The CMIS announcement signals the end of an era. Some might say it was an era of proprietary software and ECM applications – just like databases or word processors or even operating systems. So, the questions that everyone really wants to ask for an announcement like this are: Do existing ECM products disappear and we all just move to open source? Does enterprise content management software become a commodity?
Let me answer the second question first. Any interface standard commoditizes one simple thing – the interface itself. So, if you are making money primarily on a proprietary interface lock in (and not functionality) then you better start looking for your next gig. On the other hand, if your product itself offers inherent value in it features and functionality then this presents an opportunity to reach new customers. It is not a bad thing.
Pundits are often of the belief that large vendors will always try to block or slow standards. While that can happen, in most cases, standardization serves to help the market overall and presents more of an opportunity than a threat. As we defined SQL for databases long ago, it served to facilitate more flexibility for customers, more application development and more opportunities for those developing databases to enter new markets. I believe CMIS will drive a similar evolution for content management.
What now can happen is that developers and ISVs can begin to develop applications and user interfaces that leverage ECM technology based on a common interface and connect to multiple repositories; in effect, maximizing their market potential. And, ECM suppliers will have more applications that they can run on their platforms just as it happened with databases. This does mean that application developers that have built proprietary content repositories will be at a distinct disadvantage as businesses seek to leverage their information value by integrating repositories and sharing more information across applications.
So, if you are running a content-centric application using proprietary repositories that will not support CMIS, over time, it is likely that this application will become more expensive to operate and fall behind in functionality. If you are writing applications and not leveraging open ECM technology, then your applications are likely to become more and more deficient. For everyone else, vendors and customers alike, CMIS is a very good thing.