Microsoft Office 2007 fails OOXML conformance test

Now that Office Open XML is on its way to becoming an international standard, it could be leaving Microsoft behind.
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor
Word documents generated by today's version of Microsoft Office 2007 do not conform to the Office Open XML standard under development by the International Organization for Standardization, according to tests run by a document standards specialist.

In a blog posting this week, Alex Brown, leader of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) group in charge of maintaining the Office Open XML (OOXML) standard, revealed that Microsoft Office 2007 documents do not meet the latest specifications of the ISO OOXML draft standard.

"Word documents generated by today's version of Microsoft Office 2007 do not conform to ISO/IEC 29500," said Brown in a blog post recounting the process of testing a document against the "strict" and "transitional" schema defined in the standard.

Microsoft Office 2007 saves files in OOXML, an XML-based format, which has been offered for standardization through the Ecma industry body to the ISO. Since a vote narrowly accepted OOXML as a draft international standard, ISO is now in control of the specification.

As changes were made at an ISO ballot resolution meeting, Office 2007 documents no longer conform to the current standard based on OOXML, known as ISO/IEC 29500, according to Brown.

In a statement sent to ZDNet.co.uk on Friday, Brown said that, although he was hopeful that Microsoft will update its Office products to stay in line with the version of OOXML approved by ISO, it is not guaranteed. "The question behind the question, for a lot of the current OOXML debate, seems to be: can Microsoft really be trusted to behave? We shall see," said Brown.

Commentators, including Tim Bray, the inventor of XML, have suggested that Microsoft is unlikely to bother to keep conformant with the OOXML standard as it develops within ISO, but Brown was more optimistic: "Given Microsoft's proven ability to tinker with the Office XML file format between service packs, I am hoping that Microsoft Office will shortly be brought into line with the [ISO/IEC] 29500 specification, and will stay that way," he said. "Indeed, a strong motivation for approving 29500 as an ISO/IEC standard was to discourage Microsoft from this kind of file-format rug-pulling stunt in future."

Brown added that Microsoft has probably realized that there may be considerable commercial advantages to becoming a good citizen in the standards community. "Actively working to make OOXML an internationally informed standard will help them to retain their considerable share of the desktop office space, as this removes objections to Office having a proprietary, vendor-controlled format," he said.

In future, Brown hopes to repeat the test to see if the open-source alternative to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, conforms with the Open Source Initiative (OSI) version of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) document standard--ISO/IEC 26300. He asked: "Will anyone be brave enough to predict what kind of result that exercise will have?"

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