Microsoft: No File Format or Standard Is Perfect

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-01-16 Print this article Print

Redmond says its own Office Open XML format is evolving through the ISO standardization process.


KIRKLAND , Wash. -- No format or standard is perfect. They are evolving things that morph, change and improve over time, said Tom Robertson, the general manager for Microsoft's corporate responsibility and standards group, at a media event here Jan. 16.

Microsoft's own Office Open XML file format is itself evolving through the international ISO/IEC standardization process, which is currently underway, he said, before stressing that Open XML was a true, open standard that has already been through the rigorous standardization process by Ecma, which then sent this on to ISO/IEC for ratification.

Robertson also took aim at the competitive ODF (Open Document Format), saying it does not meet its customer needs, does not provide backwards compatibility and does not support custom-defined schemas. 

"Our customers were telling us that they needed the higher functionality built into Open XML and Microsoft does not believe they should be forced into a one size fits all solution that does not meet their needs, and did not meet their needs from the outset," he said.

Microsoft also has a very different perspective on allegations that it strong-armed companies to become involved in the IEC/ISO process so that it could vote in its favor, Robertson said, before taking aim at IBM, which supports the competitive Open Document Format.

"This process should not be conducted the way it has been in the past, behind closed doors by the old guard of established IT companies, including IBM. There has to be an open process where anyone who has an interest in the process has the right to sit at the table, have a voice and be heard," he said.

While Microsoft has not achieved the two-thirds majority required to get Open XML approved as an ISO standard at the vote in September 2007, the Ecma committee has done a huge amount of work to address the comments raised by national bodies when they voted, and Microsoft was very involved in that and felt the recently issued report on this is a great accomplishment.


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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