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Unanswered Questions about Office XML

Microsoft is offering its Office 12 XML Format as an ECMA standard. Their FAQ answers several questions, but evades clear meaning. In order to make any decisions about the use of this format we’ll need to know at least the following:

  • Is this format completely open?

    PressPass: Does making XML the default file format for Office “12productivity applications signal an end to binary file formats as we know them?

    <p>Paoli: The Office Open XML file formats aren’t a standalone file format. Rather, they build on the rich functionality of the binary file formats that have traditionally been a part of Office applications.</blockquote>

    OK, so are non-open binary-only blobs allowed in the XML documents? That is, can an XSLT transform be stated that will completely transform a Microsoft XML document into an OpenDocument document?

    <li>Is the format compatible with Open Source licenses?<br />

    Finally, Office Open XML is open because the license for Office Open XML is open to anyone. We are expanding the language of the current royalty-free license to specifically enable developers who work only with open source licensing to also be able to work with Office Open XML. This will enable any customer or technology provider to use the file formats in its own systems without financial consideration to Microsoft.

    All this necessarily says is the Open Source product could be released under a different license.

    <li>Is the format encumbered by any patents?
    <p>The talk of licensing would seem to suggest that, yes, it is.</p>
    <li>What clear advantage does the Office 12 XML format offer over OpenDocument?
    <p>Besides the fact that Microsoft won’t support the file formats its customers are asking it to to protect its monopoly position.