06.02.08

ODF: Open Standard; OOXML: The New and Unimproved .DOC/.XLS/Other

Posted in Europe, Law, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 2:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML treated for what it really is

If people and their authorities want standards, there’s ODF. Even Microsoft says it’ll use it in 2009. It remains to be seen if Microsoft is committed to its promise of supporting this only international standard for documents (OOXML is in a limbo at the moment).

It seems safe to say that observers approach OOXML with great caution. “Open XML” is what the tin says, but it’s not open and there are binary, operating system-dependent bits in this specification that nobody has ever implemented. Microsoft tries hard to use the press to characterise OOXML as a new sibling of PDF and HTML, but as resistance to OOXML grows greater, it’s easier to see that OOXML will become the new .DOC (or equivalents) and we don’t mean that in a good way.

“People in shared working environments already nag when colleagues send them .DOCX files…”OOXML, like its predecessor containers that are mostly binary, will possibly be viewed as a proprietary format that just happens to be used by many people. In reality, everyone should know that it’s the same old Microsoft Office-spewed mishmash that some other applications might be able to parse to a greater or lesser extent.

Given the fact that existing applications (and an even greater number of them) are able to cope with .DOC up to a certain degree, OOXML might actually be less desirable and a lot less ubiquitous. People in shared working environments already nag when colleagues send them .DOCX files (or Microsoft Office equivalents for other programs/modules).

The backlash against OOXML in Europe formally extended to 3 other continents, namely Africa, Asia and America (the three A’s), from which appeals came. But it becomes so easy to forget a quiet and ongoing legal process that is bound to burst out later on this year.

The appeals come nearly a month after England’s standards body was taken to court over its support of OOXML, and a week after the European Union launched its own investigation of the matter.

The findings at the end will be interesting and they will surely earn some media attention.

Italy has already decided that ODF should become a national standard [1] and this seems like a natural step given that the parliament itself is switching to GNU/Linux [2]. ODF is an enabler to Free software, or to put it more broadly, it facilitates fair competition.

In general, the country as a whole is embracing Free software at a pace similar to that which you find in Germany and France, with several recent examples from across Italy serving as evidence [3, 4, 5]. Digistan, which was introduced [1, 2, 3] and mentioned here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], reports that Italy is now accepting and generating ODF.

An assistent of Italian MEP Marco Cappato (ALDE) contacted us with the news that an answer to a parliament question has arrived.

You can see the answer for yourself. Other European nations seem to be adopting a similar policy amid unrest. This is probably just part of the reason why Microsoft embraces ODF. It doesn’t want to be left out and the cash cow is ever more important.

___
[1] Italy adopts OpenDocument as a National Standard

Italy has adopted The OpenDocument Format (ISO/IEC 23600) as a national standard. The decision was made by UNI, the Italian Organization for Standardization, which is responsible, under appointment from the Italian Government and the EU, to develop, approve and publish technical standards in all economic sectors (industry, trade and services) except for electric and electro-technical ones.

[2] Linux reaches the Italian Parliament

As reported by the Italian newspaper Repubblica on July 10th, 2007, a plan suggested by the left deputies Pietro Folena and Franco Grillini to migrate all the computers of the Parliament from Windows to Linux was approved by the Chamber.

The migration will affect about 3500 boxes of the Chamber, both desktops and servers, and each Deputy/Party may also ask to migrate his/its (private) computers to the Free System.

[3] Linux certification comes to Italy

A non-profit organization devoted to Linux training and certification has established an affiliate organization in Italy.

[4] Free software in free elections

A new initiative promoted by the italian association for free software for the next italian political elections (provided that they will actually take place…). The initiative consists in asking the candidates to sign a letter where they engage themselves, in case they will be elected, to promote the use of free software through their political activity.

[5] Telecom Italia Rejects Microsoft IPTV

For Microsoft, Telecom Italia’s decision is clearly a blow.

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