Microsoft: OpenDocument is too slow

The Office maker has taken a swing at the open source format, but the ODF Alliance says Microsoft's Open XML is not yet supported by any application so its performance can't even be measured
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) has come under attack from Microsoft, which claims its Office Open XML format has significantly better performance.

"The use of OpenDocument documents is slower to the point of not really being satisfactory," Alan Yates, the general manager of Microsoft’s information worker strategy, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "The Open XML format is designed for performance. XML is fundamentally slower than binary formats so we have made sure that customers won't notice a big difference in performance."

Yates cited a study carried out by ZDNet.com that compared OpenOffice.org 2.0 with the XML formats in Microsoft Office 2003. But Marino Marcich, the managing director of the ODF Alliance, claimed this was not a fair comparison as it was not testing Open XML itself and only examined one implementation of ODF.

"There's simply no Open XML product on the market yet to compare performance," he said. "ODF is supported and implemented not just by OpenOffice but by multiple applications including StarOffice, IBM Workplace, KOffice, Abiword/Gnumeric and Google Writely. All these applications have different performance behaviours."

He added that OpenOffice.org was not initially optimised for ODF, but will be in the future.

Marcich said Open XML is harder for vendors to implement as it has more than 4,000 pages of documentation, compared with 700 for ODF.

"A sceptic might say the documentation is so long so only one application will support it well," he said. "On my initial reading of the [Open XML] documentation it looks like Microsoft are trying to reinvent the wheel, while ODF freely refers to existing standards like SVG."

But Yates said the Open XML documentation is longer because it is covering more functionality.

"The documentation is so much deeper than that for the OpenDocument format -- it represents much more functionality, many more options and a deeper, richer customer experience," Yates said.

Earlier this month the international standards body ISO approved ODF, a move Gartner predicted would thwart Microsoft's chances of getting Open XML approved by ISO.

Yates disagreed with Gartner's analysis and claimed there was "plenty of room for multiple document formats".

"[The Gartner analysis] was very surprising and ill-informed," he said. "We've encouraged the analysts to gather more data and understand the depth of the situation."

Last week ECMA published an intermediate draft of the Open XML format. ECMA is expected to make a decision about the format by the end of the year, according to Yates.

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