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OpenXML votes in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Aug-2007 14:42

It's time to lobby again! During the last two days Standards New Zealand was hosting a meeting to discuss its position regarding Open XML.

According to the current Wikipedia entry:


Open XML is an XML-based file format specification for electronic documents such as memos, reports, books, spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents. The specification has been developed by Microsoft as a successor of its binary office file formats and was published by Ecma International as the Ecma 376 standard in December 2006.
 
Uninitiated users may confuse "Office Open XML" with "OpenDocument" (ISO 26300:2006) and "OpenOffice". Therefore it is commonly referred to as OOXML or its earlier name Open XML.


Office Open XML uses a number of dedicated XML markup languages in fileparts that are placed in a file container (Open Packaging Convention ). The format specification which is available for free at Ecma International includes XML schemas that can be used to validate the XML syntax.



So what's Standards New Zealand involvement in all this? The group is assessing stakeholder views on the suitability of a document on Office Open XML for publication as an International Standard. This is from their press release:


...New Zealand is obliged to vote on the adoption of the European Computer Manufacturers’ Association Office Open XML document (ECMA 376) as an International Standard. This document is currently designated draft international Standard (DIS) 29500 and is available at http://www.jtc1sc34.org/. There is an existing international Standard for Open XML, referred to as Open Document Format (ODF), which was published last year (ISO/IEC 26300).

Standards New Zealand, as New Zealand’s national Standards body holds the responsibility to cast this vote on behalf of New Zealand.

‘The aim of the meeting is to assess and understand New Zealand stakeholder views to allow Standards New Zealand to make an informed vote on behalf of New Zealand. This meeting will be independently chaired by Ms Alison Holt, the New Zealand delegate to the international committee JTC1 SC7 Software Engineering’ said Grant Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, Standards New Zealand.


The way I read it, when Standards New Zealand sends out a press release with "[There is] an existing international Standard for Open XML, referred to as Open Document Format (ODF), which was published last year (ISO/IEC 26300)." it makes all sound like "we have already decided, there is one standard already, why bother with another one and these two days are just formality"...

I'd suggest you check Rod Drury's reasoning on why we should have another standard. A standard doesn't mean it must be unique. Microsoft's Sean McBreen wrote:


Do other standardised document formats not exist today?
Yes, in fact there are actually many different and at times overlapping formats that exist today, for instance PDF/A, ODF and HTML are all ISO/IEC standard document types today.

Why do we need multiple standardised formats?
Multiple formats are required as requirements change and to cater for differing scenarios for instance PNG and JPEG are two ISO/IEC image standards in heavy use today.  Individuals and organisations will also continue to innovate and standards must evolve to keep pace with this, for instance MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG -4 are all ISO/IEC standards for video encoding.

What is the impact to the industry if Open XML is not accepted as an ISO/IEC standard?
Literally billions of documents today are stored and saved using Microsoft Office file formats, an important aspect of Open XML is backwards compatibility for these documents.  Not standardising Open XML will have an impact on the longevity of these documents and force government departments, individual organisations and consumers to migrate all of their documents over time.  It will also significantly reduce the choice available to our customers in relation to document formats.

What is the impact to Microsoft if Open XML is not accepted as a standard?
While standards themselves don’t dictate customer and partner behaviour or purchasing patterns they do have a strong influence on this over time.  As a result there is likely to be a direct impact on the adoption of Microsoft products if Open XML is not accepted as a standard that will reduce our ability to compete in the marketplace.



If a standard is mandated and does not support all the functionality and formatting of a document (say a Microsoft Word 97 document), all the unsupported formatting will be lost in conversion. This raises questions about the validity of the document as a historic record as it has not been maintained in the original formatting. 

Secondly it means that someone has to go through and fix the documents - and when you consider the number of potential documents affected, this would be an expensive exercise.

Who's going to tell these organizations that they have to do all this work to move their documents to ODF and fix all the formatting issues and manage the compliance issues?

Simply saying that the standard should translate the old "rendering quirks" into the new and less buggy version doesn't cut it.

Just check the previous ITC vote and comments. Several companies explicitly said that there was a place for both ODF and Open XML as a standard.

Here is an interesting take on this issue, including a reference to Kiwibank, showing how this whole thing can impact enterprises and the market.


Other related posts:
Microsoft Ignite New Zealand, Microsoft Surface Studio
Geekzone data analytics with Power BI
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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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