Office Open XML could stymie OpenDocument's progress

Office Open XML could stymie OpenDocument's progress

Summary: Gartner has suggested that while OpenDocument is the best XML office document standard out there, the announcement of rival 'open' standard from Microsoft could seriously hinder its growth

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Microsoft's move to make its Open XML document format an international standard could hobble the uptake of OpenDocument, the OASIS-approved document format that is supported by Sun.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said it would be submitting its Open XML document format, which will be the default file format in the next version of its Office suite, to standards body ECMA. The company hopes this will eventually mean Open XML will be approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and approved as a global standard.

The move comes after the US State of Massachusetts in September said it would adopt OpenDocument as its default document standard because it wanted to move away from proprietary document formats. In a research note published on Thursday, Gartner analysts Rita Knox and Michael Silver, said that by pushing Open XML as an open standard, Microsoft may have effectively hobbled the widespread take-up of OpenDocument.

"The OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee… has increasingly been seen as a serious competitor to the Microsoft specification. Microsoft's moves will likely stall that trend," the research note said. Knox and Silver point out that the State of Massachusetts is now reconsidering its decision to adopt OpenDocument and ditch Microsoft's proprietary Office format, is an indication of the new trend.

"The Massachusetts state government, for example, had previously made a highly publicised decision to adopt OpenDocument and drop the Microsoft Office formats, but may now be considering a broader range of options in its approach to this issue," the analysts said.

The governor's office of Massachusetts earlier this week issued a statement saying that it was "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office Open XML document formats will meet the standard for an open format.

"The Commonwealth is very pleased with Microsoft's progress in creating an open document format. If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats," the statement said.

However, Gartner recommends that enterprises looking for an open XML-based document format should adopt the OpenDocument format if they can exploit XML immediately because the ECMA specification is unlikely to appear for at least another year.

CNET's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

Topic: Tech Industry

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • The main question is still: would citizens be able to interact with government documents without having to pay the Redmond tax with no loss of functionality and presentation in comparison to others or having to agree to some EULA they don't agree with? Because if the answer to that would be no then the government itself might want to rethink how they go about unlawfull abuse of monopolistic powers. You simply can't declare a guilty verdict yet reward it at the same time.

    And... how to ensure continued access to historical electronic data in tax friendly ways.

    And... how to ensure that multiple entities can, if need be, provide the (migration) services required without huge investments, taking too long, compromise in functionality or presentation, getting sued or breaking some law.
  • Office Open XML could stymie OpenDocument's progress,

    Yes, and it will.
  • It would be a natural move for M$ to do everything in its power to stop ODF. M$ wants to be the only player in the game and make sure that eveyone HAS to use their product. How open will it be? Probably okay, at the start, but naturally would change. Compatible with other formats? okay at first, but naturally would change in time to ensure their monopolistic standard.