It’s no secret Microsoft has been pushing for it’s Office Open XML (OOXML) standard with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for quite sometime now, some might say against the already standardized Open Document Format (ODF) used by OpenOffice.org. It would seem MS is trying for a final push at it at the ballot resolution meeting this Februrary. I must admit this topic is not new and I had earlier refrained from commenting on this topic, since there are already too many blogs that have similar content and for a fact that I hate to be on any one side of the fence. The reason given by Microsoft over it’s rival seems to be that OOXML is more application friendly than ODF and more importantly far more compatible with legacy Microsoft Office formats. The argument put forth by Microsoft is, “There could be more than one XML standard and more than one document format in the market.” Yes there could be, but then again why does Microsoft want it’s format standardized? The fact is users (, like you and me) couldn’t care less what the internals of XML formats are made up of as long as they get the work done. They could just be happy with the OOXML format used by Office 2007 or, for the “poor” people (, like me) who can’t obviously afford MS Office, can be happy with OpenOffice.org. So why push for standardization now when MS Office suites already use and do a pretty good job with proprietary formats, and MS already has 90% of the market?
MS vs OSS battle is nothing new and this just adds more to what has already become a endless debate. However, I like to look at this from a neutral position, someone who is sitting on the fence and not on any one side. To me the reasons given by Microsoft for standardization of the OOXML seem downright selfish. The OOXML format is clearly tailored for Microsoft products and interoperability with MS Office packages. It doesn’t take into account any other vendors or Office suites. People have often said that the OOXML specification is more complex. For products other than the MS line, OOXML is more difficult to adhere to accurately. There is even some talk about the OOXML format bring encumbered with patents which might not allow it’s adoption in any OSS products without infringement of some sort. This to me looks like typical market muscling by Microsoft. It’s argument over ODF holds little ground, even though it’s Office products are far superior to OpenOffice.org or any of it’s other competitors.
It would seem that this post is more about bashing Microsoft, but it is not. Standardization is a complex process that requires serious thought. The very definition of the term means party and vendor neutral standards, which the OOXML format fails to address. It may be true that the format is superior (, I don’t really know or care for that matter) to ODF, but should it be made a standard? You can guess the answer to that one yourself!