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Microsoft takes important step in crushing its rival's format

Microsoft has long profited from proprietary formats, occasionally at its competitors' expense.  However, with open standards coming into vogue, Microsoft adopted an "if you can't beat them, join them" approach, creating its own open document format.

However, its new format was not warmly received.  Microsoft hoped its Office Open XML (OOXML) format would become the office file format of choice for the industry.  The OpenDoc Society, a long term opponent of Microsoft, did not believe in Microsoft's sudden change of heart.  It sought to outcompete OOXML, with its existing format, Open Document Format (ODF).

The ODF format is already ratified as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), solidifying its place in the academic and business communities as a viable option.  When Microsoft sought ISO ratification, the OpenDoc Society lobbied against it.  It argued that having multiple open document standards defeats the purpose of having standards and that the standard would allow Microsoft to tighten its grip on computer systems.

In the end the OpenDoc Society's campaign was an exercise in futility as Microsoft's OOXML has finally been ISO certified.  The decision was leaked Tuesday ahead of the official ISO announcement, which came today.  Microsoft lauded the move, saying that it created a "level playing field" for OOXML to competed with ODF and other formats. 

Tom Robertson, Microsoft's head of interoperability and standards, stated, "Open XML joins the ranks of PDF, HTML and ODF among the ranks of document formats. I think it makes it easier for governments to offer users choice.  The control over the specification now moves into the hands of the global community. This is going to be one of the most, if not the most important document format around the world for years to come."

James Love, director of Knowledge Economy International, an organization campaigning for more open access to knowledge critical of OOXML, stated, "We are disappointed.  Microsoft's control over document formats has destroyed competition on the desktop, and the fight over OOXML is really a fight over the future of competition and innovation."

Microsoft lost an initial first vote, putting the format's future in jeopardy.  The format was allowed a second balloting, though, and this time it passed.  Of those voting, 86 percent of voting national bodies and 75 percent of the voting members -- known as P-members -- moved to approve the format.  A two-thirds approval among P-members was sufficient to ratify the format.  Voting for Microsoft's OOXML were the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan.  Voting against it were China, India and Russia.

The committee had a tough job just reaching the vote, having to deal with the 6,000 pages of code that define OOXML and with over 1,000 points of order, topics to be discussed before the vote.  Critics of OOXML point out that ODF is only 860 pages of code, making it difficult to guarantee true interoperability between the formats.  Microsoft continues to insist that OOXML will be fully interoperable with ODF.

Michiel Leenaars, OpenDoc Society boardmember and ISO voting member, stated that the standard should not have been ratified and the ratification process was too hasty.  He states, "It was mission impossible.  The process wasn't meant for this type of thing."

Nonetheless, Microsoft has secured ratification and fulfilled its critics worse fears by moving one step closer to domination of the next generation industry standard for office documents.

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The article should have mentioned
By Shadowself on 4/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: The article should have mentioned
By Oakley516 on 4/2/2008 6:19:13 PM , Rating: 3
It is very interesting that the countries voting against Microsoft also have reputations for heavily pirating Microsoft products.

RE: The article should have mentioned
By Alexstarfire on 4/3/2008 3:02:42 AM , Rating: 2
I noticed that too. I thought that was very odd.

Why do we need yet another document format? What can this one do that others can't?

RE: The article should have mentioned
By Pirks on 4/3/2008 3:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
What can this one do that others can't?
Bring MS more money

By mondo1234 on 4/3/2008 1:47:01 PM , Rating: 1
But just because it is ISO doesn't mean it will be popular. To me, Office suits are almost as common as browsers, why would you want to pay $350-$500 for one that does little more than the previous one? Especially if the major difference is it looks like its made by Apple! (There is only so much the average Joe does with a word processor anyway.)
MS makes most of its money on Office. Windows is the hammer. By making future versions of Windows that don't work well with prior versions of Office, MS forces the upgrade. (Access 97 gets a memory error in XP) But why pay the money for Office if you dont need the latest and greatest with the pretty Apple colors. OpenOffice works well on Windows, Linux and Mac and it is Free! People on DT use alternatives to Acrobat and Itunes because "thats all I need"! Whats the difference?
Just Google "OpenOffice", its that simple....

By smitty3268 on 4/3/2008 3:51:06 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think it's odd at all - MS obviously doesn't have much influence in those countries, or they wouldn't be pirating all the software so brazenly. While the countries that have strong financial ties to MS are understandably going to be more friendly.

By fuser197 on 4/2/2008 7:03:38 PM , Rating: 2
Voting Fraud: Number One Complaint of Losers

RE: The article should have mentioned
By fuser197 on 4/2/2008 7:05:31 PM , Rating: 1
Meant to say "losing side" not "losers".

