Microsoft denies OOXML has 'proprietary hooks'

As Australia and various other nations prepare to vote on whether Microsoft's Open Office XML becomes an ISO standard, the Redmond giant is attempting to downplay fears that OOXML adopters will be hooked into the company's technology.

As Australia and various other nations prepare to vote on whether Microsoft's Open Office XML becomes an ISO standard, the Redmond giant is attempting to downplay fears that OOXML adopters will be hooked into the company's technology.

Microsoft has come under attack recently from organisations such as the Free Software Foundation, which claims the OOXML specification includes "plenty" of proprietary code.

Earlier this week, the president of FSF's European operations Georg Greve said: "We've found plenty of proprietary material in OOXML so far. Governments could get locked into formats where they don't have control over the data. OOXML is dependent on implementations by Microsoft, so to use OOXML is essentially betting on the continued existence of Microsoft. Governments would also be dependent on Microsoft in a political sense".

However, Gray Knowlton, Redmond-based group project manager of Microsoft Office, told ZDNet Australia in a video interview that the company is hoping OOXML will become a standard precisely to lose any proprietary hooks.

"It's a very popular thing to say, that Microsoft owns or controls parts of these specifications -- the entire purpose of taking this format into a standards-based environment is to avoid this.

"It is precisely to ensure that people have the ability to read and write documents in this format, free from encumbrance of something Microsoft would own.

"We want to move into a standards based environment for the documents format because so much of the heritage and the history and the records of every country in the world are wrapped up in the documents that are created by our products that have used the binary file formats of Microsoft Office in the past," said Knowlton.

In the video, Knowlton claims that Microsoft wants to offer users a choice.

"We want to move this into a standard because people can get out of this environment of being locked into a proprietary file format, they have a little bit more choice about how they would choose to approach an archival or document management solution or other things that are involved," he said.

FSF Europe's Greve also described the OOXML specification as "extremely bad" because of rounding errors.

"As a technical specification, OOXML is extremely bad. Rounding errors are not normal in modern applications. If I was a financial organisation, or a governmental organisation that deals with finances, I'd be concerned about rounding errors," said Greve.