I wanted to post a few links that were interesting from the news yesterday about Ecma approving the Office Open XML formats as Ecma Standard 376. I'm sure by now most of you have seen all the articles and blogs discussing this big milestone.

Clearly this is a great thing for the industry (unless you happen to be one of those folks who had investments in growing this myth that there was some kind of "file format war" underway). We now have an official standard that provides all the details necessary to read and write office documents. Of course for most solutions they will only need to leverage certain pieces of the standard, and not the whole thing. But for those that do want to build a full-fledged office suite, all the details about how to read and write the formats is there. The standardization process did two very important things. The first was that it allowed a group of experts from different areas in the industry (IT; archivists; software developers; hardware manufacturers) to ensure that the specification was fully documented and could work cross platform. The second was that the ownership and stewardship of the specification is now in the public's hand (and no longer owned or operated by a single vendor). This point could become even stronger once the Open XML formats have gone through their ISO submission. So now you have more choices available to you. Last year ODF was introduced as a choice, and this year Open XML is available as well. Remember, that just because something is a standard it doesn't mean you have to use it. It just means that if you want to use it, it's fully documented and available for use with no encumbrances. You know that a group has worked through it to ensure that there will be no barriers to implementation. That's the key that gives you the freedom to choose.

Here are some blogs and news stories worth pointing to:

Vive le Open XML Revolution

Doug Mahugh discusses an Open XML workshop that took place this week in Paris, where a collection of developers delved into the details of the Open XML formats, as well as the translation tools currently under development

More on the motivations behind IBM's opposition (hint: it's not about making the world a better place)

Yates said he does not understand why a large company such as IBM is at the forefront of creating conflict around the OpenXML format.

"They are also really focused on mandating ODF, mandating a single format that their commercial products support. This push to mandate ODF seems to be so antithetical to what they ordinarily talk about around open standards, interoperability and choice," he said.

Format approved as standard

Microsoft submitted the proposal with Ecma International, a Geneva-based industry group that establishes technical standards, and got backing from other players, including rival Apple Computer Inc. Ecma International announced Thursday its approval of Office Open XML as a standard, touting the step as vital for document creation and archiving.

BetaNews | Office Open XML Gains ECMA Approval; IBM Votes No

Sutor's claims run contrary to those of Ecma's Open XML white paper, offered to prospective supporters and the general public, well prior to today's vote.

"The interoperability of OpenXML has been accomplished through extensive contributions, modification, and review of the Specification by members of the Ecma TC45 committee with diverse backgrounds and corporate interests," the paper reads. "During preparation, committee members raised and resolved hundreds of issues regarding policy, clarity, semantics, and possible dependence on environment."

The paper goes on to list "specific areas in which OpenXML departs from the original binary formats for the sake of interoperability." Among them are the fact that embedded images may be of any type, embedded functionality is not dependent on any one programming language or runtime environment, and that embedded fonts utilize font metrics systems for determining the best available font on any user's system, when the specified font is not available.

Massachusetts to review the new Ecma standard

The Initiative for Software Choice, a trade association, hailed the ECMA approval. "There is no downside here," said Melanie Wyne, ISC executive director, in a statement.

"ECMA's action enhances document manipulation, interoperability, and archival storage for public and private institutions. The ECMA process also represents an important step toward expedited ratification by ISO, which will give governments and enterprises added assurance that Office Open XML meets the rigors of the evolving technological marketplace -- especially as it pertains to interoperability of documents between competing products," Wyne said.

Have a great weekend everyone

-Brian