In the olden days of computers, they were as good at communicating as the people on earth after the Tower of Babel incident. Not only did none of the scant networking protocols interact well, but the floppy disks were sometimes completely different sizes. That is, when there were disks; there were some systems based on cartridges, like video game systems. In fact, on an Ataric, not only could you play pong, but you could balance your finances via spreadsheet.
About 10 years ago, or circa 1996, with the Power PC, macintoshes could finally read an IBM PC compatible floppy and even write to it, without needed to reformat it. I was shocked! This was great! Finally, information could go between two different types of computers. But what could I transfer back and forth?
The Internet, which had unified the communications protocols, had also created the need for image files which could be rendered no matter what system the user was browsing with. Thus JPEGs and GIFs were the first files which could be transmited between the two.
Then we had no way to share office files! Adobe bridged the gap with their PDF files.
NOW, thanks to Linux, BSD, ReactOS, and a few other projects, people are finally beginning to break the Microsoft Hegemony. This has resulted in a new class of files which can be shared. Now with more and more free formats, we can share more with each other no matter what OS we are using. The Open Document format will revolutionize the world (as Massachussetts has begun to demonstrate) by allowing all programs to be able to read documents created irrespective of the program used to create it. This IS the only way life should be and it’s only because of the MS rule that people don’t realize it doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t need Adobe or a Fuji brand viewer to view my artwork and the written word is used for even more important communications! We should be able to open any spreadsheet, written document, presentation, or database file!