While the battle between proponents of ODF and OOXML rages on, Microsoft is making some headway persuading several strategic organisations in Malaysia to adopt OOXML.
The Malaysian government may appear to favour the use of the ODF (OpenDocument Format), with plans to adopt the standard in its ICT deployment, but Microsoft has been able to convince a growing number of Malaysian IT companies and independent software vendors (ISVs) to incorporate OOXML (Office Open XML) into their offerings.
Developed by Microsoft, OOXML is a close rival to the ODF, which is championed by open-source vendors and major IT houses such as IBM and Sun.
ODF has a first-mover advantage, having gained certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) while OOXML is still seeking approval from the global standards organisation.
Microsoft's document format, however, had received a much-needed boost when European standards body Ecma International ratified it in December 2006.
Microsoft's latest success story in Malaysia comes from Tradenex.com, the IT arm of the Federal of Malaysian Manufacturers which represents over 2,000 manufacturing and industrial service companies.
Familiarity breeds adoption
Tradenex.com last month launched nexCONNECT, an electronic business collaboration platform that links suppliers, distributors, logistics and financial institutions via the web. The Microsoft .Net-based system will incorporate OOXML as one of its standards.
The platform is targeted at small to medium-sized enterprises with limited budget and IT capabilities to invest in leading-edge technology to support their business.
"This will allow users to interact with nexCONNECT in the familiar Microsoft office environment [encompassing products such as] Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office 2007, that they are so used to, with the aim to simplify its usage and adoption," said Soon Koi Voon, chief executive of Tradenex.com, at the recent launch of nexCONNECT.
Asked why OOXML was preferred over the ODF, Soon said the decision was based on commercial realities. He estimated that over 90 percent of companies ran their operations using Microsoft Office and the Windows platform.
"We recognise that [many] of our customers are already users of Microsoft applications and we want to drive greater usage and collaboration as a starting point, instead of getting users to invest in more [software]," he explained. Soon said OOXML allows users to have direct integration into their backend systems, such as sales ordering and accounting systems.
He added that over 500 local companies and trading entities have adopted nexCONNECT as their collaboration platform.
Microsoft Malaysia managing director Yasmin Mahmood said Tradenex.com was one of the increasing number of ISVs leveraging on the OOXML standard.
"OpenXML [OOXML] enables ISVs to simplify the computing experience by enabling users to leverage on familiar applications such as Microsoft Office, while enabling the seamless flow of information from one system to another," Yasmin said at the launch of nexCONNECT. "This ability to store and manage business data in documents results in lower cost of automating business processes that enhances global competitiveness of SMEs," she said.
A Microsoft Malaysia spokesman said local ISVs, Perangsang Jati and Inceptio Technologies, were also adopting OOXML for applications they are developing. Perangsang Jati develops software for the healthcare sector, while Inceptio is developing an application for the legal sector.
Tradenex.com joins a growing band of organisations in Malaysia that have adopted the OOXML format.
Last May, the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) announced plans to develop an OOXML-based trading system for halal goods and services, which is expected to service the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
In October 2007, RosettaNet Malaysia developed the OOXML-based RosettaNet Automated Enablement standard aimed at helping SMEs reduce the cost and complexity of automating their procurement processes.