My Thoughts on the Rejection of OpenXML as an International Standard
This is a kind of late entry. Was planning to write this article a long time ago after reading this article.
Recently, Microsoft tried to fast-track its Office OpenXML document format as an international standard alongside Open Document Format (ODF). From Microsoft’s perspective, the economic gain is there if its standard is accepted as an international one. Governments and organisations are weary that they have to bow to the software vendor if they keep storing documents in proprietary formats. Thus, they encourage documents to be stored in an international standard. However, there’s only one international standard at the moment i.e. ODF which Microsoft doesn’t support in its Office suite. ODF is natively supported by several programs including Open Office; a free, as in free lunch, office suite. Microsoft could lose a lot of money should the move happen.
The International Standard Organisation (ISO) has rejected Microsoft’s move, although Microsoft still has a chance for its document format to be accepted as a standard in the next round of voting. I think this will happen sometime next year. Personally as a user I support the ISO’s decision. I believe that there should be one international standard that every office suite should support for the following reasons:
Everyone should have the freedom to choose what product he uses. If there were two competing international standards which are not supported by every software then we will end up in a messy situation. Consider this scenario: Alice uses Open Office which stores document in ODF format and she sends a word document to Bob. But, Bob uses Microsoft office that only supports OpenXML format. Thus, Bob can’t read the document sent by Alice and vice versa. Wait a minute, am I missing something important here? Why can’t every software support all international standards? It’s possible, but why should they? At the moment, Open Office support Microsoft Office format (up to Office 2003), but Microsoft Office doesn’t support ODF. There’s no reason for Microsoft to support ODF because they’re the dominant player in office software and they want everyone to use THEIR product. If Microsoft Office supports ODF, then I bet there will be people migrating from Microsoft’s Office to the free Open Office.
I believe that everyone should have the freedom to choose the product that he wants. Having multiple products that supports ONE international standard will allow this.
The other great thing about having one international standard is it promotes competition and ultimately it offers product choices to users. If there was only one standard, then every software vendor will compete to provide the best office product for the customers. Consider the case with mobile phones and GSM which is a 2G international mobile phone standard. Everyone can choose any GSM mobile phone that he likes be it a Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, etc. The thing is it will work; he can use the phone to make a call, send text, etc because the standard is supported by every phone manufacturer. We don’t have that luxury yet with office suite
I hope that Microsoft’s OpenXML format won’t be accepted as an international standard and Microsoft will support ODF in its product. If Microsoft believes that ODF lacks something, then it should work towards improving it instead of proposing an alternative standard. Then we will be able to use any office suite that suits our needs. Nothing wrong with a wishful thinking right