Ecma Approval Day for OOXML - What Does it All Mean?

Posted by Andy_Updegrove on Dec 7, 2006 5:47 PM EDT Standards Blog; By Andy Updegrove
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Today is the day that Ecma, the European-based standards body chosen by Microsoft to fast-track its Office Open XML standard to ISO, will vote to approve that specification. What exactly will that mean? Let's try the Q&A format again to sort it all out.

Q: If the ultimate goal of Microsoft is to get ISO/IEC approval, does Ecma approval have any significance other than as a stepping-stone?

A: Yes and no. No, in that everyone knew that Ecma was going to approve OOXML. After you write up a working group charter that says, and I quote, "The goal of the Technical Committee is to produce a formal standard for office productivity applications within the Ecma International standards process which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats," you haven't left much up in doubt.

But yes, in the sense that there were other members of the working group (e.g., Intel, the British Museum, Apple, and so on), so there was a group effort in packaging the standard. I've read statements that say that this group adapted (for example) OOXML to work with other operating systems, but that's a detail rather than a change. There are other requirements for ISO/IEC submission as well, that relate to presentation, languages and the like. But that's more of a process influence than an assertion of technical influence in any meaningful way, so far as I can tell.

The biggest significance will be that Microsoft will be able to say that OOXML has been "approved by a standards organization." As you can tell from the above answers, this process is very complicated and takes a long time. Most people have no reason to know about it or understand what's involved, so a statement that "OOXML has been approved as a standard" will go a long way in the marketplace, for PR purposes. You can expect that Microsoft will make the most of this event.

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