Microsoft wins industry standard status for Office
December 11, 2006 Leave a comment
Looks like ECMA International has approved Office Open XML as an official industry standard. From the article:
ECMA International, a group of makers of both hardware and software based in Geneva that includes Microsoft, designated the Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats of Microsoft's Office Open XML as official industry standards.
Governments and businesses are often limited to buying software designated as industry standards.
Microsoft sought a standards designation for its new Office file formats after OpenDocument, a competing set of formats backed by International Business Machines, Sun and other companies, was approved in May by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, also based in Geneva, which sets global standards.
Jan van den Beld, secretary general of ECMA International, said IBM alone among the 21 members voted against approving the Microsoft standard. Van den Beld said ECMA's general assembly, which met in Zurich, agreed to petition the ISO to declare the Microsoft format as a global standard.
Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president for open source and standards, called Microsoft's Office formats technically unwieldy – requiring software developers to absorb 6,000 pages of specifications, compared with 700 pages for OpenDocument.
“The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft's specifications are Microsoft,” Sutor said.
Van den Beld of ECMA International said the standard recognized reality. “The vast amount of data in the world is in Microsoft format,” he said.
A couple comments. First, kudos to IBM for standing up on this one. Next, it's clear that once again, Microsoft is only doing this because they were forced to. The success of ODF is the real driver here, not Microsoft wanting to adhere to a standard. One thing I don't like about the standard is that (at least as I read it), you must implement everything in the standard and nothing not in the standard to get a license. The only one that doesn't need to do this is Microsoft, which means that it is way too easy for them to make Office incompatible with the standard. Next, 6,000 pages of specifications does make it seem overly complex. You don't have to believe IBM though, just look at what one of the Word developers has said:
If we had to add support for Open XML to Mac Word 12 without being able to port code from Win Word, the read/write estimates shrinks down to about 8.5 man/years (44 weeks x 5 devs x 2 for read+write). Doing the work for PPT and Excel isn’t strictly a multiple of Word, because about 30% of the XML elements are shared between the three apps. So, for all of Mac Office, I’d estimate it would take a total of about 5 devs over the release cycle to add full Open XML support starting from scratch, as part of the larger project.
Read the entire post for more details, but that's a lot of work to implement when compared to the relative simplicity of ODF (which no single company controls in the way Microsoft controls OO XML). Lastly, the comment by the secretary general of ECMA International worries me a bit. It makes the process seem more like a rubber stamp than anything else.
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