Microsoft CTO: ODF is an 'elegant' standard

The chief technology officer of Microsoft APAC thinks ODF is an elegant standard — if it is used alongside the Redmond giant's OOXML (Office Open XML) format.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

The chief technology officer of Microsoft APAC thinks ODF is an elegant standard — if it is used alongside the Redmond giant's OOXML (Office Open XML) format.

Oliver Bell, Microsoft APAC chief technology officer, said in an interview with ZDNet.com.au sister site ZDNet Asia: "We have lived with multiple formats as long as we've had computers. ODF continues to be an elegant standard for use side-by-side with OOXML. [The formats] compete side-by-side and are designed for different purposes."

Microsoft is hoping its OOXML format will be ratified as an ISO standard in Geneva later this month, after a failed attempt in September last year. OOXML's opposers support the ISO-certified ODF, which is seen as a close rival of OOXML.

OOXML's place, according to Bell, is in a SOA (service oriented architecture) to move data between business processes.

However, some remain unconvinced of Microsoft's message. Harish Pillay, president of the Singapore Linux Users' Group said that ODF is quite capable of the same functions.

"What [Microsoft] is doing with OOXML is to further lock down [users] with dependencies on Microsoft technologies as part of their business value chain," said Pillay.

He added that OOXML's shortcomings do not make it a candidate worthy of consideration alongside OOXML in terms of finding a "global" standard, which is why he believes that Microsft will once again fail to have OOXML ratified as an international standard.

"ODF was a project that was started years ago with many companies and groups involved...to make it really and truly global. OOXML, on the other hand, has significant issues which the forthcoming ballot resolution meeting is trying to resolve," said Pillay.

But Microsoft said it is optimistic about its chances. On the "no" votes, those can also be seen as "conditional approvals" where the votes can be changed to a positive one should the countries' comments be addressed, said Bell.

For example, the Asian countries' issues with internationalisation support have been addressed, he said. UTF-16 character support is available now. "We've seen a lot of positive progress," said Microsoft's Bell.

Australia abstained from the last vote and New Zealand rejected OOXML. Singapore is the only country in the region to have given OOXML the nod — Malaysia also abstained from voting, while India, Japan and Korea voted "no".

Pillay remains sceptical of Microsoft's genuine efforts in winning mindshare with its purported revisions to OOXML.

"Microsoft has abused the ISO process for its purposes," said Pillay, in reference to the company's reported swaying of votes in Sweden by offering companies "incentives".

Free Software Foundation Europe president, Georg Greve, has also named Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United States as countries that have been influenced by Microsoft.

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