back to article OOXML marks the spot, says research firm

Large organisations that are considering a move away from Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) in favour of rival standard (Open Document Format) ODF should think again, concludes a new report. Analysts at Burton Group on Monday turned up the heat in what is an already fiery debate about which standard should be internationally …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    As i've said before...

    Office 2007 is a travesty. Bugs, compatibility issues, default settings which are counter-intuitive, and that damn stupid ribbon which isn't customisable. Great if everything is where you want it, complete gash if it isn't (which it isn't).

    Forget running Access 2000 and 2007 together; Everything breaks. Switchboards, Macro's... Gash.

    Anyway, to the story... OOo has a MUCH smaller learning curve compared to O2k7 as everything LOOKS the same, even if it has different names. Their format is open by DEFAULT (the program source is open; how can files it creates not be open too?), and it's not a global monolopistic corporation bent on shaving every scrap of skin from your back that it can.

    ODF all the way.

    (Anonymous again... Boss reading etc.)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So buy OOXML because it will sell?

    "Underpinning that argument, the report also predicted that OOXML will be widely adopted by businesses "

    Sounds like circular reasoning, business should adopt OOXML because business will adopt OOXML? What? And they'll sell that to the Financial Director, how exactly?

    Dear Finance Director, I want an extra $1000 a seat to upgrade to the latest feature from Microsoft because other features not from Microsoft that don't cost $1000 a seat are just political statements. Here read this report from a group you've never heard of.

    That's a mighty tough sell there. Perhaps if you throw in a free HD DVD player to sweaten the deal? Or a Zune or two. People will buy Zunes because Zunes will sell and you will be out of the Zuniverse.

  3. Steve

    Who paid for this report?

    It's kind of an important question as the sole purpose of the vast majority of think tanks is to give "independent" support for the ideas of the people who fund them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    'Burton Group on Monday stated: "Bend over, as most people will, and make sure your and our money whori... financial investment in Redmond is all safe".'

  5. Sean Ellis
    Black Helicopters

    Refutation of this report

    ...can be found at Ars Technica.

    The article points out some flaws in the logic of the report, and also highlights the *very* selective reporting of the politics surrounding the different formats.

  6. Steve Renouf
    Gates Horns

    ODF Rools!

    Yeah! Right on! Open Office is far superior to M$O (unless you specifically need the corporate colaboration tools)

    I previously used Lotus in preference to M$O - that was far superior too - shame it wasn't better supported.

  7. Kevin Johnston


    A repeat posting for me too, when you look at how the products are actually used you can discount 90+% of any version of Office as fluff to 'out-feature' the opposition. Urban myth it may be but should any helpdesk have to resolve the query 'spellcheck isn't working on the spreadsheet in my database'.

    Basic typing, formatting and error checking is over the top for the vast majority of users who can barely cope with the features available when typing an email. My wife is self-taught (apparently I wasn't patient enough with her) and is now the office Office expert as she can create a table!

    Open Office looks to be pitched at people who just want to put words on paper and are looking longingly at the pencil they sharpened last week and if they get one more damned error.....

  8. Jaster
    Thumb Down


    Their arguments are laughable

    Only one backer Sun - Really? and OOXML only has Microsoft ?

    Not widely used ? - Really? and OOXML is? Most people using Office are still saving to DOC etc so people can read it ...?

    No implementations of the standard - Really? there are many and the ODF standard was written and then the software written to meet the spec. Unlike OOXML which describes the document format of Word (but Word apparently still does not meet the spec as published!)

    Everyone will use OOXML because it is MSOffice - Well thi might have been true a few years ago but having seen the number of government organisations standardising on ODF (or other formats) to be open I suspect this is not longer true?

  9. Paul Talbot
    Thumb Down


    "ODF should be seen as more of an anti-Microsoft political statement than an objective technology selection"


    ODF is a standard that's been developed by a large consortium of large and small, public and private sector organisations, with the aim of creating a standard that will always be open and available to everyone - including Microsoft. There's many implementations of it (OpenOffice, KOffice, AbiWord, etc. - even MS Office through a plug-in).

