Office Open XML could stymie OpenDocument's progress

Gartner has suggested that while OpenDocument is the best XML office document standard out there, the announcement of rival 'open' standard from Microsoft could seriously hinder its growth
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

Microsoft's move to make its Open XML document format an international standard could hobble the uptake of OpenDocument, the OASIS-approved document format that is supported by Sun.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said it would be submitting its Open XML document format, which will be the default file format in the next version of its Office suite, to standards body ECMA. The company hopes this will eventually mean Open XML will be approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and approved as a global standard.

The move comes after the US State of Massachusetts in September said it would adopt OpenDocument as its default document standard because it wanted to move away from proprietary document formats. In a research note published on Thursday, Gartner analysts Rita Knox and Michael Silver, said that by pushing Open XML as an open standard, Microsoft may have effectively hobbled the widespread take-up of OpenDocument.

"The OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee… has increasingly been seen as a serious competitor to the Microsoft specification. Microsoft's moves will likely stall that trend," the research note said. Knox and Silver point out that the State of Massachusetts is now reconsidering its decision to adopt OpenDocument and ditch Microsoft's proprietary Office format, is an indication of the new trend.

"The Massachusetts state government, for example, had previously made a highly publicised decision to adopt OpenDocument and drop the Microsoft Office formats, but may now be considering a broader range of options in its approach to this issue," the analysts said.

The governor's office of Massachusetts earlier this week issued a statement saying that it was "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office Open XML document formats will meet the standard for an open format.

"The Commonwealth is very pleased with Microsoft's progress in creating an open document format. If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats," the statement said.

However, Gartner recommends that enterprises looking for an open XML-based document format should adopt the OpenDocument format if they can exploit XML immediately because the ECMA specification is unlikely to appear for at least another year.

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

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