MA says it will consider Open XML when ISO approves it

It will take a year or more before the International Standards Organization approves Microsoft's format. Meanwhile, the state will standardize on OpenDocument Format.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Now that ECMA has approved Microsoft's Open XML format, Massachusetts will take a look at it but will move forward with standardizing on the OpenDocument Format starting Jan. 1, Bethann Pepoli, the state's acting director of the division, said, according to Information Week.

The state won't adopt Microsoft's standard until it's approved by the International Standards Organization, a process that can take up to a year and isn't guaranteed to approve the standard, unlike the ECMA process, which was guaranteed from the time Microsoft submitted its 6,000-page proposal.

"What happens next is that ECMA will submit Office Open XML for a much more complex approval process that will take from nine months to a year (at least)," said Andrew Updegrove, an attorney specializing in international standards, in his blog.

The Initiative for Software Choice, a trade association which has long opposed Massachusetts' action to standardize on ODF, hailed the ECMA approval.

"There is no downside here," said Melanie Wyne, ISC executive director, in a statement. "ECMA's action enhances document manipulation, interoperability, and archival storage for public and private institutions. The ECMA process also represents an important step toward expedited ratification by ISO, which will give governments and enterprises added assurance that Office Open XML meets the rigors of the evolving technological marketplace -- especially as it pertains to interoperability of documents between competing products."

At the Open Document Foundation, VP Sam Hiser says Microsoft's effort would create two ISO standards that do the same thing.

"If one day we have two ISO standards that do roughly the same things, then the marketplace will decide between basically a very expensive solution set where most of the costs are hidden and a relatively inexpensive set which will have much more confidence associated with users' access," he said.

But what's really going on is that Microsoft will be able to crush ODF by telling governments they can have an open format without giving up their Microsoft Office suite. That will be a compelling argument considering the huge dominance Microsoft has in the office software market.

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