    OOXML is the latest attempt to hijack standards by a company that has time and again proven to be unreliable with long-term availability of data (tried opening a complex Office 95/97 file with a recent version of Office?) and standards (IE vs everyone else), and has created a format with a binary component protected by patents (patents which it regularly threatens to use against free competitors). Oh, and only one program truly uses it at the moment (Office 2007).

    How exactly would it be a bad technological or business decision to choose a format that can never be hijacked by a single organisation (and will always be available so long as demand persists) against a single-vendor controlled, semi-closed format from a company with a history of changing standards to meet its own needs to drive sales?

  10. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    Is the OOXML spec complete yet?

    Last time I saw anything substantive about OOXML the data dictionary wasn't complete and some tags depended on application-specific code. This code and its specifications weren't part of the standard, making OOXML a partly documented proprietary file format rather than a true standard as most of us understand the term.

    Nothing seems to have changed since I read that.

  11. lucmars

    need Office 2007

    According to the logic of this report, it seems to me that OOXML will be adopted if Office 2007 is adopted as well. This is not currently the case, unless Redmonds give it up for free.

  12. Mark

    Refuting Sun's control of ODF

    The only reasoning that ODF is controlled by Sun is that the baseline for the format was OOo's XML output. However, that base was taken and changed with LOTS of input from a lot of other interested parties (MS were invited but weren't interested: no demand for an XML open docuement specification!!!). The changes were so many and varied that (IIRC) three applications supported ODF 1.0 before OOo did. And Star Office (the commercial version of OOo from Sun) is based on older code, so is later to the ODF party.

    Now, if Sun were controlling it by the back door, don't you think they would have had a head-start on what the ODF release would be?

    So being so slow means either

    a) Sun are being REALLY sneaky and thought this one through

    b) Sun have no control over the ODF specification apart from being one of many

  13. Mark


    Here's an idea.

    Where the spec says "Do it like Word for Windows95", do whatever you feel appropriate.

    When MS try to say you're not compliant, ask them to prove it.

    Several problems for MS then:

    1) If the only way to do so is to show Word running under Win95, the spec isn't complete

    2) Since older versions at least changed output depending on what printer driver you had installed as default, MS's version will change too

    3) MS don't even conform to the open specification, so their output may render THAT ONE THING correctly, but there will be errors elsewhere

    probably more.

    If the proof is "you haven't licensed the ability to "Do it like WW95" from us, they've just proven again that the spec is neither complete nor open.

    None of this helps the CUSTOMER, mind, but since when has commercial software been about doing what the customer wants rather than sticking a hoover in their pockets until all you get is lint..?

  14. Jeff Deacon

    I've heard of Burton's before ...

    They make suits don't they?

  15. Don Mitchell


    Of course it is circular. More people run MS platforms, therefore more developers write software for it, therefore more people are attracted to the platform. That's basically why Mac OS and Linux are perminently stuck with 10 and 5 percent share. People who are not zealots only care about applications, and nobody more than Windows. And remember MS Office is itself a platform. A huge industry exists for customizing and extending Office for specialized use.

    Open Office is just reverse engineered from MS Office anyway, and for that matter so is the ODF format. It takes enormous resources and time to design the features and formats of an office suite, and the folks who did ODF had the luxery of just inspecting what Microsoft had done instead of doing their own research. And check out zdnet's benchmarks before you say open office is better -- it is in fact slower and uses much more memory (

  16. Andraž Levstik


    "If Microsoft abuses standards initiatives, the market response will be swift and severe."

    Sure they will... just like it happened with internet explorer... ppl still used it and produced crap using m$ tools along the way...

    It's time to kill off vendor specific formats and get it real with open standards...

    All vendors should use open standards and get busy with actually inovating(*shock*) and actually trying to compete(*gasp*) with one another...

