Microsoft OOXML standardization bid: The clock is ticking

Microsoft OOXML standardization bid: The clock is ticking

Summary: The politicking is almost over. At midnight (Central European Time) on Saturday March 29, voting regarding whether Microsoft's Open Office XML (OOXML) document format will get ISO standards approval will close.


The politicking is almost over. At midnight (Central European Time) on Saturday March 29, voting regarding whether Microsoft's Open Office XML (OOXML) document format will get ISO standards approval will close.

For the past month -- ever since the ISO Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in Geneva ended -- both Microsoft and many of the backers of the rival Open Document Format (ODF) ISO standard have both been claiming mini victories. ("Denmark says yes!" "Cuba says no!") The final results of the seemingly never-ending OOXML standardization debate are expected to be announced by ISO on Monday March 31 (if someone doesn't leak them before that).

The battle over OOXML standarization is all about money and marketshare. Microsoft wants OOXML to qualify as an "open standard" so that the company can continue to sell Office into governments that see ISO as the gold standard bearer. Many of the companies  that have fought publicly against OOXML gaining ISO standardization approval are hoping that failure of OOXML to get the ISO nod will give them a chance to gain more marketshare in a world where Office still runs on more than 90 percent of Windows desktops.

Microsoft officials are emphasizing in their last-minute campaigning, that OOXML already is a "standard." (It became an ECMA International-approved standard in December 2006.) If OOXML gets the ISO-standard OK, ECMA will transfer control of OOXML to ISO. If OOXML fails to get the number of necessary votes, it will be up to ECMA -- not Microsoft -- to decide whether or not to try resubmitting it.

"OOXML has been pretty broadly adopted already, by companies like Apple, IBM, Nokia and Palm, and will continue to grow regardless of what happens tomorrow night," said Tom Robertson, Microsoft's General Manager of Interoperability and Standards.

Burton Group Analyst Peter O'Kelly (of this "OOXML vs. ODF" report fame) agreed that, in some ways, the outcome of the ISO vote won't be a watershed event.

"In the grand scheme of things, I think the debate is going to be considered something of a non-event, once the blogosphere FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and flame wars subside. ISO approval would simplify Open XML deployments in some domains, but Open XML isn't going to flounder or fade away if the ISO ballot resolution is unsuccessful. "

O'Kelly added:

"It's not really a winner-takes-all scenario; ODF will continue regardless of what happens to Open XML, as its designers had different design goals. The anti-Open XML camp, which is not 1:1 with ODF supporters (although of course many of the most stridently anti-Open XML people are ODF fans, not all ODF fans are anti-Open XML), is likely to be disappointed either way (i.e., win or lose on the ISO ballot), as Open XML is definitely gaining momentum, and is here to stay."

What's your two cents? How much will it really matter whether OOXML gets the ISO standardization nod or not? Why or why not?

Topics: Microsoft, Emerging Tech, Enterprise Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Blinkered view

    Is "Peter Kelly" a real analyst? He says [i]"I think the debate is going to be considered something of a non-event"[/i]. Where has he been hiding? If this is such a non-event why is MS pushing so hard?

    Does Mr Kelly not know that if MOO-XML fails ISO then ODF will be the ISO endorsed standard that govt.s. NGOs, etc will be obliged to use? That's why MS is pushing so hard to get this endorsement. The FUD is coming from MS.
    • Not so true...

      No matter what the outcome, converters will always be necessary because OOXML is not going away. The government doesn't work in isolation and if private industries are sending OOXML documents, you know the governments will have no choice but have the converters. PDF was never an ISO standard and yet every company out there had adobe reader just because the business world demanded it. Same will be said for OOXML. Besides, my company will never use ODF, we'll use MS products and when we send things off it will be OOXML format, and if they can't read that, Office 2003 or earlier format and if not that, a PDF. Business dictate formats, not some standards organization. And if that wasn't true, we'd all use true X400 and X500 rather than SMTP and LDAP.
      • What a blinkered view!

        [i]"Business dictate formats, not some standards organization. And if that wasn't true, we'd all use true X400 and X500 rather than SMTP and LDAP."[/i]

        LDAP *is* X500 - adjusted for MS lock-in purposes. If X500 had not existed then LDAP would not be in its present form. SMTP and other such items sprang from TCP/IP which arose from an agreed standard - RFC675.

        All these core protocols and such have come from some form of standardisation process. MS's great "victory" was the ability to get away with taking existing standards and warping them to its own ends and then passing this off as some form of advance. MOO-XML is no different in that respect - it is just XML bent past the point of no recovery and mixed with old, closed office formats.
      • Whatever the outcome ....

        <span style="font-family:monospace;">
        ____ _ _
        / ___| |__ ___ __ _| |_ ___
        | | | '_ \ / _ \/ _` | __/ __|
        | |___| | | | __/ (_| | |_\__ \
        \____|_| |_|\___|\__,_|\__|___/
        _ __ _____ _____ _ __
        | '_ \ / _ \ \ / / _ \ '__|
        | | | | __/\ V / __/ |
        |_| |_|\___| \_/ \___|_|
        __ _(_)_ __
        \ \ /\ / / | '_ \
        \ V V /| | | | |
        \_/\_/ |_|_| |_|
        • Yes, for OOXML !!!

          Last chance.
          • Is this pop idol

            Yes, for OOXML!!

            Seems more like a cry for someone on a TV show than a supposed technical standard. But then maybe that's the level this issue has sunk to.
  • Re:

    IMHO, it should get standardized as technically it's superior (again anyone will argue) so I'll say it's supports a superset of features than ODF and can accomodate all the features Office offers. But I doubt it will be standardized by ISO. Foolish Governments of many nations who dont know any technical aspects are into the voting process.

