Researcher: IT vendors should…

Researcher: IT vendors should fix interoperability mess

17/11/2008

IT vendors should take their corporate social responsibility to solve the interoperability problems they created with two competing document standards, the ISO-approved open standard ODF and Microsoft's alternative Ooxml, soon to be approved by ISO, says Tineke Egyedi, president of the European Academy for Standardisation.

Egyedi, a researcher of standards at the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands, this Sunday emailed a public letter to representatives at of IT venders Sun, Microsoft and HP, to standard organisations ISO, Oasis and ECMA as well as policy makers at the European Commission. "ISO's approval of a second, overlapping standard will not have lessened government fears about interoperability in a multi-vendor environment. The market has become less rather than more transparent."

She urges the IT vendors to fix the interoperability issues. For a start, she wants them tho fully cooperate and support tests of conformance and interoperability of all the applications that support ODF, an initiative announced by standards organisation Oasis last month. "Are they prepared to shoulder the costs of independent, third party test to assure governments that no unexpected problems will arise?"

"Having two overlapping standards brings its own problems, as testified by a review of ad-hoc solutions such as converters, translators and plug-ins to re-create compatibility between ODF-products and Microsoft's partial implementation of Ooxml", Egyedi writes. "Those who develop a low quality and overlapping standard, qualifications which also Ooxml supporters use, are not the ones who pay for the consequences. Regrettably, citizens will be paying the price for lack of interoperability."

The standard researcher says the interoperability issues need to be fixed so governments can rid themselves of vendor lock-in. According to Egyedi, governments voluntarily head for the costly vendor lock-in because they fear the interoperability issues of a multi-vendor IT environment. She wants governments to use their market influence: "Government procurement covers 16 percent of the European IT market and is therefore a means towards a more competitive and sustainable IT market."

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