By Ringold on 4/2/2008 8:18:46 PM , Rating: 3
Tomato, to-mah-to.

By Sunday Ironfoot on 4/2/2008 8:34:12 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand, where's he controversy? It's an open standard now isn't it meaning other software vendors can implement support for OOXML if they want without approval from or paying a penny to Microsoft?

Someone please correct me if I'm missing something.

RE: Controversy?
By Pirks on 4/2/2008 10:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
I heard that Adobe threatened to sue the shoot out of MS if they dare to include PDF exporter in Office 2007. MS caved in and made the Office 2007 PDF exporter a separate download.

But PDF is SUPPOSED to be an OPEN ISO standard, right?


Make your own conclusions out of that :P

RE: Controversy?
By tanishalfelven on 4/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: Controversy?
By lightfoot on 4/3/2008 1:32:34 AM , Rating: 5
Bill Gates is dead sexy and everyone wants a piece of him.


RE: Controversy?
By Pirks on 4/3/08, Rating: -1
RE: Controversy?
By tanishalfelven on 4/3/2008 5:51:38 AM , Rating: 1
i heard it from the uber pwnage technica.

RE: Controversy?
By Pirks on 4/3/2008 11:56:30 AM , Rating: 2
My site (Ars Technica) does exist, while your site does not. You just proved yourself a liar. Good job!

RE: Controversy?
By FITCamaro on 4/3/2008 8:22:11 AM , Rating: 3
Office 2007 was set to be able to read and write PDFs. Adobe at the last second wanted Microsoft to pay for including that support despite other software not having to. Microsoft refused and pulled the built in support instead opting for an addin.

I hate PDF though. It's not compatible with anything, it cannot be easily read and parsed like other formats, and Adobe Reader has become one of the most bloated apps on my computer.

RE: Controversy?
By Pirks on 4/3/2008 12:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
Adobe at the last second wanted Microsoft to pay for including that support despite other software not having to
Hey, now it looks like PDF is not so _OPEN_ ISO standard as Adobe and Apple fanatics often claim, now is it? ;-)

RE: Controversy?
By BZDTemp on 4/3/2008 10:48:00 AM , Rating: 1
The main thing and the reason Microsoft used all sorts of tricks to get their POS approved is that more and more companies and organizations even governments require their software to follow open standards.

Microsoft want to maintain control over the software market and open standards was one of the great arguments for Linux which Microsoft had no real come back on. Microsoft can pay Gartner and who else to make studies that say TCO is lowest with MS software but no amount of money could pay for a study which said they used open standards - Now they can.

Open standards means it is easier to change platform which again means more competition which means lower prices and/or better software.

Imagine all US and Asian cars ran on some special fuel which would mean the Gas in the US would not work in European cars. That would mean the Europeans auto makers had to pay a royalty to use the technology or not sell their cars in the US. That would make European cars more expensive and also mean the US and Asian car makers made money every time an European car was sold. In other words bad for competition and bad for the consumers due to higher prices and/or less choice.

No Biggie
By rupaniii on 4/2/2008 5:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
Most of us aren't big into 'endorsements'.
The government will decide what it wants to use.
Nobody uses anything beside MS formats anyway right now.
The countries who've been adopting Linux could care less what some 'official standards body' of mostly affluent white people said about anything and will run Open Office and save and transact files in ODF among other things.
I think there is some giant flaw in a system that ratifies something that is inferior and proprietary.
They should have made a condition of ratification what it be an open standard with publishes specifications. It shouldn't be ratified otherwise.

RE: No Biggie
By Oregonian2 on 4/2/2008 5:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
How can it be proprietary if it's an ISO standard format?

RE: No Biggie
By Pirks on 4/2/2008 5:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
I heard that Adobe threatened to sue the shoot out of MS if they dare to include PDF exporter in Office 2007. MS caved in and made the Office 2007 PDF exporter a separate download.

But PDF is SUPPOSED to be an OPEN ISO standard, right?


Make your own conclusions out of that :P

RE: No Biggie
By tuteja1986 on 4/2/2008 11:41:28 PM , Rating: 3
Its funny the extent these people go on to fight over a silly document format standard.

The reason i use Microsoft's OS at home is because i play games.

If a software company thinks a standard is reason why their don't get user using it , then they need to look at Microsoft office 2007 and their version of Office.

For a basic task , i do recommend every one just to get Open office beacuse it does everything thing that an average joe would want.

RE: No Biggie
By glennpratt on 4/3/2008 9:52:13 AM , Rating: 2
No one is complaining about users. Most projects supporting ODF don't need to fight for users because they don't have a revenue stream to maintain and investors to keep happy.

