Alex Brown: OOXML will be second to ODF

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You’ve got to love Google Alerts. This morning I got this link to a Press Release from Giffin Brown with the title “OOXML will take second place following Microsoft’s announcement to support ODF, says Dr Alex Brown”.

Alex was the convenor of the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva in February. I’m guessing there was some commercial reason for making this statement in a press release vs., say, a simple blog entry, but it’s nice to have further “ODF has won” statements from the community associated with OOXML. This echoes comments by Stuart McKee, Microsoft’s US National Technology Officer.

The reason is, of course, so that we can see even more rapid adoption of this open standard office document file format. This will be through applications like Lotus Symphony,, KOffice, and real soon now, Microsoft Office 2007 in the next service package. We’ll get real interoperability and the value thereof for the worldwide community of office document users.

If ODF being proclaimed as the winner means that we now spend fewer resources dealing with the fading OOXML, I’m all for that. However, I’m also all for pushing through on the appeals process in ISO/IEC if it makes those organizations radically reform and repair the Fast Track process.

By the way, the press release above says

The recently standardised OOXML format will now take second place to Open Document Format (ODF), according to Dr Alex Brown, director of Griffin Brown, and an industry leading data quality specialist who has been closely involved in the International Standardisation of Microsoft’s format. According to Dr Brown, OOXML will now represent the “legacy” of MS Office documents that the world has accumulated to date, following Microsoft’s announcment that its Office suite will add native support for ODF.

Given that OOXML is under appeal in ISO/IEC, I don’t think it’s right to refer to OOXML as being recently standardized unless you count what happened in ECMA. Given how it happened in ECMA at a lightning fast pace that produced a gargantuan document filled with problems, I certainly don’t.

Finally, OOXML represents no great number of legacy documents for Microsoft’s applications since that “title” should correctly go to the binary formats like .doc, .xls, and .ppt. It’s not even clear what flavor of “OOXML” is supported by Microsoft applications but it is obvious to everyone, including Microsoft, that it certainly isn’t anything that came out of the ISO/IEC process.

I think what OOXML really represents is a mistake, but one that will force valuable change on the way standards are created and understood.

One Comment

  1. That’s great news, Bob. Now where is a usable open document format sdk? I’d like to be able to read and write a simple openoffice spreadsheet in some of my java programs. Right now, ODF is second to Microsoft’s original office format in this regard (Apache POI works quite well for xls files).

    Is the world of standards going to take yet another giant leap _backwards_ again?

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