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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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winner or loser?
By Oregonian2 on 4/2/2008 5:37:01 PM , Rating: -1
Microsoft is the winner? Seems like Microsoft is the loser. They no longer are using a proprietary format. They now use a standard format. Doesn't "everybody" say that they like to force and keep the market to themselves by using a proprietary format? If true, they now lose.

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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