Open XML Ratified by ISO

by dboynton 4/4/2008 5:06:00 PM

iso-logo The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO (yeah, I can't figure out that acronym either), posted a press release on their web site Tuesday  announcing that ISO/IES DIS 29500, or Office Open XML, received well more than the minimum number of votes by the international community to become an official ISO standard. While ISO has not officially approved Open XML as an international standard, it received 86% approval, well above the 66.6% needed for approval.

Open XML may very well be one of the most significant recent technical standards that you haven't heard much about. For a starter course with links out to important resources, check out this post I did a couple of weeks ago on this very subject.

The official Microsoft statement on the ratification comes from Tom Robertson, General Manager of Interoperability and Standards:

With 86 percent of voting national bodies supporting ratification, there is overwhelming support for Open XML. This outcome is a clear win for customers, technology providers and governments that want to choose the format that best meets their needs and have a voice in the evolution of this widely adopted standard. The input from the technical experts, customers and governments around the world has greatly improved the Open XML specification and will make it even more useful to developers and customers. Once it is formally approved, we are committed to supporting this specification in our products, and we will continue to work with standards bodies, governments and the industry to promote greater interoperability and innovation.

Open XML has been an open standard for years. In fact, a slew of software vendors already support it their products. These products include Microsoft Office (2007, 2003, XP, 2000), OpenOffice Novel Edition, Gnumeric, Neo-Office 2.1, WordPerfect 2007 and the PalmOS.

This ratification is important to developers and architects worldwide. The standardization of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents will:

  1. Provides customers with much more choice -- they can make software purchasing solutions based not on existing file formats, but which office productivity software has the best features for the best price.
  2. Allow developers can create applications on the desktop, the server and mobile devices that generate documents that they know, with confidence, will be readily consumed by their information workers' software.

OpenXMLIn very much the same way we look to standards-based technologies like web services to allow us to interoperate between systems built to run on different platforms, developers and architects must begin to think the same way about business documents. Adoption of Open XML allows technology providers to focus on building the best software solution possible without having to worry about the formatting minutia of multiple different consuming applications.

And how can that be a bad thing?

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The Next Step in Interoperability: Open XML

by dboynton 3/17/2008 11:59:00 AM

Interoperability is not just good for technology, it's good for business too. The period in history where software companies built platform-centric silos around their products with wanton disregard to how they would work with other products and platforms is about done. If you're software can't, in some capacity, "play nice" with other applications and platforms, you likely are going to lose a lot of business to other companies' products that will.

Microsoft has been moving its products in this direction for some time, as have the other major vendors like IBM, Novel, Sun and Apple. In fact, Microsoft made an announcement on February 21st concerning our new interoperability principles in our products going forward.

Open XML looks to be a major component in this strategy. If you haven't heard of Open XML before, it's an XML-based format specification for electronic documents like presentations, spreadsheets, charts and word processing documents. Much the way that SOAP creates a common messaging protocol to allow different systems share information, Open XML provides the ability to share business documents between office productivity software. It also provides for custom XML markup in the body of a document, allowing for interoperability with custom or legacy line of business applications.

Creating a standards-based specification for how common business documents are created and shared just makes sense. In the same way that standards have made SOA a viable architectural model for building distributed systems, Open XML has the promise to give customers a wider choice of business productivity software and the confidence that they will be able to share their documents with partners and customers.

Microsoft led the charge with Open XML, submitting the specification to Ecma International for consideration in 2005. Ecma ratified Open XML (Ecma 376) in December 2006, and now Open XML is before the global community for ratification as an international ISO/IEC standard.

The whole history of Microsoft's involvement with the push to make Open XML a standard is outlined in an open letter published yesterday by Microsoft Senior VP, Chris Capossela. For more detailed information on Open XML and what architects and developers should know about it, have a look at the following links:

  • Wikipedia: Good overview on Open XML, as well as licensing and intellectual property information.
  • Ecma Standard 376: The official Ecma-approved standard definition site.
  • OpenXMLDeveloper.com: Great reference resource for developers looking to leverage Open XML in their software.
  • OpenXMLCommunity.org: A hub for all things Open XML, including blog links to experts, resources and technical articles.

While Open XML is not an approved international standard yet, it is getting close to getting the approval it needs. Customers across the globe are beginning to get used to the idea that they can share information seamlessly between applications and systems. Anything we as developers and architects can do to promote and implement that level of interoperability into our products will not only result in happier customers, but will server our industry better as well.

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Open XML | Interoperability

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Denny Boynton Denny Boynton
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