BERLIN – A European industry group Thursday approved a bid by Microsoft to have the newest version of its Office file formats declared as industry standards, bolstering the software maker’s bid to compete in the emerging era of so-called open-source data.
ECMA International, a group of makers of both hardware and software based in Geneva that includes Microsoft, designated the Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats of Microsoft’s Office Open XML as official industry standards.
Governments and businesses are often limited to buying software designated as industry standards.
Microsoft’s new file formats, which are the defaults in its Office 12 business suite, can be read and edited by any office software program, even competitors like Sun Microsystems’s StarOffice and Corel’s WordPerfect. Microsoft has more than 90 percent of the global market for Office software, according to Gartner, a research company.
Microsoft sought a standards designation for its new Office file formats after OpenDocument, a competing set of formats backed by International Business Machines, Sun and other companies, was approved in May by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, also based in Geneva, which sets global standards.
Jan van den Beld, secretary general of ECMA International, said IBM alone among the 21 members voted against approving the Microsoft standard. Van den Beld said ECMA’s general assembly, which met in Zurich, agreed to petition the ISO to declare the Microsoft format as a global standard.
Bob Sutor, IBM’s vice president for open source and standards, called Microsoft’s Office formats technically unwieldy – requiring software developers to absorb 6,000 pages of specifications, compared with 700 pages for OpenDocument.
“The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft’s specifications are Microsoft,” Sutor said.
Van den Beld of ECMA International said the standard recognized reality. “The vast amount of data in the world is in Microsoft format,” he said.
As the amount of electronic data begins to age, governments and large businesses are becoming concerned that they may become unable to access older files stored in outmoded formats.
Microsoft saw the competitive threat and accelerated its effort to open the formats of Office files to other software users, said Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst in New York.
“This is a legitimate move toward more openness,” he said. “But the decision to seek an industry standards designation was prompted by the success of OpenDocument.”
Tom Brookes, a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels, said the software maker had created open-source versions of Office and sought industry certification because many customers were demanding formats that can be read by more than one type of software program.
Fuente: International Herald Tribune