The future of content management

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A week ago on my French weblog, I was digging around the future of content management, writing that I don't see a bright future to Content Management Systems that are based on browsers and applets that mostly work only on IE/Windows. At best can we expect to see a good cross-platform editor which works with XML and external, custom CSS. To me, those tools are like a webmail access, they are useful in some situations, but will not match a good desktop application.

Macromedia, with Contribute, seems to follow that path, although this software is only a small step from a classical HTML editor towards a complete content management suite.

Olivier Meunier is dreaming about a CMS where OpenOffice would serve as the editor coupled with transformations done on a server. That could actually serve as a rather powerful document management system, open-source and based on open standards.

I wrote then that Microsoft would eventually produce a complete suite combining its proprietary software MS Office + Content Management Server + SharePoint. This is where they are going now. And it makes perfect sense.

You cannot displace office tools in a snap, especially the omnipresent MS Office suite. They are here to stay because they fulfill a real need. In a business, those are the tools that are used, and will continue to be used, by the people who create and manage content (the "knowledge workers" in trendy corporate jargon). By focusing on open standards and remaining open to the proprietary formats of Microsoft, open-source projects such as OpenOffice.org have the potential to offer a credible alternative and foster a much-needed innovation in the content management field.

Now if the developers would understand how pregnant the office tools are and that the world doesn't need yet another old-school WYSIWYG editor or one that spits out inline style -- which is frankly the same content+presentation tag soup as before, only one that happens to validate against a more "modern" XHTML flavor -- content management would take a leap forward.