Yesterday, the industry association Ecma approved Microsoft's Open XML as a standard, and agreed to submit the standard to the ISO for adoption.  

Standardizing Open XML will aid interoperability between Office, the most widely used productivity suite among consumers and businesses, and other competing software, such as WordPerfect from Corel and OpenOffice, an open source suite available through, Ecma said in a statement. Document standards like Open XML and OpenDocument, which has already earned ISO approval, are also important in the creation of digital archives.

Besides addressing interoperability between products, Open XML's 6,000 pages of documentation make it possible for organizations to use custom schemas with the standard to integrate productivity software with information systems that manage business processes, Ecma said.
As some are aware, IBM has decided to include a set of productivity editors in Lotus Notes 8.  The default file formats for the word processor / spreadsheet / presentation tool are Open Document Format (ODF), though they can also read/write Microsoft Office DOC/XLS/PPT formats, OpenOffice 1.0 formats, can import Lotus SmartSuite formats, and can export to PDF.  IBM's decision to support ODF as the default was made a long time ago, and you can learn a lot by reading IBM VP Bob Sutor's blog entries about ODF.

Bob's blog is also a good resource to check if you want to know why IBM voted "no" at Ecma as far as OpenXML.  I haven't been involved in any of the discussions about this, my knowledge comes only from what I've read in the blogs and trade rags.  Bob sums it up simply:
It is an example of a real open standard versus a vendor-dictated spec that documents proprietary products via XML. ODF is about the future, Open XML is about the past. We voted for the future.
The discussion on that link is most interesting.  There I learned that Microsoft had every opportunity to participate in the development of ODF, but chose not to.  Their "support" for ODF, an already ISO-approved standard, in Office 2007 is limited to a 3rd-party-led sourceforge project for import/export filters.  Microsoft was the lead on developing OpenXML as an alternative approach, which they unsurprisingly claim is a better one, in part it seems because it has 6,000 pages of documentation that will allow anyone to work with it.

This may just be the sales guy in me, but my first reaction was -- who wants to read 6,000 pages of documentation just to figure out some file formats?  The entire HTML 4.01 specification is only 389 pages.  I can't wait to hear the conversation with a developer -- "um, yeah, I was wondering why you didn't implement the foo class DTD that was covered on page 4827?"

Apparently, there is a lot to implementing Open XML.  Adobe's Andrew Shebanow picked up a blog entry from Microsoft's Rick Schaut, explaining why the Mac version of Office doesn't yet support Open XML -- remember, the specification was developed by Microsoft.:
we've taken a little less than a year to get the converters reading the new file format. We still aren't writing the new file format, we have the RTF side of things to worry about, which is actually more complex than the XML side, and I've completely left out all of the design and coding for the intermediate representation of the file. The intermediate representation, itself, is at least 6 to 8 months worth of work.
Shebanow then extrapolates this to what it means for broader implementation -- not just MacWord but the whole Mac Office, and then what it would take for a product that doesn't start from the same place as Win32 Office.  He concludes:
Breaking out my envelope again, we're now looking at 150 man years to do the job for a competitive PPA [personal productivity application]. How can competitors afford to make that level of investment? Novell says they will support import and export for Open XML with financial and technical help from Microsoft. Corel says they'll do it too. Guess we'll need to wait and see how successful they'll be at maintaining fidelity and compatibility, though given what Rick has to say, I'm not super confident.
The comments on Bob Sutor's blog seem to somehow be trying to portray IBM as anti-competition for not being willing to back two different document standards proposals in the market.  But even my non-developer mind can see clearly that one approved some time ago by the International Standards Organization and implemented already in a variety of products could benefit everyone, versus a second one introduced by a single vendor under a smokescreen of "choice" .

Link: Information Week: Ecma approves Microsoft's Open XML >

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