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. J


    I happen to think this effort by MS to push OOXML as a standard is a good sign. In the past they did not even bother trying, since they knew they could release whatever they wanted and sheeple would just follow and their stuff would be a "de facto" standard -- who cares about "de jure"?.

    What are they afraid now that makes them try this new approach to screwing everyone over?

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Chalk up another phony "think tank"

    So, Steve "Blowhard" Ballmer has finally wizened up to the fact that everybody knows the Alexis de Toqueville Institute is a just a front for Microsoft opinions, and he decided to change source ?

    No problem. Ladies and Gentlemen, we hereby welcome the Burton Group into the very special and select group of Translators of Microsoft Opinions And Reality Be Damned.

    Congratulations, Burton Group. You have just destroyed whatever credibility you might have had.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Simple & Simplistic (re: BkB)

    Sounds very good to me.

    I think my main objection is, not even word implements the "stanbdard" correctly, parts of it will be controlled by MS and it will be very hard to implement from all accounts.

    I have never had any issues with open office, admittedly I do relatively simple things. Is word support is execellent, only a few niggles in the final document, being able to output to PDF is great too.

    I actual often find the interface easier then word 2000.

    Admittedly, I would have rather have been using word perfect the word, and found until recently that word eprfect 8 was a better product then Word.

    I dont use the other parts of office (either version) at all with the exception of Excel, and again I find the open office version easier to work with in 90% of cases in which i use it.

    Again, its about personal choice and what works for you. I would chose ODF and file that govements, and education should also. As to business they should chose the one that suits there needs.

  21. DrXym Silver badge

    OOXML is simply the poorer standard

    Even if OOXML and ODF are both ratified and therefore on a equal footing, the simple fact remains that ODF is a better standard. It is, without exageration 1/10th the size of OOXML, far easier to implement, far easier to write tools for, not laden down with legacy baggage, has multiple open implementations, and makes use of other open XML formats where necessary rather than inventing its own.

    I seriously wonder why anyone would choose OOXML over ODF unless they were ignorant. It's not even a case of "we need MS Office so therefore OOXML". Microsoft could and should be pressured to implement ODF. If they can manage to save / load files in rival file formats when it suits them, then they sure as hell can manage ODF. Especially as they probably already have a filter in advanced stages already.

    I just hope that managers listen to their own IT staff and that IT make sure to educate them rather than allowing some salesman to make their decision. OOXML is a horribly complicated and fragile file format whether it's ISO compliant or not. If I were in a position of wanting my data to be safe and readable 20 years hence, I know which format I'd prefer.

  22. John Angelico

    @Jeff Deacon

    Posted Wednesday 16th January 2008 19:24 GMT

    "I've heard of Burton's before ...

    They make suits don't they?"

    Is that like "getting fitted up"?

    Ah, Yes! Does one good to recall Rumpole at the Bailey dressing down an over-zealous detective who has tried too hard to fit up a "known crim" with a dapper set of bespoke evidence... :-)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @J: Microsoft are not trying to offer a standard

    Microsoft's directors are bound by law to do whatever maximises their profit and/or share price - the "shareholder return".

    If a common standard file format existed across the industry, this would hugely increase competition and vastly reduce their Office profits.

    By law, then, they must try not to let this happen.

    For more than 10 years they've been able just to do that by ignoring the idea and relying on their market monopoly to be self-reinforcing: ie, because that other company you work with is going to send you a .DOC or a .XLS and you will need Microsoft Office to read it.

    But at last, standards organisations are threatening to intervene.

    What to do? Join the development of the new standard, and try to subvert it in practice by failure to comply perfectly (hello IE)? Not bad, but will bring significant difficulties and repercussions. You'll be clearly the bad guy.

    Better is to offer a new "open standard" yourself, which looks good but which you know (because you designed it) has enough holes in it that you can indeed in future claim to be following the standard, while Office files still will not work properly in rival products.

