Microsoft's Open XML is now an ECMA standard

As interest in an open document format expands, Microsoft gets its new format anointed a standard.

What's the world's dominant software company to do when public agencies turn their backs on your proprietary Office format and adopt an open standard instead? Why, get your format declared a standard too, naturally. That's what Microsoft has managed to do with Open XML, the format of the new Office 2007 program. Geneva-based ECMA has approved Open XML as a international data standard, AP reports.

Massachusetts state government decided that in 2007 it would begin storing new records in a standard free of proprietary controls - namely, the OpenDocument format used in open-source software. The groundswell threatened to hurt demand for Microsoft's highly profitable Office products, which include such programs as Word and Excel.

So last year, Microsoft proposed making its "Open XML" format _ which is the default format in its newly released Office 2007 line of software _ an international standard that could be licensed for free. That would allow anyone to build products that access information stored in Office documents, similar to how Adobe Systems Inc. lets outside developers create programs that work with Adobe's PDF.

Microsoft got backing for their proposal from other major tech players, including Apple.
"Hopefully this will allow some of the supposed conflict to die down," said Alan Yates, general manager for information-worker strategy at Microsoft. "Now that OpenXML is an open international standard, we think that people will essentially have much greater trust that it's around for the long term."