It appears that Microsoft’s Office Open XML document format has made it through the ISO Standardization process, meaning we now have two XML-based document formats approved by ISO, both of which strive to solve similar problems. Great job, ISO. Ignoring the argument about whether or not the standard was even necessary, there seem to have been [questions about some of the votes from several of the member nations of ISO(http://blog.abrenna.com/formal-protest-against-norways-yes-to-ooxml/). Will these questions be enough to reverse today’s announcement? Probably not, but it still is rather bothersome.
Microsoft is, of course, already spinning the beginning controversy as FUD being fueled by competitors like IBM. Admittedly, IBM, who’s Lotus Suite utilized the Open Document Format, has a bad history with Microsoft, and their support of Open Formats like ODF are steeped in calculated business decisions, but there are many more technical people than simply IBM who view OOXML as a inferior format.
And even where OOXML is better than ODF, and there are places where that is true, those improvements should have been worked into ODF, not competing format. Besides, don’t we have Standards to prevent this sort of interoperability failure and difficulty? ISO failed us on this one. Not just because OOXML has been passed, but because they’ve passed two standards in less than two years that strive to solve the same problem. And both votes have been surrounded by questionable behavior, from Yes votes where 80% of committee members said No, to companies being paid to join ISO.
My views haven’t changed on OOXML, and while I have grown to love Microsoft Research, their business wing continues to earn my ire. Congratulations to Microsoft, I guess, for getting this ‘standard’ approved through ISO. And Damn You ISO for allowing it to happen. I’ve no doubt we’re far from the end of the fallout from this, and I shudder to think of the wreckage of ISO that will exist when all is said and done.