    It's not hard to follow and it's not machiavellian or anything: it follows directly from "directors must by law maximise shareholder return". If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself the director of such a firm, you would by law have to approve such action yourself. ("Do no evil" is ever-so-slightly topped by "maximise shareholder return or find yourself in court".)

    And of course you don't get to make (or to stay) director of a public company without liking this idea of maximising your own pot of money at whatever cost to the public good.

    If you vote Labour, Tory, Republican or Democrat - all of whom are organisations paid for by big business - they will continue to deliver you a world where companies own everything and where their directors are first and foremost bound by this law, and are allowed to pursue it with minimal interference. It's a stupid foundation for any society. Considerably more "interference" for the public good is required - as here.

    If you choose to vote Labour, or Tory, or Republican or Democrat based on which one is promising more on a particular topic - promising fractionally lower taxes, say - then you deserve this society you're implicitly asking for. You deserve Microsoft and the way it behaves. (Or rather, since you're all Apple and Linux fanboys here, you inflict Microsoft, and the way it behaves, on the defenceless majority of society.)

    Make your vote count. Don't vote for Corporations Maximising Profits At Whatever Cost To Society.

  24. John

    Does anyone remember last week

    when el reg called MS SP3 draconian as it didn't let you view your older MS office files. As far as I can make out, MS is going to roll this out with SP3 and you will really have to know what your doing to stop them shutting off access to your old docs.

    They've done it before, they're doing NOW, and in a few years time, they'll do it again.

    Think VERY carefully before locking yourself into any MS format

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Andrew Yeomans
    Black Helicopters

    ODF three times more popular than OOXML

    Try googling for "filetype:docx" (15,400 pages) and "filetype:odt" (45,000 pages).

    Similarly "filetype:xlsx" gives 3340 pages and "filetype:ods" gives 9670 pages.

    So ODF has about three times as many documents and spreadsheets as OOXML at present. Both are dwarfed by .doc (21,900,000 pages) and .xls (4,420,000 pages). As for the macro-enabled OOXML .docm and .xlsm there are less than 600 together.

  27. BitTwister

    @Don Mitchell

    > Open Office is just reverse engineered from MS Office anyway, and for that matter so is the ODF format.

    Rubbish; utter rubbish.

    If that was true then I could claim that Word was reverse-engineered from any number of perfectly fine word processors which preceeded it by *years*. You think Microsoft is the only company allowed to fiddle about with text on a GUI interface? Just how many ways *are* there in which an A4 sheet of text can be displayed?

    And maybe you can point me to the part of the ODF spec. which says "FormatLikeWord95" and thousands of other examples of non-implementable crap Microsoft stuffed into the OOXML "specification".

  28. BitTwister

    @How good a format is ODF?

    > The article raises an interesting point about ODF. I've read many negative statements about the Microsoft XML format for Office

    At the current stage it's not really a question of "goodness", more one of "can it be implemented".

    OOXML cannot currently be implemented to provide any functionality until the meaningless and/or proprietary to Microsoft garbage is either redefined so it can be implemented, or removed completely. It's supposed to define *everything* required for *anyone* to load/save files which use it and at this level, OOXML fails totally.

    Microsoft refused to co-operate with the design of ODF but even now, like anyone else, it's perfectly free to add functionality - but detailed and implementable definitions will be required for this process to stand any chance of succeeding..

    But it won't do any of this, of course. It's more Microsoft's style to force secretive file formats onto users for the lock-in potential and enforced application upgrades than to co-operate so that *all* users can benefit, irrespective of platform.

  29. Alan Lukaszewicz
    IT Angle

    So a standard may or may not be set? So what?

    It really does not matter too much if a standard is set that has no proprietary support. And even if it did sometimes the fickle public may choose to ignore it by spending its hard earned income elsewhere.

    On the other hand, it can be quite good use of a publicly funded budget especially if put into the (sufficently) wrong hands.

    In other words: a technicality that may or may not be endorsed by the public?

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