Microsoft submits XPS alternative to PDF to ECMA for standardization

Summary:Like it has done with its Open XML specification, Microsoft is pushing its XML Paper Specification (XPS) alternative to PDF through the standards bodies. And just like the case with Open XML, Microsoft's competitors are lining up to diss Redmond's standards moves.

Like it has done with its Open XML specification, Microsoft is pushing its XML Paper Specification (XPS) alternative to PDF through the standards bodies. And just like the case with Open XML, Microsoft's competitors are lining up to diss Redmond's standards moves.

Even Microsoft's critics admit they don't like the "heavy-handed" way that Adobe turned PDF into a standard. But they are equally unenamored of Microsoft's plans to try to get "open standards" status for XPS. The most-often-stated objection to Microsoft's XPS push: A standard shouldn't be created, administered and maintained by a single vendor. Otherwise, it's not really "a standard" in the pure sense of the term.

Microsoft has integrated XPS into Vista and Office 2007, and has been seeking hardware and software partners to license and support the various components of XPS.

Andrew Updegrove, cofounder of Gesmer Updegrove LLP and editor of the ConsortiumInfo.Org blog -- as well as one of the leading opponents to Microsoft's Open XML standardization effort -- issued a dire prediction:

"If OOXML (Office Open XML), and now Microsoft XML Paper Specification, each sail through Ecma and are then adopted by ISO/IEC JTC1, then I think that we might as well declare 'game over' for open standards."

I've been no fan of Microsoft's methods for drumming up support for its standardization effort around Open XML. But I don't see how the existence of multiple standards portends the end of open standards ... even if a company that has abused its monopoly power is one of the players. Doesn't "open standards" mean they should be open to the inclusion of technologies from anyone, even Microsoft?

Microsoft, like IBM, Sun and every other open-source and closed-source tech vendor needs to have its technologies designated as "open standards" in order to qualify for many requests for proposals, especially from government customers. That's what's behind Microsoft's attempts to get standard status for Open XML and XPS.

Former Softie Stephen Walli says XPS is too green to have earned standards status. Do you agree? Other reasons you think Microsoft's XPS shouldn't get ECMA and/or ISO standards status?

Update: Speaking of standards wars, Microsoft has gotten Open XML added as one of the proposed standards that will be part of Massachusetts' list of accepted open standards. The state's IT department is seeking comment on the proposed revision to its policy document.

Topics: Microsoft

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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