CyberTech Rambler

August 10, 2007

A few comments on Kyle McNabb’s “objective view” on OOXML

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:26 pm

[Minor update 14 August changing “she” to “he”. Sorry Kyle!]

Kyle McNabb of Forrester published an article laying out the facts about OOXML under the title “Can anyone be objective about OOXML? You can“. Overall, for people following the OOXML debate, no new information. He got the financial perspective right, but unfortunately, as he had admitted that he is not technically well verse with OOXML and ODF, he made one opinion which in my opinion, requires technical knowledge to make.

When making the argument that “Microsoft Office 2007 needs OOXML”, his argument was effectively Microsoft needs open standards. True. However, open standards need not mean ISO standard. There are a lot of open standards that are not ISO standards (or standards of other bodies regarded as ISO peers such as W3C or IETF). Java is an open standard, it has multiple vendors but it is not an ISO Standard nor is it ratified by any standard bodies. And then he fails to lead readers to see why Microsoft needs a particular standard called OOXML, not PDF or ODF or the likes. I have no objection with OOXML as an open standard, but do have objection when Microsoft seeks to get ISO approval because in my opinion, it does NOT satisfy the requirement of ISO, which is much tougher than the open standard requirement, and is certainly what not Microsoft means when it says Open Standard. Here, Microsoft meant restricted, share-source-like standard. It is my opinion that OOXML is positioned as a document editing standard and, crucially, nobody other than Microsoft is going to implement OOXML as its native document editing standard. This means it fails a basic ideal I have with ISO standard: vendor-neutral for the stated purpose. I am not alone.

Moreover, beside the opaque and unsubstantiated claims that ODF is inferior to OOXML when it comes to Office standard, Microsoft had not made a single compelling argument on why it needs to define OOXML, rather than the fact it can.

Other small and minor point I disagree with him is when he says Sun and has little to stand on without ODF. Sun and is bigger than ODF alone. StarOffice is not Sun’s only product, neither is it its main cash cow. is a valuable alternative to MS Office and it will survive whether OOXML made it to ISO standard or not.

I agree with him that everyone must make up their own mind which is better for their purpose. I will add that sometimes, one need to take the longer term view and bear some short term inconveniences. Everyone needs experts help and advise on choosing the best standard for the long run. ISO standard is about technical knowledge. When comparing two standards, one way is to see how many substantiated claims one party can pin on the other party. There are a lot of claims on both side. Look at them before you make up your mind. Please also look pass third party non-technical write up by journalists and bloggers. ISO standards are not and should not be passed by how has the best write up but on technical merits first and foremost.


  1. Kyle is a “he.”

    Comment by Bob Sutor — August 14, 2007 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  2. Ooops…. Thanks Bob! Sorry Kyle.

    Comment by ctrambler — August 14, 2007 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

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