Document Format Wars

Multiple document format “standards” are competing for dominance, similar to the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD format wars. The OpenDocument standard, which was ratified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) last week, was designed to provide a non-proprietary document standard for use by governments and other organizations. Originally, the EU said that they would recommend the OpenDocument file format if it was approved as an ISO standard; however, competing formats are resulting in a wait and see approach.

The issue is that Microsoft has submitted their own standard, the Office Open XML file format. We now have two proposed standards competing in the market, and the EU is reluctant to support either one in case the Microsoft standard is also approved. I understand that large organizations have competing agendas (I work for a large technology company); however, our customers would be better served if technology vendors could cooperate and reach some type of agreement rather than fighting it out in the standards bodies.