ISO Approval of OASIS OpenDocument Is a Blow to Microsoft
12 May 2006
Rita E. Knox Michael A. Silver
International standards bodies' unanimous approval of ISO/IEC 26300 moves OASIS OpenDocument Format to being the official XML document
format. It is now unlikely that ISO will adopt Microsoft's Open XML document format.
On 8 May 2006, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approved the
OpenDocument Format (ODF) for release as ISO/IEC 26300. ODF, an XML-defined specification created by OpenOffice.org and developed by the
Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), aims to enable different applications to exchange documents.
This validates the OASIS technical committee's nearly four-year effort (led by Sun Microsystems, and including Adobe Systems, IBM and
Textuality) to develop an XML representation for document formats such as text files and spreadsheets. From the outset, we predicted that
Microsoft would face greater competition if OASIS succeeded (see "XML Content Standard Could Challenge Microsoft"). Government agencies
worldwide are increasingly seeking document format compatibility among users who don't have access to common applications, particularly
Microsoft Office applications.
ODF opens up opportunities for new products - for example, users could create integrated "composite" documents using text, graphics or
spreadsheet elements, without shifting between applications. Applications and suites that support ODF include Google's Writely, IBM
Workplace and Sun's OpenOffice and StarOffice. By 2010, ODF document exchange will be required by 50 percent of government and 20 percent of
commercial organizations (0.7 probability).
The future of Microsoft's proposed Open XML format is unclear. Microsoft only submitted this format for the European Computer Manufacturers
Association's (Ecma's) approval in late 2005, after Massachusetts mandated that agencies use ODF for office productivity documents. Until
Massachusetts' decision, Microsoft seemed to ignore growing support for ODF. Microsoft plans to submit its XML format to ISO after Ecma
approval. But ISO will not approve multiple XML document formats
Users: Recognize that you eventually will be saving your office product data in an XML-based format. Users that need ODF support today or need
to comply with ISO standards should explore applications that support ODF. These applications may be cheaper to acquire, and enable different
functionality, but the migration will not be inexpensive and will involve compatibility issues when exchanging documents with Microsoft
Office users. If you need compatibility with Microsoft Office formats or cannot cost justify a migration, lobby Microsoft to support ODF and look
for plug-ins that allow you to open and save ODF files from within Microsoft applications.
Vendors supporting any application using document formats that deliver content to people: Seek opportunities to leverage ODF, particularly
"mash-up" approaches to content creation and sharing. Analytical Sources: Rita Knox and Michael Silver, Gartner Research
"Use XML to Structure and Manage Content" - XML is becoming the tool that knowledge workers use to structure content and ensure semantic
consistency throughout the enterprise. By Rita Knox
"Office Software Battle Moves to Open-Source Theater" - We don't believe that Microsoft Office will be replaced, but it will likely decline in
importance as users spend time in other productivity applications. By Michael Silver, Rita Knox and others