    The ones who support ODF don't understand how it can impact their doc quality.
    • I will agree with you...

      ... when the standard for MOO-XML is actually capable of being implemented from the standards definition. At present that is not possible and that is why it should be rejected.
      • Are you thinking VMware OOXML or IE7 OOXML?



        Yes 1
        No 1
    • Almost right

      ODF using governments (Foolish Governments in your eyes) are assuring readability and interoperability into the future, a competitive market place, and are saving tax payers from having to give Microsoft money, via government, each time Microsoft says "jump".

      Quite simple really.
  • Peter O is wrong...

    It *is* watershed: if the vote is thumbs up, IT managers will continue to be duped (or do the duping?) that M$ has their best interests in mind and blinded to the value of true openness, which is still only really guaranteed by open-source products. If the vote is thumbs's equally a watershed event - it may spurn some pointy-haired managers into actually thinking and coming to a realization - that M$ is not in fact interested in helping them solve their problems, only in making money. Ok...they are interested in helping solve biz probs...but only in so far as it helps keep the customers and allows them to continue gouging. They will do as little as they can to do so, and have no *real* concern for you to be able to keep ownership of your data. They love lock-in. Still. The *only* reason they are doing "open" data formats is because they have no choice. A no vote makes this clear to managers everywhere.
  • It's too bad...

    that these nasty anti Open XML people are willing to basically pull a Hillary Clinton here just to protect their own sense of hatred against Microsoft.

    Open XML is a superior spec. These people would rather the rest of the world had to put up with a substandard doc spec just because the hatred in their hearts won't allow them to do the right thing.

    Straight out of the Clinton playbook. Do it my way or I'll destroy the party.
    • If it's so superior...

      then why doesn't MS have a working version yet? I am wondering where you guys get this BS from. There isn't even a working version yet and changes are already planned for what they set forth in the spec to be submitted for approval. How can it be so superior as you claim when the creators don't even have a working version yet?
      • Why bother with the superiority complex...

        Its OPEN...supposedly.

        If its truly open then the "superior" portions of it will probably show up in ODF. Why not? The problem is that if its not passed then MS probably won't stick to the spec in order to break interoperability. Well wait...apparently they haven't stuck to the spec to begin with. So what you'll have is ODF with features that were once called superior by the MoB but are then inferior because its FOSS and no longer MS.
        • Since you seem to think you know so much...

          How is it only "supposedly" open? Who controls what is added or removed for ODF? I'll give you a hint, multiple companies all with a vote. WHat happens with the OOXML implementation? Who makes those changes and who approves said changes? This one is easy, a single vendor known to abuse their market share.

          I see you prefer a single vendor for everything, and that is your right. I, myself...I wont let one company monopolize my data or my clients data because you can't see past the nose on your face. This is the part you don't seem to grasp. I don't want 1 company telling me how I should go about my business, I don't want that same company locking me into making their pocketbook fatter. I prefer to have many different paths that *I* can choose from. I may be biased, and for good reason, I'll accept that. I won't accept a false sense of security from a company known to abuse their consumers/clients/partners. It will take quite a while and quite a number of good deeds before I believe MS is in the business of working for the greater good of consumers.

          OOXML will never truly be open no matter what a standards body may decide on. MS won't allow for anyone to take away their cash cow and this will not be open for anyone but people who use MS Office. ODF is open for anyone willing to adapt it into their software, and this is the major difference.
          • Sorry I wasn't clear..

            I am in support of ODF and against OOXML as it stands. I mean that the so called "superior" features of OOXML could end up in ODF anyway if OOXML is truly open. Its hard to understand this argument of superiority if the features implementations are in plain sight and documented. I do not believe MS will live up to its claims on this because there are much easier ways to achieve their "goal".
    • Either...'ve been listening to too many talk radio shows, or you're pulling a Mike Cox. In the latter case, you get a 3.5.

      I figure we ABMers "hate" MS about as much as New York City Republicans and goo-goos "hated" Boss Tweed back in the 1870s.
      John L. Ries
      • Haa, its neither...

        Its really simple, the biggest antagonists during this whole process are a small number of others who I should point out are often employees of other Microsoft competitors. Its not the majority of the ISO members who simply want the best spec possible.

        It's sad really. By these hateful ABM'ers putting their hatred first and the good of the whole second they will end up weaking the entire standards body itself, not to mention the validity of the entire ISO body and process itself.

        ODF will suffer because it cannot leverage the good parts of Open XML. ISO itself will suffer because others that want to follow after this process (which I want to point out looks a lot like the current Democratic Party Nomination) will decide not to because they are afraid that they will be torn to pieces by competitors who sit on the boards.

        Simply pathetic.
        • and which part of OOXML would ODF leverage?

          By which part I mean, the hypothetical parts or the parts they will change in the future(the current specs they are gravitating towards, not the ones proposed currently)? What is simply pathetic is your blind following of a proposed standard that is only on paper, nothing else. You tout this garbage as if it's actually in use.

          I guess the better question would be, what in the hell are you smoking?
        • The pot called, it wants its tagline back back.

          How exactly is the blocking of a standard with little black boxes all over its specification from being claimed as an open standard going to weaken the ISO? Surely it's their job to ensure that a standard passed as open is actually, surprisingly, open?

          If the ISO passes OOXML with its closed format parts and no way for ABM to implement it, [u]that[/u] will "end up weaking the entire standards body itself, not to mention the validity of the entire ISO body and process itself."

          It's really not difficult, open standards are supposed to be [u]open[/u], OOXML is [u]not[/u] open. Savvy?