Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Why Open Source will win in the Knowledge Management and Document Management space

I have friends who believe Microsoft's hold on knowledge and document management via proprietary document formats and the mass acceptance of Microsoft Office is unbreakable. I wish to throw out a contrary point of view:

First, I believe that the open XML document formats of OpenOffice.org, AbiWord, etc. will make it so much easier for ancillary applications to index documents for search, extract structured information (e.g., Phoenix), etc. that there will be more pressure from IT professionals to move their companies towards open document formats. For example, in Java applications, it is trivial to extract and manipulate OpenOffice.org documents: open a gzip input stream, feed this through a SAX or DOM parser, use either custom code or XPath to pull required information, etc. Try getting useful information out of Office documents! (If Bill Gates really wanted to support Microsoft customers, he would move the company towards standard documented file formats - not good for Microsoft's business, but good for society at large.)

Secondly, consider free open source knowledge/document management systems like OPEN-XCHANGE that will work natively with OpenOffice.org like the expensive Microsoft SharePoint works with Office. With companies like Novell behind OPEN-EXCHANGE, development funding is likely to be adequate for good progress.

Third, we are moving towards commodity software: preferably open source. I believe that this is a good thing for developers who can concentrate on augmenting and tailoring open source systems to specific customer requirements.

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