The Open XML Debate

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-07-18 Print this article Print

Xinnovation Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Stephen Peront tells eWEEK that while there is a lot of fluff in the market, it seems pretty clear to him that the industry needs Open XML as a standard. "I mean, why wouldnt the [United States] want all these billions of documents it has to be available as an open standard, especially with many local authorities pushing for documents in open standard formats? This, coupled with the need for U.S. businesses to play well in the global community, really makes for a great case as to why it should be," he said.
Peront, who is a member of the V1 committee, said that given the obvious benefits the Open XML standard offered, the committee should have easily been able to pass a recommendation to the JTC 1 board.
To read more about how Open XML hit roadblocks in the United States and abroad, click here. "However, it seems that some people were more concerned with their own interests—or maybe its just anti-Microsoft sentiment—than with what is best for the [United States]. At one point we were only one vote away from reaching consensus and some people were actively making suggestions about how to make adjustments with what had been proposed, but there was a real push to end the meeting rather than work toward consensus," he said. Many of the government-regulated organizations that Xinnovation works with are confused why the committee has so easily pushed through other document formats "that add no value to their current business objectives but are seemingly trying to prevent Open XML from going through," Peront said. Robertson said Microsoft doesnt understand why there is so much opposition—both in the United States and abroad—to having the format approved as an ISO standard, as there is no reason why people should not support choice. "I think there is clearly a competitive dynamic here and that is the basis of a lot of the opposition," he said, adding that if the interests of the customers and the broader IT industry were put at the forefront, the decision would be clear. "Choice has got to be the way to go. We cannot freeze technology in this critical area in 2005 or 2006. Things will evolve and we will have new formats in the marketplace. The question for the international community is whether it wants to be part of the evolution of this technology going forward, and the answer has to be yes," he said. In fact, earlier this year Microsoft released an open letter accusing IBM of driving the effort to force ODF on users through public procurement mandates, which Microsoft viewed as an attempt to restrict choice and limit adoption of its Open XML format. To read more about why Microsoft says IBM is limiting choice, click here. For IBMs Weir, the way forward is unclear. "It is typical practice for INCITS to follow the recommendations of its technical committees. But since the committee of technical experts in V1 was not able to develop a consensus recommendation, it is not clear how the INCITS Executive Board will now make their decision," Weir said in his blog. Robertson said the report would now go to the executive board along with all the comments made. The board would then decide how the ballot looked and issue it with a 30-day voting period, he said, noting that the executive board would now be voting on this "and it has a different membership profile." 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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