Computerworld reports that "Microsoft guns Open XML onto ISO fast track", despite many oppositions.
Microsoft's "open" office XML "standard" will, if Redmond has its way, become an ISO standard, possibly by August. Why is Microsoft pulling out all the stops to get its obsolete binary XML format declared a "standard"?
Slashdotter init100 explained:
So that Microsoft can go to those governments that have declared that they will only use document formats that are international standards and say "Look, look, ISO standard" (pointing to Open XML). "Now you can stay with safe Microsoft instead of going for that strange communist OpenOffice.org".
The FFII is absolutely in favour of open standards: these are the basis for all growth in the IT sector. Microsoft's OOXML is neither open, nor a standard, except by weight of Redmond's political and economic muscle. It's loaded with patented areas, it is opaque in many key areas, it is obviously and transparently made for and by a single vendor. However, it seems pretty obvious in hindsight that Microsoft would not sit idly by and watch as the ISO process turned their Office cash cow into a "non-standard" product. Before, we had no standard document format. Soon, we'll have two.
There are two important things to remember about this story. First, ISO standards are not open standards. ISO happily accepts patented technology in its standards. We know how well this works. ISO also, as we now see, is vulnerable to standard stuffing by powerful firms. The value of the "ISO" brand has been devalued, and true open standards will look to other homes.
As slashdotter Matt Perry said:
The only reason that Microsoft wants this to be a standard is to get past the proposed laws that specify that government documents use an open standard. That's why these proposed laws, like the one recently introduced in California, need to specify that the standard must have an open-source reference implementation.
Second, we're talking about a word processing document format. This may be Microsoft's cash cow, but this is hardly a standard for the future of the IT market. Word processing is a completely solved problem. The OOXML vs. ODF fight is about controlling something that may, soon, be irrelevant.
The move from word processing to web started in the early 90's as people discovered HTML and began to use the web to publish information. The web first killed desktop publishing, as we stopped making printed brochures and documents, and switched slowly to either writing HTML directly, or using tools that produced HTML.
The web is now killing traditional word processing, as new tools make it easier to write documents that reach more people. These tools include online word processing like Google docs. Today, when I need to collaborate on a document, I use Google docs. It's not perfect, but it works reasonably well and will get better and faster.
I use OpenOffice. In the last years, I've watched my professional output of classic word-processed documents go steadily down. Today the only classic documents I write are contracts and proposals. Documentation and technical documents go through much faster, simpler toolchains, text-to-anything convertors that let me work much faster than any word processor.
And lastly, we have the wiki, the humble technology that will, in my opinion, finally kill the word processor.
As for ISO, this is a potentially fatal blow. ISO depends on the goodwill of the community and much volunteer labour. That pipeline is going to shut down. Why bother working for a good standard when this kind of thing happens?
It's a shame and a sin that Microsoft are able to force their patent-ridden binary dump of a "standard" on the international community like this. It makes ISO look like a joke, an expensive version of ECMA. I'll continue to use and promote ODF because it really does work on all my platforms. Whether it's ISO or not does not matter for me, nor does it matter for the hundreds of millions of people who will, one by one, decide.