OpenXML: Microsoft gets it right, will India too?

What does being an Indian meant to me till now? i think it has been assimilating various cultures in my personal value systems and being better than all of them.. the sum of all is greater than cultures added together..

OpenXML is the same.. it provides a culture new to us that promises efficiencies in the future.. it is upto us to take up all that is there and make a story better than each of them put together.. different cultures, different standards have been always beneficial for the world leading to choice & ensuring the survival of the fittest... if TCP/IP was not given a chance in the world dominated by Novell Netware's XNS stack, would Internet ever be around?

OpenXML is the "opening" up of Microsoft Office. the earlier binary format of MS Office is now available for viewing & working upon by anyone. This has been a long way for Microsoft when in 2004 EU recommended that MS opens it Office formats. there may have been licenses granted to 3rd party developers for building products but OpenXML makes it available to all the developers of the Microsoft Technology ecosystem.

Microsoft does get things wrong but with OpenXML it is bang on target.. why shouldn't it be when OpenXML was formulated out of concerns of the community that uses its products. MS first decided to present OpenXML as an ECMA standard in 2006. i had posted about OpenXML being adopted as an ECMA standard here.

Next when it was put forward to be ratified as a standard from ISO, India decided to vote against the same in Sept 2007!

This I think is primarily against Indian values of giving everyone a fair chance! here are some of the reasons that India should reconsider their stand on OpenXML:

  1. Microsoft technologies are an ecosystem like any other technology. Killing a standard here amounts to killing an ecosystem! does india want its IT story to turn sour? Not only Microsoft ecosystem but also Java ecosystems as OpenXML can be leveraged from Java as well. Here is an example of using Java on OpenXML.
  2. OpenXML provides an opportunity to convert numerous Office documents of yesteryears to be converted to open format so that it be maintained and acted upon now and in future? OpenXML ensures long term preservation of content.
  3. OpenXML is technically superior to competing formats given it has support for custom schemas i.e. for any document format that your company devises. Not only this, it has great accessibility support and focuses on maintaining fidelity in the office documents.
  4. Does Govt. of India want to be seen as a closed economy or be seen as a cultivator of open economy encouraging better products and services?
  5. The OpenXML standard is available for FREE and there is no IP issues around the same. Given the freedom that OpenXML provides, what could be so wrong with OpenXML?
  6. Microsoft as a company has given many good products and technologies to the world (including the now famous AJAX)... why should a company with such wide penetration and technical depth be not supported in opening up its technologies to the world?

One does wonder though if OpenXML was developed by Microsoft to serve it "secret" purpose? In fact, the standard was developed in consultation with a lot of companies and many others have already implemented support in their products e.g. Apple, Corel, Novell, IBM (Websphere Portal, DB2 Content Manager V8.4, Lotus Quickr, Lotus Symphony & DB2 9 pureXML) & Google (use filetype:docx, filetype:xlsx, filetype:pptx in your search terms).. Now doesn't it seem ironic that many of these companies are at forefront of opposing OpenXML standard?

There are primarily 2 reasons for this contradiction:

  1. Some companies want to use the standardization process as a barrier to trade.. getting a standard disapproved shields them from ever facing competitive threats in the govt. procurement. this should never be allowed to happen!
  2. Given widespread adoption of MS Office technologies, these vendors don't want to be cutoff from the opportunity OpenXML brings about in the market.. we should welcome the move as it encourages competition.. what can be more exciting than an IBM product that does a better job handling Office formats than Microsoft does :) ?

So what is the current situation and do we have a second chance to correct our mistakes?

As of now, MS has provided solutions to all 3,522 comments that were raised on the specification by various national bodies. This gives India time will Feb 25th to study the specifications after which there will be a Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva from February 25 – 29. Following this conference, the National Bodies will then have 30 days to evaluate their final position on OpenXML as a standard.

And if there is a 3rd party non-sponsored indepth report one may wish to see on OpenXML, here is one from Burton group:

And here's the community that supports OpenXML:

I hope when the time comes to finally vote, we stand true to our character of being Indians & embrace all the variety that world has to offer to us..

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Abhishek Kant said…
what benefits masses and govt. - single standard or multiple standards? when I say multiple standards think of things like PDF, DOC .. or take industry standards like ebXML or traditional EDI .. or developer stuff like WSDL or REST or networking protocols like 802.11g or 802.11a.. or in telecom GSM vs CDMA?

also, should govt even get into the business of defining preferred standards e.g. WSDL over REST? or does govt. benefit from letting multiple standards compete in the market?
Anonymous said…
An interesting read ! Carried on
Anonymous said…
well mate let me ask u a question why havent you given the information of the counterpart of openxml
Abhishek Kant said…
ODF is the other existing comparable standard from OASIS group.
my case is for OpenXML & not against ODF. I am proposing adding OpenXML as a standard.
there is information available about ODF at:
Vasudev said…
Thanks for explaining, I also agree with the views expressed by you. And I am sure India will get it right this time. Reading the various posts and various comments, I feel people should be made more aware of Open XML as they have some reservations against it as many myths are there about Open XML. So dispelling some of the myths about Open XML, I thought of posting about it, & have done so on my blog:
Common Myths About Open XML

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