Will the Cr-48 Open Document Standards For All of Us?

I keep waiting to read stuff about the Google Cr-48.

Although lots of these are out in the wild, I haven’t been organically running into a lot of people writing about them.

John Resig’s post is the only thing I’ve run into without actually searching for reporting.

I’m interpreting that as either meaning I don’t read enough tech blogs or not enough of the Linux people I read managed to get their hands on Cr-48s.

The Cr-48 project fascinates me for a few reasons.

I think it’s cool that it’s built on Linux and that Google is making it easy to mess with.

But mostly, I like that the Cr-48 is trying to create a world where the OS doesn’t really matter.

The dirty little secret of Linux users is that we’re constantly working to create situations where it doesn’t matter we’re running Linux. Sometimes it can be a lot of work. For me, I can’t do much PowerPoint work at home for work, since moving between Windows and Xubuntu usually results in a borked presentation. The same holds true for documents of a certain complexity. So whenever I do work on those kinds of documents at home, I have to build in some correction time at work or on my wife’s Windows machine. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a factor I need to contend with.

Because the Cr-48 is based upon the Google cloud, documents and presentations maintain their formats across operating systems.

Obviously, I could do the same thing with Xubuntu, and use Google Docs for all of my office work, but I’m not a huge a fan of Google Docs for creating content. There’s a bit of a lag that throws off my work rhythm.

But I do hold hope that if the Cr-48 catches on in any kind of significant way, it’ll push people away from the proprietary Microsoft formats (the beloved .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, etc., not to mention video issues like Netflix streaming, which doesn’t work on Linux). After all, it makes sense for Google Docs to work with these Microsoft formats when people are often going either to Word or coming from Word, but if more and more documents are going to be originating and living in Google Docs, why use the Microsoft format? Why not use the Open Document Format (ODF)?

If more people used ODF, it would be much easier for Linux people to create and edit documents in whichever Office-esque program they choose. Translating documents wouldn’t be as much of an issue since everyone would have full access to the parameters of the file format, rather than trying to reverse-engineer an understanding, as in the case of the Microsoft formats.

The same case could be made for other proprietary formats, be they from Adobe or Apple. In Google’s cloud-based world, when there’s no local software, proprietary formats are harder to enforce, unless Google is doing the enforcing. And so far, Google hasn’t seemed too interested in locking down or lacking out formats (unless it’s the H.264 video standard, that is).

It’s not that I think we should trust Google to support open formats, because I don’t think we should. But I think if Google is able to successfully get people using a cloud-based OS, it could represent an opportunity to also get people away from proprietary formats. And if people are using open, well-documented formats, it doesn’t matter what OS they’re using.

We’ve got a long way to go before we’re all using non-proprietary files. I would love if the Cr-48 helped broker us into that new age. Not because I’m heavily invested in the Chrome OS but because the success of the Chrome OS could potentially make a lot of tasks easier for all Linux users — even those who enjoy working on files locally.