Ecma Approves Microsoft's Open XML - InformationWeek

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Ecma Approves Microsoft's Open XML

But Ecma's approval wasn't unanimous -- IBM voted against Open XML, saying OpenDocument, which is the default format in OpenOffice, is a "vastly superior" format, and another standard was unnecessary.

Ecma International on Thursday approved Microsoft's Open XML, the default document format in Office 2007, despite objections from IBM.

In approving the specification, Ecma's General Assembly meeting in Geneva also agreed to submit the standard for adoption by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. Approval by the latter organization would greatly increase the new standard's use by government and international organizations.

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 OpenOffice.org, 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.

"The broad spectrum of sponsors from the industry and public institutions ensure the creation of an open standard that can create a wide range of possibilities for document processing, archival and interoperability," Jan van den Beld, secretary general of Ecma International, said in a statement.

Ecma, a nonprofit industry association of technology developers, vendors and users, is responsible for future development of Open XML.

Approval of the specification, however, was not unanimous. IBM said it voted against Open XML, saying OpenDocument, which is the default format in OpenOffice, is a "vastly superior" format, and another standard was unnecessary.

"It (OpenDocument) is an example of a real open standard versus a vendor-dictated spec that documents proprietary products via XML," Bob Sutor, vice president for open source and standards for IBM, said in his blog. "ODF is about the future, Open XML is about the past. We voted for the future."

IBM, according to Microsoft, was the only Ecma member to give the thumbs down. Microsoft's public relations firm also circulated via e-mail a statement from the Initiative for Software Choice praising the approval.

"Though Office Open XML's detractors decry competition as confusing to consumers, the consensus Ecma vote belies their argument," ISC Executive Director Melanie Wyne said. "Having more to choose from, governments and consumers will be better off, period."

The technical committee that developed the new standard included Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the U.S. Library of Congress.

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