May 16, 2006 7:18 AM PDT

ISO approval 'unlikely for Microsoft Open XML'

The International Organization for Standardization is unlikely to adopt Microsoft Office Open XML format, now that it has approved the OpenDocument Format, according to analyst group Gartner.

There is a 70 percent probability that the standards organization will not approve multiple XML document formats, according to a research note published by Gartner last week. It also predicted, with the same probability, that "by 2010, ODF (OpenDocument Format) document exchange will be required by 50 percent of government and 20 percent of commercial organizations."

Microsoft submitted its Office Open XML file formats to the European standards body, ECMA International, last year, as a prelude to seeking ISO standardization.

In its research note, "ISO Approval of OASIS OpenDocument is a Blow to Microsoft," Gartner advised vendors to "seek opportunities to leverage ODF." However, it warned that a migration to applications that support ODF could be costly.

"The migration will not be inexpensive, and will involve compatibility issues when exchanging documents with Microsoft Office users. If you need compatibility with Microsoft Office formats or cannot cost-justify a migration, lobby Microsoft to support ODF and look for plug-ins that allow you to open and save ODF files from within Microsoft applications," Gartner advised.

Although Gartner thinks it is unlikely that Microsoft's formats will be approved by ISO, the European Commission seems less sure. A couple of days after OpenDocument's ISO approval, sources at the Commission told ZDNet UK that it is unlikely to recommend the document format "in case we will have two ISO standards at a later point in time."

The aim of all the current wrangling over XML data formats by standards bodies is to try and move towards interoperability among any type of application, including databases, search engines and Web services.

ODF is supported by various applications, including Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, Google's Writely, IBM Workplace and, an open-source spinoff of StarOffice. Microsoft has refused to add ODF support to Microsoft Office, but has agreed to support interoperability with the format.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
OpenDocument Format, Gartner Inc., migration, XML, StarOffice


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No need to run MS XML
Businesses and governments can easily adopt ODF now that the
OpenDocument Foundation has developed a plugin for all
versions of MS Office back to O97. The world now has a
common format for office data exchange, which works with MS
Office, OpenOffice, and many other software packages.

I would hope Microsoft now elects to adopt ODF. In any case,
there is now a strong reason to not run a MS format. You gotta
admin, that's a first.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Two standards" is in fact "No standard"
As have Tannenbaum have put it once, the beauty of standards is that there are many to chose from.

My point is that ISO wouldn't want to have two standards for the same thing under its roof. It make no sence for ISO. There are many other standard organizations M$ can apply to - e.g. ANSI. I think M$ moved to ISO approval only to undermine ODF. "If ODF can it - why can't we?" I bet they have thought.

I can only conclude that my employer - German industrial automation company - already internally adopted OOo about two years ago. Internal documentation kept in OOo documents, external documents are WinWord DOCs & Adobe PDF. Unlike many others, we have quite huge amount of internal documentation: external *editable* documents are not priority for us and PDF is used for most of external communication.
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ISO will accept it ...
I disagree. Gartner doesn't have the standards experience to understand how it will be accepted into the ISO process. Blogged it yesterday here:
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Posted by stephenwalli (20 comments )
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OpenDocument Format (ODF) is all we need
I sure hope that officials at ISO and ECMA are smart enough and know that we need only one standard format for office documents. OpenDocument is all we need. We don't need another format which is controlled by only one company and which is not open as it should be.
Posted by JLP (38 comments )
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