Microsoft Intensifies Full Court Press On OOXML


In an open letter published Sunday, Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft Office, reiterated Microsoft's position and discussed the rationale behind its support of the Ecma Office Open XML file formats.

"Office Open XML fulfills an important customer need - the file format was designed to be backward compatible with the content and functionality in billions of existing documents," Capossela wrote.

Microsoft developed OOXML for its Office 2007 suite and is positioning it as an open standard. In December 2006, OOXML was certified as an Ecma standard, and Microsoft has been feverishly trying to get OOXML certified with the International Standards Organization (ISO).

However, Red Hat and other organizations that oppose ISO ratification of OOXML argue that the easiest way to achieve interoperability is to have a single, open standard -- the OpenDocument Format (ODF) -- to which all vendors adhere.

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Capossela cited the fact that Novell, Corel, Apple, IBM, and Sun have already adopted or announced plans to adopt Open XML in their products on a variety of platforms -- including Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Palm OS, Java, and .NET. What's more, the proliferation of document format standards such as PDF/A, HTML, ODF, CDF, UOF and Open XML show that a single standard wouldn't meet the needs of the industry, he wrote.

"Moreover, mandating one approach would limit the industry's incentive to develop new features and applications that were not contemplated by the one chosen format," Capossela wrote.

Noting the intense negotiation and effort that has been expended on both sides of the OOXML issue, Chris Letocq, an analyst with Guernsey Research, Los Altos, Calif., said the outcome is too close to call at this point. "The important thing for Microsoft is the impact this decision will have on purchasing from organizations that are required to abide by these standards, such as state and local governments," he said.

"The reason you're seeing this level of negotiation is that you have organizations looking to understand the implications of long term storage of documents, and want to make sure from an archival standpoint that they'll be able to work with those documents through a consistent standard," Letocq added.

The final international decision on the OOXML file formats will be handed down March 29 by the ISO/IEC's 87 participating National Body members. The U.S. has already voted in favor of ratifying OOXML.

Last week, Microsoft said it plans to release in May the final version of its OOXML software development kit, to help spur the development of applications that use the Ecma Office Open XML Formats (ECMA-376).

The first community technology preview for version 2 of the OOXML SDK is due in July, and will fill out the OOXML architecture with WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML, PresentationML and Shared ML API components.