Microsoft Versus
Dissecting Microsoft | Directory

Microsoft & Standards

Conformance to standards fosters interoperability and competition. It therefore also fosters innovation. Standards also provide an incentive to invest in a technology due to long-term community support.

Microsoft® seems fickle about conforming to standards. For about a year they proclaimed that Microsoft Office 2003's support of file formats would finally change to a standard: XML. They then changed their stance to not support it in the "Standard" version of Office 2003. This means home users, for whom the "Standard" version is intended, will still maintain only the proprietary Office file formats. To interact with a corporation's "Professional" or "Enterprise" version, documents must be stored in this proprietary format. This does two things: fosters companies who let their employees work at home to keep using the proprietary format, and promotes other companies' adoption of Pro and Enterprise versions instead of Standard in order to get XML support. Meanwhile alternatives such as OpenOffice have been using XML as their standard document format since their inception, allowing competing products to interact with their users' data and developers to create other non-competing utilities. The European Union has concluded that Microsoft's move to XML isn't completely opening the documents as standards. This is mostly because they use proprietary schemas instead of standards which already exist.

Due to loss of full control over its documents, the state of Massachusetts is switching all of its documents from Microsoft Office to formats based on open standards. Only PDFs and the [OpenOffice] format will be created by the state. This ensures that information in state documents will forever be available.
Copyright © 2004-2007 Matthew Schwartz