Microsoft Stumble On Open Doc Standard

Microsoft Stumble On Open Doc StandardThere’s been general surprise at Microsoft’s failure to secure their ‘Open XML’ interchangeable document standard to be accepted by the ISO – International Standards Committee – and the IEC – International Electronic Commission.

It is important to Microsoft as Governments around the world are looking to allow simple document interchange between all of their systems.

There’s one accepted standard in place already – Open Document Format (ODF) – which was lead by IBM and approved back in May 2006. Gartner are quoted in the IHT stating the over 90% of all digital text documents in the world are in Microsoft format currently.

The voting has been interesting. 87 countries took part, 53% voted in favour (they needs at least 2/3rds), 26% voted against (ISO rules don’t allow there to be more than 25%), the rest (18 countries) abstained.

Many blame over-aggressive lobbying, other claim that sections of the supposedly open standard, running to 2,500 pages, still contain close connections to other proprietary Microsoft file standards.

_Huge lobbying pressure
Many reports have been circulation as to how hard Microsoft have been lobbying in many countries at the highest government levels – the IHT cite an example in Malaysia where a voting panel member made claims that lobbying was “unprecedented.” It appears that it might have worked, as the countries Industry Standards Committee voted against the proposal, but the government overruled it, forcing an abstention from the vote.

_What next?
Despite the obvious embarrassment, Microsoft have two more bites at the cherry. They get to meet the voting members in Geneva between 25-29 Feb, to address the problems. Failing success there will put them on a slower application path that will take 2-3 years, according to the FT.


3 thoughts on “Microsoft Stumble On Open Doc Standard”

  1. I can’t say I’m surprised. Microsoft’s document format isn’t even “open” – there are bits of it which are proprietary to Microsoft and this keeps vendors locked into agreements with them and the coins rolling into MS HQ. I’m glad that is has been defeated as we don’t need another “open” standard – ODF is good enough, and Microsoft could have helped to expand that (despite the obvious “oh, it’s open source – we don’t do that” argument).

  2. I haven’t had the chance to read through the spec. If what you say is true, and they still have proprietary sections in there, you’d have hoped that they’d be happy to share the file format, then compete on the quality of the application that they deliver.

    I guess it shows their lack of confidence in their ability to write the best app.

  3. Well, I’ve not read through the specification myself (and don’t claim to be an expert on such things) – I’m only commenting on what I’ve heard from others in the open source community.

    It is basically Microsoft trying to compete with the open source community. Open Document Format has already been approved, and there are a number of applications that use it (both open and closed source). By claiming it is “open”, Microsoft hopes to gain some of that support for their format. There is also the issue of patenting – by saying it is open, one would probably liken it to open source and therefore free of patenting, but I doubt that will be the case.

    Like I said before, Microsoft should have helped to improve the already standardised ODF format, rather than try and develop their own standard, which I personally feel will ultimately fail.

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