How Microsoft lost the office file format battle

When MS announced that SP2 for Office 2007 would support ODF and not OOXML, it suffered defeat at its own hands

"If you look at standards that have been successful versus ones that haven't, in my view, uniformly it's whether or not they've actually been tested or whether they were just a bunch of vendors in a room trying to work out what to do," says Google's Almaer.

Even ignoring the reported voting irregularities in the OOXML standardization process, it's clear that Microsoft's method simply isn't how it's done. By insisting on unilaterally creating the OOXML draft standard, then implementing it with proprietary, closed-source software, it has defeated the transparency it claims to want every step of the way, virtually dooming itself to failure.

But there's one more point to recognize here. For all its success, HTML and its associated languages are hardly the poster children for standards compliance, either. Internet Explorer isn't the only culprit here; Firefox, Safari, and even Opera have all struggled to implement the published standards exactly. Rather than gloat, however, Microsoft should take this point as a lesson: Drafting and implementing a complex standard file format is very, very difficult. In fact, it's far too difficult for even Microsoft to do on its own.

Here's looking forward to Office 2007 Service Pack 2 and ODF.

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