OOXML Format as an ISO Standard - The End of ODF?

4 minute read
Barb Mosher Zinck avatar
Big news for Microsoft as they find themselves the proud parents of an ISO 29500 certified OOXML specification -- almost.The ISO -- International Organization for Standardization's approval of the Open Office XML specification was officially announced on April 2. It is subject to no official appeals from the ISO/IEC national bodies in the next two months and word is there are many questions arising already on the voting process.Is this the end of the other ISO Office standard ODF -- Open Document Format?Approval for the standard was given by 86% of all voting countries (Microsoft needed 75%) and 75% of all countries participating in JTC1 -- the the Joint Technical Committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This was the second time Microsoft had submitted the specification for approval. It was rejected in September 2007 with 3,500 recommendations on how to improve it.Microsoft incorporated these comments in a modified draft during a Ballot Resolution Meeting in February. Countries were given 30 days to vote on the new version of the specification. And vote most of them did -- of the 87 countries voting: 61 approved, 10 disapproved and 16 abstained. Within the JTC1 24 approved, 8 disapproved and 9 abstained.

ISO Office Standards

According to the ISO website, the ISO/IEC 29500 "is a standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets that is intended to be implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms".The OOXML specification is not the only ISO Office Standard. ODF -- Open Document Format was accepted as a standard in December 2006. Open source CMS expert Seth Gottlieb says this decision is not a bad thing. According to Gottlieb, since it's pretty obvious that Microsoft was not going to adhere to the ODF standard, then "the next best thing is for MS to adhere to their OOXML standard and alternative office suites support it." In the end, it's not only Microsoft who will benefit from OOXML becoming a standard. Microsoft Office is currently the most popular office software available and it's only a matter of time before everyone is using Office 2007. This means Microsoft needs to get the office software up to standard.Not everyone is so open to support the new standard though. Many didn't believe it would achieve ISO certification in the first place."Microsoft continues to maintain the Rovian perspective that a standard with "support" (their language is improving to "implementations") rather than complete conformance is good news for the industry. In this particular case it even ignores the very conformance statement in their own standard. It's only good news for Microsoft." says Stephen Walli, open-source-strategist-in-residence for Open Tuesday out of Finland.Even Google is against the standard coming out publicly criticizing the OOXML specification. Of course, they use the ODF standard in their web-based productivity software Google Apps.

Implementing the OOXML Standard Going Forward

Now that it's an almost official standard, the ISO will oversee the standard going forward. This is not a simple matter however, as there is more work to be done to the OOXML standard for it to be usable by organizations other than Microsoft."No one can actually implement this standard. Not even Microsoft," said Pamela Jones, author of the popular Groklaw blog and an outspoken critic of the OOXML process. "But even if they did, only Microsoft can really do so, because the format references proprietary stuff from the past. Stuff that is patented, no doubt, but mainly just unknown and unknowable, at least at the level Microsoft knows it."Microsoft denies this is the case. Only time will tell what will happen to the standard and it's implementation going forward. And the next couple of months will be the deciding factor of whether the OOXML standard becomes an official standard or will have to go through more hoops and lap dancing to win the hearts of the ISO and the rest of the world.Are you open to using the OOXML standard? Or are you dedicated to ODF?