Microsoft: No File Format or Standard Is Perfect

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.