What I, as a developer and IT consultant care about, is the ability to parse documents in a well defined manner, now and into the future, with or without the support of any single corporation. I don't believe OOXML does that and I don't believe OOXML will be correctly implemented by Microsoft (they refuse to commit to it, their own standard!).

RE: No Biggie
By gerf on 4/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: No Biggie
By Calin on 4/3/2008 2:33:13 AM , Rating: 2
This should be understandable, if Microsoft changed the standard itself (not only the description) between the launch of Office 2007 and the ratification.
Understandable, but no less sad :(

By Pirks on 4/2/2008 5:37:38 PM , Rating: 1
Well, anything that opens MS more is a good thing. Be it .NET ECMA standard or OOXML or whatever. Less proprietary stuff, more open documented stuff - this is a win for all of us!

By InternetGeek on 4/2/2008 6:06:52 PM , Rating: 1
I couldn't agree more. I think this whole matter is just that most of these people fear microsoft might come up with a better tool that will provide all the functionality necessary to work with a given standard than they can actually build in due time to compete. If Microsoft keeps using more standard and adapting to them it's all the better for us.

By Belard on 4/3/2008 6:15:23 AM , Rating: 1
Because of the way Microsoft does business (Just look at their history) - there isn't much to trust there.

MS has 7-8x the code of ODF (Open Office), its a far more bloated document. Meaning perhaps - while the document is "standard" - it may require access ($$$) to patents to use some of those functions, who knows.

Give it a few year, we'll get to see the big picture and the damage it will cause.

By Master Kenobi on 4/3/2008 8:20:52 AM , Rating: 2
MS has 7-8x the code of ODF (Open Office), its a far more bloated document.

How does more lines of code = more bloated?

Perhaps more lines of code to do more than ODF? Just maybe...

Why is it controversial?
By smitty3268 on 4/2/2008 10:30:47 PM , Rating: 5
I've noticed several posts that have asked why the spec is so controversial, after all it is a spec, right?

Without taking any sides, here (I do think that having this standard out there is better than not having it at all) these are a few of the concerns some people have:

1. I'm pretty sure you can still have patents in ISO standards, even if MS has pledged not to use them.

2. Nothing is actually using the standard - MS Office uses a closely related format but it is different. Mostly because it uses some stuff they didn't want (or couldn't) put in the open standard. So people question what the whole point is if other office suites are already happy with ODF and MS isn't even using it.

3. Various parts of the spec refer to following the behavior of (for example) MS Office 97, without actually defining what that behavior is. You can buy an old copy of Office and try to figure it out, but that doesn't make for a great standard.

4. It's an over-engineered, ugly mess. It contains quite a bit of cruft that's left over from older versions of Office that no one really wants around, but MS left in for compatibility reasons in Office.

5. It has lots of non-standard pieces to it, like WMV/WMA embedded in files. Obviously MS hasn't released the codecs. This really comes down to the office suite, though, as ODF also allows for arbitrary binary files to be embedded.

6. The process to make it a standard was hurried along, to the detriment of the spec. The article above mentions 1000 issues that were taken care of, but actually only 100 of those were addressed. The other 900 were all taken care of in a single vote due to time constraints. Only 4 countries approved the changes, out of many, many more that eventually accepted this standard. (but even fewer opposed)

7. MS has no real interest in truly supporting the standard, they just wanted to be able to tick that checkbox in the marketing materials to governments, who have recently become concerned that the documents they created in Office 10 years ago may not be readable by anyone today.

8. Outrage at the way the process was abused, with MS paying groups to sign up with the ISO process to vote. Of course, they didn't actually say "Vote for us", but it was the kind of behavior that really made it seem like MS was buying the certification rather than really earning it.

9. Blind anti-MS bias/hatred.

10. Probably a lot more that I haven't listed here.

Like I said, don't attack me if you disagree with the points above, I don't think they're all valid myself. It's just some of the reasons some people were against it.

By rgsaunders on 4/2/2008 6:18:35 PM , Rating: 2
Unless things have changed radically, ISO certification really means you have done your paperwork properly. You can have a manufacturing process for concrete life preservers ISO certified, as long as your documentation for the process follows the standards. It would be more informative had the story stated exactly which ISO certification standard had been "purchased" so to speak.

By Master Kenobi on 4/2/2008 7:01:26 PM , Rating: 2
Your thinking ISO compliant companies. ISO standards in "Format" terms for the IT world is quite a bit different.

By greylica on 4/3/2008 6:42:33 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft wins the document standards battle...

