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Microsoft accuses IBM of an 'ulterior' standards agenda

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Microsoft is crying foul against IBM in its campaign for fast-track approval of XML Office file formats as an international standard.

Microsoft has accused its former web services buddy of ulterior motives in orchestrating a global campaign using standards groups and governments to shoot down and stymie its Office Open XML File Formats, used in Office 2007, 2003 and XP. The Open XML File Formats are destined for ISO approval having been already adopted by Microsoft's preferred standards group, the European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA).

IBM's goal is to deny customers choice by only promoting OpenDocument Format (ODF) as an international standard while also advancing Lotus Notes, Microsoft claimed.

"This campaign to stop even the consideration of Open XML in ISO/IEC JTC1 is a blatant attempt to use the standards process to limit choice in the market place for ulterior commercial motives - without regard for the negative impact on consumer choice and technological innovation," Microsoft screamed.

Microsoft's, frankly, hysterical letter accused IBM of endorsing an inferior technology in the face of support from a "wide range of interests." It follows IBM's announcment of an open source desktop running Lotus and Firefox on Red Hat and SuSE with ODF support.

Open XML File Format is backed by an unlikely alliance of tech companies, US and UK government groups and "sophisticated power users" of IT. ODF has already been ratified by the industry backed OASIS with input from 21 companies - including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Adobe Systems - non-profits and individuals. Two companies - Intel and Novell - worked on ODF and are supporting Microsoft's standards efforts for Open XML File Format.

The fresh outburst follows complaints from India, in particular, that Microsoft is railroading Open XML File Format through the ISO by dumping 6,000 pages of documentation on officials. A Bureau of Indian Standards source told the IndiaTimes.com: "Even if an expert were to spend every day to review it, he would have to read 200 pages of the technical documents per day, cross references and all."

Such criticism threatens to destabilize the standardization push from a company renowned for inventing its own standards rather than playing with others. Microsoft actually worked with IBM in the early 2000s to develop and build ad-hoc industry support around the WS-family of web services specifications rather than join similar efforts backed by Sun and Oracle.

The criticism also comes as Microsoft attempts to convince the industry Open XML File Format is mature and on track to acceptance. The company recently released Open XML Translator 1.0 to translate documents between ODF and Open XML File Format. Version 1.0 has been tested for Office 2007, 2003 and XP with Novel due to produce a translator for OpenOffice.org and Microsoft translators for Excel and PowerPoint due this moth - there's no mention of a translator for Word.

Microsoft has boldly claimed version 1.0 heralds the "next step in document interoperability and choice" but reviews sound disappointingly familiar and make laughable Microsoft's claim Open XML File Format and the translator are the superior species. Tim Anderson, an El Reg regular, warned of lost formatting and encouraged users to stick with RTF or Microsoft Office binary formats.®

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