In case you missed the news on this yesterday - Microsoft and the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) consortia announced that Microsoft Office will support "Save As" DAISY using Open XML files in Office XP, Office 2003, and Office 2007. This is going to be done via a translation project hosted on SourceForge (yes, that makes it an open source project).
Before I share my take on the news as it applies to the Open XML discussion in general - let me say that this is just a rock solid thing to do because it is going to have such broad, positive implications for delivering value to citizens with disabilities. It is going to improve access for uses beyond the traditional view of someone who is sight-impaired. This can help with illiteracy, or with richer text-to-audio use for any use.
So, how does this tie into the discussions around the JTC1 process under way today.
1) TRANSLATION is fundamentally where interop happens for document formats. I can't emphasize enough how bogus I think the one document format discussion is. In the "there can be only one" arguments I have heard over the past 18 months for ODF - where exactly does the DAISY XML format fit in? Should the DAISY folks abandon their work on DAISY XML and just roll it all into ODF? Or, should the community working on ODF work to create translation to DAISY XML? I'm in favor the translation option. Software is fundamentally more flexible than any other medium - there is NO requirement for uniformity in order to offer the value of interop along with the value of unique innovation.
2) The open source project for this translator will be picked up for INDEPENDENT IMPLEMENTATION. Application vendors, non-commercial developers, etc. are going to be able to pick up this translator and create solutions that have nothing to do with Microsoft Office. I have written on the fact that Open XML is already seeing broad pickup by implementers - and this is going to only emphasize the value of doing that even further.
3) DOCUMENT FORMAT OPENNESS is valuable. No one is doubting this and it is just as true for Open XML as it is for ODF. The long-term outcomes from this collab with DAISY are going to simply prove that further.
The work on the ballot resolution process continues to move along towards February. Great, fine, good. Clearly, for the sake of the specification, the improvements made through the comments will be of value. But, the realities of the marketplace are showing both the adoption of the specification (which is the single most important measure of the quality of technology and specification) and the flexibility it has made available to all vendors.
In case you are interested...here is some of the coverage: