OOXML debate

Though it has been hotly debated for last several months, I have kept away from writing on the Office Open XML (OOXML) proposed by Microsoft and currently a ECMA standard. With the ISO voting due today I thought let me write my views before the results.

Basically what OOXML means is a standardized file format based in XML for Word, Excel & PowerPoint documents. You have convertors to convert from OOXML to MS Office native formats or to ODF (ISO standard supported by Open Office & Open source). Accepting OOXML as an ISO standard increases the openness of your documents, there by you can safely assume that your grandchildren can open and read the documents created by you today long after the programs that created them are dead and not available. OK agreed, this may not be important for your monthly budget spreadsheets but certainly crucial for E-Governance applications that are used for exchange between different governments and with various departments within them.

Recently India has rejected (which I feel is sad) OOXML. Yesterday I heard the most convincing reason on why OOXML should be accepted by ISO and surprisingly it was not from Microsoft camp – it was from the Editor of the competing standard ODF 1.2. The argument from Patrick Durusau in the article “Who Loses if OpenXML Loses” where he has made several points on how ODF itself will loses if OOXML is rejected. Key arguments to note are on Spreadsheet formulas support and support for legacy MS documents.

You can track the status of voting from this site.

2/Apr/2008 Update: NewYork Times has reported that OOXML has been approved as a standard by ISO. This is a big win not only for Microsoft, but for consumers and governments as it now provides them with a choice. IBM, SUN and the other open source backers of ODF on one side, Microsoft and its partners on the other side with OOXML will ensure that the document format area is being innovated because of intense competition. Without this choice between ODF and OOXML, this critical technology area would have been left to suffer stagnation and resulted in lock-ins for e-governance applications.