OOXML to live in harmony with ODF?

Microsoft says OOXML is not necessarily in competition with ODF, and is optimistic about its upcoming ISO ballot resolution meeting.

The debate over the OOXML (Office Open XML) format and the competing ODF (Open Document Format) is still alive and kicking, but Microsoft just wants everyone to get along.

The software giant has been lobbying for its OOXML format's ratification as an ISO standard at a ballot resolution meeting in Geneva later this month, after a failed attempt in September last year.

Its opposers support ISO-certified ODF, seen as a close rival of OOXML, but Microsoft says polarizing the discussion into ODF and OOXML camps "trivializes" it.

Oliver Bell, Microsoft APAC chief technology officer, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia: "We have lived with multiple formats as long as we've had computers. ODF continues to be an elegant standard for use side-by-side with OOXML. [The formats] compete side-by-side and are designed for different purposes."

OOXML's place, he said, is in an SOA (service oriented architecture) to move data between business processes.

However, some remain unconvinced of Microsoft's message. Harish Pillay, president of the Singapore Linux Users' Group said in an interview that ODF is quite capable of the same functions. "What [Microsoft] is doing with OOXML is to further lock down [users] with dependencies on Microsoft technologies as part of their business value chain," Pillay said.

Pillay added that OOXML's shortcomings do not make it a candidate for consideration alongside ODF in terms of finding a "global" standard.

"ODF was a project that was started years ago with many companies and groups involved...to make it really and truly global. OOXML, on the other hand, has significant issues which the forthcoming ballot resolution meeting is trying to resolve."

Pillay said it is likely that Microsoft will fail again at the ballot box, on that count.

But Microsoft said it is optimistic about its chances. On the "no" votes, those can also be seen as "conditional approvals" where the votes can be changed to a positive one should the countries' comments be addressed, said Bell.

For example, the Asian countries' issues with internationalization support have been addressed, he said. UTF-16 character support is available now. "We've seen a lot of positive progress," said Bell.

Singapore is the only country in the region to have given OOXML the nod--Malaysia has abstained from voting, with India, Japan and Korea voting "no".

Microsoft has been pushing for Malaysia's positive vote; although the Malaysian government plans to adopt ODF as its standard, a growing number of Malaysian IT companies have opted for OOXML.

Pillay remains skeptical of Microsoft's genuine efforts in winning mindshare with its purported revisions to OOXML. "Microsoft has abused the ISO process for their purposes," said Pillay, in reference to the company's reported swaying of votes in Sweden by offering companies "incentives".

Free Software Foundation Europe president, Georg Greve, has also named Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United States as countries that have been influenced by Microsoft.