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Microsoft, IBM in slap-fight over open document formats

OpenXML, ODF at heart of tussle

By , Network World
February 14, 2007 03:53 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft went on the offensive Wednesday with a Valentine’s Day attack on IBM openly accusing its rival of trying to subvert Microsoft’s efforts to standardize its new document format and in turn destabilize customer choices.

“A lot of hype -- and smoke and mirrors obfuscation -- surrounds interoperability these days,” Microsoft wrote in an open letter published on its Web site.

The letter was authored by Tom Robertson, the general manager for interoperability and standards, and Jean Paoli (pictured), general manager for interoperability and XML architecture.

The hype and obfuscation references point squarely at IBM, which was the only Ecma International member to vote ‘no’ in December to standardizing Microsoft’s Open XML file format.

Ecma International, an international membership-based standards organization for information and communication systems, approved the standardization measure.

OpenXML is the default file format in Office 2007, and support has been back ported to Office 2003, Office XP and Office 2000.

Format fracas
Rivals IBM and Microsoft are in another pitched battle, this time over the future of standardized file formats, specifically the OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft's Open XML. Here is a look at some of the strengths of both formats.
Open XML
Uses a mixed content model, which is considered friendlier to developers than other models. Captures 100% of formatting in older Office documents.
Uses existing standards for such functions as drawing, equations and linking. Excel formula language completely defined, whereas ODF is still working on its Excel formula specification.
Separation of style and content considered better in ODF than in other formats. Spreadsheet format said to be faster than ODF spreadsheet format.
Specification is 500 pages long. Specification is 6,000 pages long.
Click to see: See the differences with the two formats

After the Ecma vote, Bob Sutor, IBM’s vice president of open source and open standards, wrote on his blog: “The OpenDocument Format ISO standard is vastly superior to the Open XML spec.” Sutor also said in his post: “ODF is what the world needs today to drive competition, innovation and lower costs for customers. 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.”

Microsoft is seeking further standardization of OpenXML through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a move that IBM is also contesting.

Microsoft claims its rival has led a campaign to subvert OpenXML standardization at the ISO and is trying to prevent the format from being judged on its technical merits.

The open letter states: “This campaign to stop even the consideration of Open XML in [ISO] is a blatant attempt to use the standards process to limit choice in the marketplace for ulterior commercial motives – and without regard for the negative impact on consumer choice and technological innovation.”

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