Microsoft Wins Ecma Approval for Office OpenXML Format

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-12-07 Print this article Print

Now that Microsoft's Office OpenXML has been approved as an Ecma standard, it will be submitted for consideration as an ISO international standard.

Microsofts Office OpenXML has been approved as an Ecma standard and will now also be submitted for consideration as an ISO international standard. Ecma International announced the approval of the new standard on Dec. 6 following a meeting of its general assembly.
Ecma will also begin the fast track process for adoption of the Office OpenXML formats as an ISO international standard in January 2007.
The work to standardize OpenXML was carried out by Ecma International through a technical committee, which includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba and the U.S. Library of Congress. Intel recently joined Microsoft to help get its proposed Office OpenXML format standard approved. Click here to read more. "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," said Jan van den Beld, secretary general of Ecma International, in a statement. "The OpenXML standard recognizes the benefit of backward compatibility preservation of the billions of documents that have already been created while enabling new future applications of document technology," he said. But criticism of the new OpenXML standard was quick, particularly from those who support the competing OpenDocument Format, which has already been approved as an ISO standard. Click here to read more about ODFs ISO approval. Bob Sutor, the vice president of Open Source and Standards at IBM, said in a blog posting that IBM "voted no today in ECMA on approval for Microsofts OpenXML spec. I think we have made it clear in the last few months why we think the OpenDocument Format ISO standard is vastly superior to the OpenXML spec," he said. "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, OpenXML is about the past. We voted for the future," Sutor said. But Ecma clearly disagrees with that view, saying in a statement that an increasing number of organizations around the world are interested in achieving document processing interoperability and creating digital archives using open formats. "The Office OpenXML (OpenXML) formats provide an international open standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets that can be freely implemented across multiple applications and platforms, both today and in the future," it said. Earlier in 2006 Microsoft also set up an open-source project to create a series of tools that allow translation between the OpenXML format and the ODF format, and which will be developed with partners. Vendors, including Corel, Microsoft and Novel, have already announced implementations of the OpenXML standard in their applications, such as WordPerfect, Open Office and Microsoft Office 2007. "After more than a year of work, the technical committee produced the OpenXML formats to be interoperable by design, and produced over 6,000 pages of documentation on the formats, to provide developers all the technical details needed to ensure predictable results and high fidelity interoperability when working with the standard," the Ecma statement said. To read more about how the OpenDocument movement is gaining steam, click here. "Thanks to the depth of the technical resources the technical committee created, the OpenXML standard covers the full set of features used in the existing corpus of billions of documents. The OpenXML standard addresses as well the international language needs of organizations by supporting all the major worldwide languages, and also includes information for assistive technology products to properly process documents," Ecma said. Developers can use subsets or the full feature set of the Office OpenXML formats, while the format lets organizations integrate productivity applications with information systems that manage business processes by enabling the use of custom schemas within OpenXML documents, it said. Not everyone has welcomed Microsofts move to make its OpenXML format a standard. Click here to read more. The Ecma technical committee will continue to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the standard, and for enhancing the standard with new features while preserving backwards compatibility, the standards body said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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