Microsoft's Open XML Project Deemed a Short-Term Fix

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-07-06 Print this article Print

Critics say the installable software plug-ins created by the Open XML Translator project are a stopgap measure that will probably not be acceptable to governments in the long run.

Microsoft's move to set up an open-source project that will allow translation between its Office Open XML format and the OpenDocument Format is a welcome first step, but not a long-term solution to the problem, industry players said on July 6.

They were responding to Microsoft's announcement of the Open XML Translator project, which will be posted on SourceForge, the open-source software development Web site.

The goal of the project is to allow open participation and the free use of the software, with the source code available under the BSD license.

Marino Marcich, the managing director of the ODF Alliance, an advocacy group of vendors, academic groups and technical organizations in more than 40 countries, told eWEEK in an interview from Europe that Microsoft's move was a good sign overall and a recognition of the ODF Format's acceptance by the general public.

"I am not really surprised that they have created the Open XML Translator project, which is a belated recognition on their part that ODF has arrived and that it is the standard of choice by government's around the world," he said.

But Marcich was surprised that Microsoft was making this an open-source project, particularly given that there were already several projects already underway to facilitate translation between the two formats.

Click here to read more about how Microsoft bowed to pressure to interoperate with ODF.

While welcoming the Open XML Translator project as a "first baby step," Marcich did sound a note of caution, saying that it remained to be seen what the Redmond, Wash., software giant would do going forward.

The installable software plug-ins that would be created under the project were also really "only a bridge, a stopgap measure that will probably not be acceptable to government's around the world over the long term. Plug-ins simply don't give the benefits of open file formats and standards," he said.

Converters and plug-ins are not solutions to the problem as governments across the globe want access to their vital records and data and are looking to separate the document from the application, which plug-in technologies do not do, and which would open the market up to greater innovation and more product and price competition, he said.

The translators would also not be perfect, Jean Paoli, general manager for interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft, told eWEEK, as "OpenXML and ODF are very different formats and some hard decisions are going to have to be made when translating from one format to another, like where we have OpenXML features that are not supported in ODF."

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Microsoft's Open XML Project Deemed a Short-Term Fix

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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