Critics are making much ado about Microsoft's Open XML format, which may be adopted as an international standard this weekend. To loosely paraphrase any of a handful of these naysayers, the new format is -- at best -- a ploy to keep customers nailed to the Windows cross. 'Til death do us part.XML has been the topic of much debate and experimentation of late, mainly because it's transitioning from something trendy to something that's (arguably) necessary for the websites of tomorrow. Early this month the W3C released an open draft for Efficient XML Interchange, an effort to rein in all the wildness that makes XML young, hip and cool. There are sweeping concerns that Microsoft's Open XML may force reliance on Microsoft for access to documents that your enterprise owns. It's not a small concern, and the reason why has a relatively long and tangly back-story. Months ago the company upset the open source community by threatening to sue Linux and other open source technologists for patent infringement. Insult to injury, the company exempted any open source firm that agreed to develop certain strategic relationships with them. This understandably made some people mad. And less than trusting. One open source firm that decided to collaborate with Microsoft in the wake of all this moodiness is Novell. Novell was recently pinned a major "traitor to the cause," so to speak, after releasing Open Workgroup, which sparked myriad speculations about Microsoft's intention to build an open source solution for all its channels in the market. Incidentally, it is also Novell that worked with Microsoft to develop a tool for translating Open XML docs into ODF (and vice-versa). Which is (partly) what all this fuss is about. Despite inferences that the format is simple, Open XML boasts 6,000 pages of code, making it exceptionally complex (which would in turn make it, I guess, counter-intuitive) and virtually untranslatable. Open XML is also the default file-saving format in Office '07. The International Organization for Standardization is conducting a vote on the issue, expected to close this Sunday. If the standard is agreed to be a great thing for the vast majority, the ISO's nod of approval will encourage broad use of the Microsoft Open XML format by public-sector enterprises. Abroad, the German Institute for Standardization, which are ISO members, have given Open XML a "conditional 'yes'." Will the rest of the ISO follow in the footsteps of its Deutsche brothers? The world finds out on Sunday.