Bonum Certa Men Certa

How Many Companies Are Able to Implement OOXML? Zero.

OOXML is bad
Reality strikes

Putting aside the fact that OOXML will never get fully implemented by anyone (not even Microsoft, which was at least getting close), consider the complexity of the documents describing ECMA-OOXML. From this new assessment:

If you've ever subscribed to the Microsoft Developer Network, or MSDN as it's commonly known, then you'll find the OOXML "standard" document familiar. It's a typical example of Microsoft MSDN-style technical documentation. It isn't badly written; indeed for proprietary documentation it's about as good as it gets, but as I've said before of Microsoft documentation, it's fuzzy on the details. It's not a standards document, something you can use to unambiguously create an implementation from scratch.


A good example to use to compare it to real standards documents is to examine Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) "Requests for Comments" (RFC's) documents, which are publicly available on the Web. They use key words such as "MUST", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHOULD", "MAY" and "OPTIONAL" and these words have real meaning in the standard, such that an implementor can be guided by these terms. The OOXML spec just doesn't use the same precision in language that a real specification needs. It was almost certainly written by documentation professionals, not by engineers who actually understand the needs of the implementors of a standard.

Already mentioned yesterday, the following new post from Bob Sutor refers to a new story and reminds us of the lessons to take from Microsoft's failue to deliver OOXML support even in its own products.

OOXML is too hard to implement … even for Microsoft


So various things could be true here:

* Microsoft is not putting proper resources behind maintenance of Office 2004 for the Macintosh. * The software engineers working on Office 2004 for the Macintosh aren’t very good. * OOXML at 6000+ pages is just too hard a specification for expert software engineers working closely with the people who designed OOXML to be implemented easily and completely.

Another one which was mentioned yesterday and he may have left out is the possibility that Microsoft feels as though it has done enough pretense work ahead of the BRM. Without ISO in its sight, Microsoft needn't pretend to be nice (nor actually be nice) anymore. It's an embrace-and-extend classic! It's a standard routine (pun unintended).

First they just need to receive a warm embrace (from ISO and Mac users). Now they've got you data and a rubber stamp. Whatcha gonna do? You are locked in, with ISO's endorsement.

"It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats. We’ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. … Since it’s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement."

--Brian Jones, Microsoft

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