Google urges ISO to give thumbs-down to Microsoft Open XML

Microsoft-backed Open XML is "insufficient and unnecessary," and should be combined with OpenDocument Format, Google's head of open-source programs says.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

The head of Google's open-source programs on Monday urged international delegates to vote against certifying Office Open XML as an ISO standard, saying the Microsoft-led effort poses a risk to users who want unfettered access to documents.

Delegates from international standards bodies are meeting in Geneva this week to resolve technical comments submitted after Office Open XML (OOXML) failed to pass as a standard last September. The results of the five-day ballot resolution meeting are critical for Microsoft's two-year bid to get International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, certification.

Google's open-source programs manager, Zaheda Bhorat, posted a blog on Monday urging those delegates to vote against Open XML because Google believes that it is an "insufficient and unnecessary standard, designed purely around the needs of Microsoft Office."

Bhorat said Open XML should be subsumed into the existing standard--OpenDocument Format, or ODF--which is backed by Microsoft rivals, including Google.

"As ISO member bodies around the world work on possible revisions of their vote previously submitted, the deadline of March 30th approaches fast. I invite you to pay close attention, and heed the call of many for unification of OOXML into ODF. A document standards decision may not matter to you today, but as someone who relies on constant access to editable documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it may matter immensely in the near future," he wrote.

In a document more thoroughly laying out its position on Open XML, Google says the core problem with the specification is that it's redundant with ODF. The company also says it's too specific to Microsoft Office and that it's of insufficient quality.

"Submitting such a proposal makes a mockery of the standards process," according to the Google assessment.

Update: in response to a reader's comment, here is added text that reiterates Microsoft's position.

Microsoft executives have contended over the past two years that Open XML is not entirely controlled by the company, pointing out that Apple, Novell, and large customers are on the committee at Ecma International, the standards body submitting Open XML to the ISO for standards consideration.

Rather than have one document standard, Microsoft's view is that there should be multiple document standards with different purposes.