Brazil will support the ISO standard only.
Microsoft loose here. They tried to force it here as if we canĀ“t understand what the codes mean. OOXML has a lot of defects, a bunch of unexplained codes, leading to disaster with crappy codes, some of them possibly opening documents to virus.(No surprise here...)
They are now taking the trash and trying to recycle it as if it could be used with a "New brand standard", to use the obscured codes they did not explained well. The votes for NO here was because of the non explained lines and the mess in code, complicating what was already solved with ODF very well explained samples.
The NO was very well explained.
Obviously inside of the three countries listed, they can say anything, including "OOXML is the standard, we will never need ISO standard to survive...".
OK, no problem, they have the money to pay for the two types of code to be put inside Microsoft Office, but we know the side that they will put a bug inside.

Do you remember the early history of OpenGL ?

Anything beats PDF
By MrBlastman on 4/3/2008 9:45:50 AM , Rating: 2
Anything. Adobe is bloated, chunky and crashworthy. Responsible for locking my computer up on a daily basis.

This is one of the few times where I can say - Go Microsoft!

Any document format being pushed other than PDF is a good thing.

winner or loser?
By Oregonian2 on 4/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: winner or loser?
By glennpratt on 4/2/2008 5:42:23 PM , Rating: 3
They have a sham standard they forced through. They needed it to show governments and other organizations that are beginning to require standards.

They bought this standard, and it will discredit the ISO, weaken ODF and Microsoft will act just as it always has.

RE: winner or loser?
By SectionEight on 4/2/2008 5:46:45 PM , Rating: 2
Frankly, I don't care what file format Microsoft uses. I'll still keep using MS Office; it's better than anything I've previously used (including a 2+ stint with OpenOffice). Microsoft now lets you save things as PDF or XPS with a free plugin, if everyone moves to ODF as a preferred file format, they'll just make a plugin for that.

RE: winner or loser?
By glennpratt on 4/3/2008 9:26:26 AM , Rating: 2
MS didn't need a sham standard to keep you as a customer, so what is your point? This standard was about meeting various government requirements without actually being open or involved with real standards.

RE: winner or loser?
By darklight0tr on 4/3/2008 9:26:29 AM , Rating: 2
As I'm sure you know, OpenOffice can create PDFs too, and it has one HUGE advantage over MS Office - its free.

I don't see any reason for most users to bother with MS Office in the home market when they can get OpenOffice for free.

RE: winner or loser?
By drebo on 4/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: winner or loser?
By glennpratt on 4/3/2008 9:41:47 AM , Rating: 2
Would you like to back that up with facts. Here's one, how do we define colors in the "vastly better" standard.

OOXML Documents
<w:color w:val="FF0000"/> <w:jc w:val="right"/>

OOXML Spreadsheets
<color rgb="FFFF0000"/> <alignment horizontal="right"/>

OOXML Presentations
<a:srgbClr val="FF0000"/> <a:pPr algn="r"/>

This is how ODF does it in every case:
<style:text-properties fo:color="#FF0000"/> <style:paragraph-propert ies fo:text-align="end" />

You might also notice that ODF is similar to and takes recommendations from other standards (looks a little like CSS for one).

RE: winner or loser?
By Pirks on 4/2/2008 5:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
You're wrong, they're not losing, they're ADAPTING, and they're adapting pretty darn well, judging by how fast they pushed this thing through ISO.

RE: winner or loser?
By chilaquil on 4/2/2008 6:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
That's not quite true, Oregonian2, I think. They own the patents on several aspects of the format, and, as far as I have read, there are several obscure parts of the now standard which could make someone infringe those patents if they try to reverse engineer the specs to get the files done (just google for it, there are many bloggers saying it)

RE: winner or loser?
By Master Kenobi on 4/2/2008 7:03:07 PM , Rating: 3
Just because bloggers are saying it doesn't mean they are correct, or have the entire picture. Latest incident over Creative and d_k has shown that many blogs do not get the whole story or spin it a certain way.

RE: winner or loser?
By Ringold on 4/2/2008 8:16:20 PM , Rating: 2
Wow. Sounds like the nightly news.

And to think people question if bloggers are journalists. Of course they are, they've learned from the best on TV!

RE: winner or loser?
By glennpratt on 4/3/2008 9:30:26 AM , Rating: 2
Would you like to state some facts instead of blathering on about unnamed bloggers ?

FYI most of the good blogs about this battle were by people heavily involved in this process and the industry at large.

RE: winner or loser?
By Oregonian2 on 4/4/2008 12:54:47 AM , Rating: 1
P.S. - Although missed by many I think, my posting was about 70% sarcasm. Sigh..

RE: winner or loser?
By glennpratt on 4/4/2008 12:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
Even after reading your post again, it's not clear it should be read as sarcasm. A rhetorical question perhaps, but without the context of your views on similar matters or your tone of voice, it's pretty hard to do much but take it literally. Maybe you should throw in a smiley face next time. :P

RE: winner or loser?
By Oregonian2 on 4/4/2008 10:04:32 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks. I *was* smiling when I wrote it.


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