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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Battle on Microsoft Standard Push

A global war has broken out over Microsoft's bid to make the XML document
format used in Office 2007 an international standard. Rivals and the
open-source community fear a yes vote for Office Open XML will stymie
the existing ISO file standard, OpenDocument Format, and give Microsoft
an ongoing commercial advantage. The file format standard is a key
factor in ensuring present and future access to digital documents used
by business or held in archives. The aim is to ensure
backward-compatibility despite changes in software and publishing
technologies. The software giant has been trying to secure national
votes for a coming ISO ballot on OOXML, after the first ballot failed
last September. IBM has been particularly outspoken about the issue, but
local government programs executive Kaaren Koomen insists it's not
simply a battle between two multinationals. "ISO has a policy that,
wherever possible, there should only be one standard to maximise
interoperability and functionality. We have an international standard
for digital documentation, ODF, which was developed by Microsoft, IBM,
Sun, Oracle and the open-source community some years back. Microsoft
pulled out of that process and decided to develop its own standard, OOXML.
Now Microsoft is trying to convince the rest of the ICT community to
adopt its standard." Microsoft Australia chief technology officer Greg
Stone says the company was simply responding to repeated requests to
make its specification available. Rick Jelliffe, a developer of XML-based
desktop tools and a long-standing participant in standards work, says
the bottom line for Microsoft is keeping in the game. "This is really
important for them. My take is that over the past 10 years Microsoft
has lost its bread-and-butter systems integrator market. It had a
thriving sector that was devoted and tied to it, but the advent of web
technologies meant the old advantages of lock-in to proprietary formats
suddenly became disadvantages, because you can't integrate with other

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