Microsoft would be able to implement it.

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    I recently visited ThinkFree, a company in Korea that is making an on-line office platform that uses the Open XML file format, among other formats. I met with JaeHyun Park, the CTO. He is a young, dynamic individual who is leading an energetic, nimble, small organization. As I walked through the office, and observed their developers and staff, I had the sense that real work got done there. Their products, available at www.thinkfree.com, allow users to edit documents online, either through a Java implementation with a rich experience, or through an Ajax approach, which allows quick editing. Their offerings include an advertising supported approach, a subscription based SaaS (software as a service) approach, and off-line applications.

    I asked Mr. Park about his experience using Open XML, and he said, "We really felt that the quality of the specification was good. The compatibility settings needed more detailed information, but on the whole, it was good." Their company and products predated Open XML, and he said that using the binary formats was more difficult, but that it is significantly easier to work with Open XML. He noted that ThinkFree didn't use any Open XML training - the specification alone was enough. He remarked that office application developers, such as his company, need detailed information, but that there are many consumers of Open XML who don't need to understand the intricate details of rendering.

    Mr. Park will be happy to see the quality of the documentation of the deprecated legacy elements and attributes after the updated specification is completed in the very near future.

    Mr. Park also talked about his experience with Microsoft. He said, "We were quite surprised that Microsoft was so cooperative even though we are making a product that could be perceived as competitive to Microsoft Office, but we understand that Microsoft is committed to making Open XML a standard that is available to everyone, because that's what their customers are demanding." It is personally gratifying that Mr. Park understands us and our motivation.

    IT organizations can be divided into two categories: some organizations are filled with bright, hard-working developers who have a can-do attitude, and build innovative solutions quickly. Other organizations are stodgy, and are filled with people who can’t deliver, and are more concerned with building their case as to why they can’t. Mr. Park and his organization are clearly in the first camp.

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