Open document formats

Last week Tim Bray wrote about his (and Sun's) involvement in the European Commission's investigation into the OpenOffice and Microsoft flavors of XML office documents. The upshot:

You can find the Committee's conclusions here; they're short, readable, and defy summarization. [ongoing]
The conclusions are indeed concise, and the bulleted recommendations even more so. I'll quote them here, changing only <ul> to <ol> for ease of reference:
Therefore, it is recommended that:
  1. The OASIS Technical Committee considers whether there is a need and opportunity for extending the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to allow for custom-defined schemas;
  2. Industry actors not currently involved with the OASIS Open Document Format consider participating in the standardisation process in order to encourage a wider industry consensus around the format;
  3. Submission of the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to an official standardisation organisation such as ISO is considered;
  4. Microsoft considers issuing a public commitment to publish and provide non-discriminatory access to future versions of its WordML specifications;
  5. Microsoft should consider the merits of submitting XML formats to an international standards body of their choice;
  6. Microsoft assesses the possibility of excluding non-XML formatted components from WordML documents;
  7. Industry is encouraged to provide filters that allow documents based on the WordML specifications and the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to be read and written to other applications whilst maintaining a maximum degree of faithfulness to content, structure and presentation. These filters should be made available for all products;
  8. Industry is encouraged to provide the appropriate tools and services to allow the public sector to consider feasibility and costs of a transformation of its documents to XML-based formats;
  9. The public sector is encouraged to provide its information through several formats. Where by choice or circumstance only a single revisable document format can be used this should be for a format around which there is industry consensus, as demonstrated by the format's adoption as a standard.

The next day I received a note from somebody at Waggener-Edstrom, Microsoft's public relations firm, pointing to and summarizing this open letter from Jean Paoli. Both notes -- that is, the PR rep's and Paoli's -- stress point #1: that support for user-defined schemas, which Office 2003 alone offers, is a big deal. I agree. Neither note directly addresses points #4 1, #5, or #6. And neither cites the original report, though the Office XML home page, which the Paoli letter points to, does point to the European Commission's wrapper page. And it, in turn, points to:

I'm citing those URLs here partly for my own future reference, and partly to try to attract attention to a subject that's important, complex, and warrants a lot more discussion and commentary. Just now, with the Valoris report loaded into my browser, I clicked my Technorati talkback bookmarklet -- which in this case resolves to this lookup, and found only this comment from Stephen McGibbon. Meanwhile, Feedster comes up blank for Valoris report.

Open document formats are a big deal. Here's hoping that the next time I issue those queries, more will turn up.

1 Note, however, that the Office XML home page calls out the FAQ which "has been recently updated with information regarding the perpetual nature of the program, patent grants, and more."

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