CyberTech Rambler

May 26, 2006

Microsoft Open XML Schema and Open Document Format war of words so far

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:09 pm

Well, before two parties throw punches/bullets at each other in a fight/real war, they usually start out fighting with words.

This is precisely what we are seeing with Microsoft Office XML (Open XML Schema) and Open Document Format (ODF). The real war (market share) cannot start yet because one party is not ready yet. Open XML Schema is available at the end of this year with the next generation of Microsoft Office (Consumer will have to wait until next year as the release is for Corporate Customers only). The war of words started with Massachusett's Announcement that it is using ODF instead of Open XML Schema.

Lets cast aside the arguement on which is the "truely" free format and accessibility issues they had been covered widely, including on this blog. Lets instead, focus on the technical merit. To a certain extent this is a beauty contest. In my mind, this started when Microsoft made Open XML Schema available for analysis when it officially handed over Open XML Schema to ECMA. That is when both formats are available for comparison.

The first real salvo was fired by the ODF front when it published an article demonstrating that raw ODF XML is more readable by human. This includes not only reading of the document text but also other elements that makes up the document, pictures, hyperlink etc. The ODF element names ("text:p") is also more approachable than Open XML Schema ("w:t"). The same article also argued that reusing existing standard in ODF is better than Microsoft's recreation of the same thing. While this is all true, we must take it with a pinch of salt because the majority of the users will not be eye-balling raw ODF XML but will be using software that interprets ODF such as OpenOffice.org and KOffice. Hence, the value of human readability should not be overstated because XML is by large read by machine who really don't mind how the XML are presented. Human readability is important for the implementer of ODF-enabled software, but there is probably where the advantage stop with human readability advantage.

So now we are witnessing the next salvo: Microsoft Yates says ODF is slow while IBM's Bob Sutor says Open XML Schema is bloated. Now, we are starting to see things that users care about: Speed and the ability to exchange documents. Both offers evidence to support their case. Sutor points out the size of ODF (700 odd pages) compared to Open XML Schema (4000 pages). He made the arguement that Open XML Schema is too detail and therefore bloated, thus making it difficult to achieve full-interoperability.

Yate's arguement that ODF is slow does not stack up that well. One critical factor is his inference from George Ou's study. That study compares Office 2003 with OpenOffice.org. One immediately note that there is a confounding factor in Yate's comparison: software. A further problem is Office 2003 is using a predecessor of Open XML Schema, not Open XML Schema itself. A lot of water passed under the bridge between the two.

Yate's comments had always leave me the impression that he is more persusive with his business arguement then technical arguement. Sutor, on the other hand, can make technical arguements better. Sutor's is stronger in mixing the two but Yate is struggling to do so.

Let's what and see what the third salvo is…

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