CyberTech Rambler

April 6, 2010

Too early to say whether MS abandoned OOXML Strict

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:35 pm

Now, this is a post you expect from Rob Weir, but instead, it came from Alex Brown.

The timing is not coincidence. Alex Brown definitely timed it to be very close to the second anniversary of ISO OOXML approval, especially if we take into account the Easter Holiday period in UK (2 Apr to  5 Apr) and the fact that quite a few schools release their kids on Thursday (1st Apr). I am of course presuming Alex has kids duty to attend to and 31st March is his last date of posting.

The essence is that Microsoft Office 2010 fails to use ISO OOXML Strict standard but instead, used the transitional standard.

Everyone who read this blog knows that I am not a fan of OOXML.However, I must say, it is too early to complain that Microsoft itself does not use the ‘Strict’ version of OOXML. [Judging from this comment, Alex agrees ] I did managed to read between the lines and know that Alex’s intention was to nudge Microsoft towards implementing ‘Strict’ conformance as soon as possible. I know it is two years already, and it is frustrating that, after two years, it appears that there is no movement at all towards ‘Strict’ standard compliance. To tell the truth, if we find out that there no movement/commitment of MS part, we must take Jason Matusow and Brian Jones out for a public spanking.

I also see his frustration: On a personal/professional level, it means his company cannot start relying on MS Office having  ‘strict’ conformance to sell products and thus have to prepare one version for ‘transitional’ and another for ‘strict’. On a purely professional level, being the converner of the standardization process, it is frustrating to see once’s effort, and the effort of the committee to bring OOXML from ECMA over to ISO not bearing the fruits that it promise. I am sure people from both sides of the debate knows that a lot of effort had been made by the committee to bring OOXML into ISO.

I know ISO can only set standards and vendors/community at large then decide for themselves whether to follow the standard or not. Therefore, any people working on standard committee must know that their work can, at the end of the day, equate to zero. That is the risk committee members are taking. Nobody likes it, but if that is the case, one just have to grin and bear it.

My initial reaction was to suggest that Alex Brown has the option of kicking Microsoft into high gear by threatening to remove ‘transitional’ from the next standard, say in 3 years time. Then I realized that would had been futile. Microsoft simply has to declare itself not going to confirm with the new standard.

Does this means MS abandoned OOXML? Far from it. The initial push was the results of MS fearing that MSOffice will lose out to competition over the issue of ISO certification. Now that the goal is achieved, one would expects the pace to slow down, may be grinding to a halt sometime. Sure, MS will attend regular ECMA/ISO meetings on OOXML, but it would probably send only lower ranking officers and does not contribute much to either committees. That is, until the next time MS needs ECMA/ISO. When will it happens? I think in 5 years time. That is when formats evolves so much that it needs ECMA/ISO blesssings on the next major enhancement. Will it then implements the Strict format? I don’t know. We need to see how much kicking ECMA/ISO can muster to get it through. At the meantime, ISO OOXML will keep diverging from MS OOXML.

Can we accuse MS of going its own way? Not this time. If there were support behind OOXML, Microsoft need not go it alone. Now that we see there is no support we cannot make the argument that MS going it alone with a straight face as there are no other choice. That strategy haven’t failed yet. And if you are planning to sell products that has to interoperate with MS OOXML, then you don’t have a choice but to follow MS OOXML development, however slowly or however it diverge from ISO OOXML. That is life and you made your bet already.

Actually, I think you will find people that are quitely grad that Microsoft haven’t gone to ‘strict’ standard. That way, they can postpone their work to support the ‘strict’ standard. I am sure they are praying that that is going to be ‘forever’.

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