The Coming OOXML Showdown
Forget about the Super Tuesday presidential primaries. The biggest election
in February could be the long-awaited vote to approve Microsoft Office Open
XML (OOXML) as an industry standard under the International Organization for
You want to get a rise out of a group of developers? Tell them you see no difference
between Open Document Format (ODF) and OOXML, since both simply map the features
and functions of their respective, underlying Office application suites, OpenOffice
and Microsoft Office.
Yeah, I can feel the hate mail already.
Peter O'Kelly knows a thing or three about the upcoming fight. He spent a good
deal of December and January finishing up a Burton Group report titled: "What's
Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML in Productivity
Applications." You can read an excerpt of his report, due to go up tomorrow,
To hear Peter tell it, the ISO vote, scheduled for late February, is probably
second only to the Super Tuesday primaries in terms of its importance. Like
the Super Tuesday contests, the ISO vote won't decide if OOXML wins or loses.
Rather, it will set the stage for the next phase of the battle.
In the case of OOXML, the ISO vote is all about position. Win, and Microsoft
OOXML gains access to a larger body of organizations, companies and government
bureaucracies requiring open, standards-based file formats for their applications.
Lose, and OOXML could find itself shut out of some major contracts. Either way,
the overwhelming dominance of Microsoft Office in the field all but ensures
that OOXML is with us for the long haul.
And like a hard-fought presidential primary, the ODF-OOXML battle has all the
passion and drama of the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama primary fight. As O'Kelly
wrote in his report:
"It's a story that has many elements appropriate for a James Bond
movie, with multibillion dollar business empires at risk, global political
intrigue, and even some conspiracy theories at the intersection of capitalism
(commercial software products), democracy (industry standards), and communism
(e.g., related standards controlled by the People's Republic of China). This
is improbably heady stuff for what's ultimately a debate about something as
mundane as file formats."
What are your thoughts on the upcoming ISO vote -- and will the result, honestly,
even matter when it comes to blunting OOXML? And tell me, what would it take
to fix OOXML to make it a palatable candidate as an ISO standard? E-mail me
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/10/2008 at 1:15 PM