Microsofts Office Standard Gets Green Light

Microsoft's wish to produce a standard for office apps that is compatible with its Open XML formats was granted by standards body Ecma International.

Standards body Ecma International accepted on Thursday Microsoft Corp.s application to produce a standard for office productivity applications that is compatible with Microsofts Office Open XML Formats.

"At the General Assembly meeting held in Nice on December 8, 2005, Ecma International has created Technical Committee 45 (TC45) to produce a formal standard for office productivity applications which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats, submitted by Microsoft," Ecma International Secretary General, Jan van den Beld, said in a prepared statement.

"The aim is to enable the implementation of the standard by a wide set of tools and platforms in order to foster interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems. The TC will also be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and evolution of the standard," he said.

TC45 was set up at the request of Apple Computer Inc., Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corp., NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba, all of which are co-sponsoring the initiative, Van den Beld added.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts decision to open up the Office XML formats.

For his part, Alan Yates, the general manager of Microsofts Information Worker Strategy, said the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is "extremely pleased" that its Open XML file format submission had been accepted.

This "means customers and the industry are a major step forward toward preserved interoperability. We look forward to a continued open and productive process with Ecma and its members," he said.

Microsofts move to a formal standard follows the controversial Massachusetts OpenDocument debate, and appears to be a direct move by the company to prevent the potential loss of any further government and business contracts for Office.

Microsoft also plans to post an updated question and answer document on the Ecma International standardization of the Open XML file format to its Web site shortly.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told Ziff Davis Internet News on Friday that the Q&A had been updated to address some of the common questions that the company had been hearing from partners and customers about the file formats.

The area that has been most controversial since Microsoft announced its plans for the standard, and the area that gets the most coverage in the Q&A, is Microsofts CNS (Covenant Not to Sue) licensing changes.

Ziff Davis Internet News received an advance copy of the updated Q&A, which answers the question of why Microsoft took a CNS approach by saying that "it was a simple, clear way to reassure a broad audience of developers and customers, within a rapidly changing licensing environment, that the formats could be used without constraint forever."

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more about Massachusetts decision to mandate use of the OpenDocument format, click here.

The Q&A continues: "We looked at many different types of licensing approaches that would recognize the legitimacy of intellectual property but would make it clear that the intellectual property in the Open XML document formats would be available freely, now and forever.

"Given that this is a rapidly changing area and lay people sometimes have difficulty understanding terms, we wanted to create something simple and clear," the Q&A said.

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