Microsoft Strikes Conciliatory Tone in Open XML Debate

Microsoft execs continue pushing standards recognition for Open XML but soften tone.

Two senior Microsoft executives touting what they say are the company's good-faith efforts to work with competitors and the open source community released an "open letter" in mid-June, calling for more choice and flexibility in standard file formats.

Choice and Flexibility
Redmond has been battling to ensure the Open XML (OXML) format native to its Office 2007 product gains equal footing in the standards world with the Open Document Format (ODF), which is backed by rival companies such as IBM Corp. Microsoft execs Tom Robertson and Jean Paoli stressed in their letter that customers deserve choice and flexibility in standard file formats, and painted Microsoft as taking pains to avoid confrontation over standards.

"Users have always had choice among formats and should continue to do so going forward," the letter says. "Microsoft has consistently supported choice, so it took no steps to hinder ISO/IEC's ratification of ODF 1.0 and supported ODF 1.0's addition to the American National Standards list. Microsoft will continue to support recognition of ODF 1.0 and other formats on such lists around the world as long as doing so in no way restricts choice among formats."

The letter does not mention IBM, unlike a previous letter about the ODF-OXML battle Robertson and Paoli published in February. In that missive, the duo highlighted IBM's past refusals to endorse Open XML as a standard.

Different Stories
IBM official Bob Sutor, the company's vice president for open source and standards, has publicly slammed Open XML, declaring it not a bona fide open standard but instead a "vendor-dictated spec that documents proprietary products via XML."

Robertson and Paoli argue in the letter that there are distinct differences between Open XML and ODF. Paoli, who's also the co-creator of XML, elaborated in an interview with RDN: "The scenarios are extremely different, because on one hand, the ODF format really is a format that can represent Open Office features. And that's fine," he says. "The functionalities of Open XML have been to enable the migration of millions or billions of documents. We have 450 million users in the world, billions of documents. So, as a design principle we're going to enable high-fidelity migration from your binary format to an open format."

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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