The Dueling Interoperability Standards Dilemma

Loraine Lawson

The problem with standards is, everybody has one.


Microsoft's Office Open XML -- OOXML -- won ISO recognition last week, though not without the type of behind-the-scenes shenanigans and cries of chicanery normally associated with elections in third-world nations or, say, Florida.


The trade press is having something of a field day with the backstory. I particularly liked this Intelligent Enterprise article, which points out that while Microsoft may have won the vote, it's certainly not a good sign that the hottest new tech markets -- Brazil, India and China -- all voted against OOXML adoption.


But at the end of the day, Microsoft won and we now have a standard that competes with the Open Document Format (ODF) standard we all know and love. So, the question is, what does this mean to you and yours?


Fortunately, columnist Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a principal and analyst at CMS Watch, offers a more practical assessment of OOXML and ODF.


Pelz-Sharpe writes that each standard has its strong points -- but on the other hand, neither works as well as claimed. For instance, you can lose decimal points and formatting between conversions no matter which standard you use.


If the two standards go head-to-head, there's a good chance Microsoft's OOXML will win out, he contends. Then again, the word on the street is IBM may work out some sort of interoperability between the two standards.


Interoperability between interoperability standards? It's just crazy enough to work.


Until then, the bottom line, according to Pelz-Sharpe:

"...for you the buyer and end user of systems that create, process, or manage office document files, the status quo remains, despite the ratification of OOXML. If the two opposing sides never embrace the other format, we will all lose as a result. "

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