Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Microsoft's OOXML Falls Off the Fast-Track

Microsoft's OOXML file format has failed to garner the necessary votes for ISO approval. You can read Andy Updegrove's account here, or a more entertaining account by Pamela Jones at Groklaw. Of course, for the ultimate in infotainment on this subject we refer to Rob Weir, on whom we can always count for a shot of reality: a highly recommended read.

Oh, PJ at Groklaw points out this article by Simon Aughton. "PC Pro" indeed... the poor guy hasn't the slightest clue what the process is. He's drawing conclusions from a poorly written Microsoft press release, and making his magazine look like it's written by clueless noobs in the process. FYI, you need 66.66% of "participating" members, not 75% of the overall membership (which includes observers). However, even if you get the required 2/3 participating vote, a 25% "No" vote from the overall membership will kill it.

The bottom line: OOXML fails to pass, falling 13.54% shy of the two-thirds majority of participating members needed for approval. It also fails to pass due to having received over 26% "No" votes from the entire membership, both participating and observing members. It had two possible ways to fail and it failed both.

The OOXML standard will require significant modification before it can pass a vote. It's worth noting that there are exactly ZERO implementations of that standard. None whatsoever, not even Office 2007. Office 2007 is similar, but different, and doesn't even allow you to save a document that conforms to the standard. Oops. The next opportunity to present it is in February. Given the timeline, you probably won't find any reference application by then either. Remember that when Microsoft tells you about "support for billions of legacy documents".

Of course, we don't have to wait while Microsoft struggles to produce a format that can pass a simple standards vote. There IS a standard XML document format for you to use. It's called Open Document Format (ODF). It's already ratified and has multiple high-quality implementations, such as Sun's StarOffice, OpenOffice.org, KOffice, IBM's Lotus Notes 8, and more. You'll be happy to know that the years (not months) of planning and broad member participation that went into ODF paid off in full. ODF was ratified the first time, with no dissenting votes at all.

(Is this spin? Sure! But it's the best kind of spin: it's 100% true!)

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