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November 21, 2005

Microsoft to standardize Office formats

Posted by David Hunter at 6:26 PM ET.

Press release:

PARIS Nov. 22, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. today announced it will take steps to offer the file format technology behind billions of documents to customers and the industry as an international standard. Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba will co-sponsor a submission to Ecma International, the standards organization, of the Microsoft® Office Open XML (Extensible Markup Language) document format technology. Furthermore, Microsoft will make available tools to enable old documents to capitalize on the open standard format. With Office document formats available as an open standard, customers will have even more confidence in their ability to store and manage data for the long term, with many more vendors and tools from which they can choose. The move will benefit the broader software ecosystem because software and services vendors worldwide will be able to more easily build compelling solutions that interoperate across a broad spectrum of technologies.

These global industry leaders have agreed to work together as part of an open technical committee that Ecma members can join to standardize and fully document the Open XML formats for Word, Excel® and PowerPoint® from the next generation of Office technologies, code-named Office “12,” as an Ecma standard, and to help maintain the evolution of the formats. The group will ask Ecma to submit the results of their collaboration to the International Organization for Standardization for approval.

Some commentary via Simon Taylor and Elizabeth Montalbano at PCWorld:

The development comes as a group of technology rivals led by IBM and Sun Microsystems are mobilizing a global effort to push the OASIS consortium’s Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) as a global standard format for these kinds of documents.

The effort was spurred in part by a highly publicized Massachusetts proposal requiring compliance with OpenDocument for government documents, which would mean the phasing out of Microsoft Office and its proprietary format.

Microsoft has been facing increasing pressure from governments and agencies that have insisted on standards compliance for their software. Microsoft executives confirmed that the move would help the company win contracts from public authorities that want software based on open standards.

However, a key supporter of OpenDocument and steward of OpenOffice, an open-source rival to Office, says Microsoft is using the move as an “end run” around having to support OpenDocument, which is backed by a host of vendors, including IBM, Apple, Google, Intel, Novell, Red Hat, and Sun. Companies can look at ISO standards, but they can’t use them to build their own applications, says Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager of OpenOffice.org and chair of the group’s governing council.

“With an open standard, any application can use it,” he says. “With an ISO standard, it’s not quite the same thing. It just means you have a reference for it.”

It frankly seems doubtful that this will defuse the open standards complaints.

Update: A Microsoft Q&A showed up.



Filed under Coopetition, ODF, OOXML, Office, Office 2007, OpenOffice.org, Standards

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4 Responses to “Microsoft to standardize Office formats”

  1. Microsoft News Tracker » Blog Archive » Massachusetts warms to Office 12 standard Says:

    [...] I guess the Ecma submission announcement paid off. Martin LaMonica has the story at ZDNet: The governor’s office of Massachusetts said Microsoft’s effort to standardize Office document formats could meet the commonwealth’s procurement guidelines. [...]

  2. Microsoft News Tracker » Blog Archive » IBM Workplace to support Open Document standard Says:

    [...] Also worth noting is that after the announcement that Massachusetts was looking favorably at Microsoft Office again after the announcement that the Office 12 Open XML formats would be submitted to Ecma, Sun promptly wrote a letter of protest: In his letter, Cargill said it would be a “mistake” for Massachusetts to support Open XML based on “a single vendor’s promise to submit a new product to a standards body at some point in the future.” Instead, the state should move forward with its support of OpenDocument as the standard format for state documents, because not only has it already been approved by a standards body, but it also allows any vendor to build upon the standard, something an ISO or ECMA standard would not allow, he wrote. [...]

  3. Ecma approves Microsoft’s Office Open XML document standard -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] You may recall that Microsoft rather urgently decided to make the new document formats for Office 2007 a published standard after complaints from governments and other organizations who were casting covetous glances at the OpenDocument Format open standard and the products that use it. Well, the first step in that process was completed yesterday when ”Ecma International approved Office Open XML Formats as an Ecma standard and voted to submit the new standards to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for consideration as an ISO standard through the fast-track process.” The ISO process is expected to take about nine months. [...]

  4. OpenDocument vs. Open XML feud heats up -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] And that interpretation is confirmed by the bills’ authors. But what about Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML, the format of Office 2007), which Microsoft has gone to so much trouble to standardize to head off just this sort of thing? Last we heard it was on the fast track to ISO approval, but it seems to have hit something large and messy on the tracks: [...]

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