Jerry Fishenden : thoughts on Open XML

Jerry Fishenden has written quite a balanced view on OpenXML and the ISO standardisation process currently in the works. Jerry Microsoft UK’s lead technology advisor and spokesman on the value and implications of present and future technological developments. His blog on issues of technology and public policy can be found at

… There continues to be a lot of overly-emotional debate and confusion about Open XML, the office file formats currently under consideration to become an international open standard. The main assertion seems to be that since there is already an ISO/IEC document format – ODF, the Open Document Format – that another one is not needed.

The standards process has never been about having single standards in any particular area – it’s about ensuring that any standards that do exist, and which are adopted by ISO/IEC, are documented to a high level of consistency and integrity, and maintained in an open, inclusive way. And the BSI technical panel here in the UK has been doing precisely that: looking in detail at the specification and identifying editorial and other issues that need to be improved if Open XML is to be a worthy ISO/IEC standard. …

… And should the current ISO/IEC approval process be successful for Open XML, the maintenance of the resulting IS29500 standard will follow JTC rules. This will provide the many users, customers and partners with what they have asked for: for the Office file formats to be an open standard under the control of ISO.

So if anyone has doubts about whether Open XML is really “open” and independent of Microsoft control, my simple suggestion is that they should support it as part of the ISO/IEC process: that way they can be sure that it becomes an ISO/IEC standard and hence that ISO/IEC will have control over its development and maintenance. Letting ISO/IEC be in charge of Open XML seems to me the best way to put an end to the fear uncertainty and doubt being stirred up in some quarters once and for all. …

Read on : thoughts on Open XML