The first curious thing I noticed in investigating this file-format battle is that Bob Sutor, IBM vice president of open source and standards, refers to OpenXML exclusively as OOXML.
When I asked Tom Robertson, general manager for interoperability and standards at Microsoft, when one should use OOXML and when OpenXML, he told me to refer to it format only as OpenXML.
In other words, the battle lines even include nomenclature.
OOXML, when said fast sounds awfully like "Uh-Oh XML," while OpenXML sounds far more user-friendly.
Think this is inadvertent? Don't bet on it.
With each side having a great deal invested in gaining the upper hand, "uh-oh technology" is not quite what Microsoft would to want associate with its brand.
Beyond the name-calling, Sutor believes ODF alone offers a way for users to exchange documents regardless of the application used to write them. And it can be done in an editable form, which isn't the case with PDFs, another popular file format.
IBM's Sutor says that, although Microsoft has published all the specs for OpenXML, those specs total 6,000 page (12 reams of paper), which makes it almost impossible for anyone but Microsoft to incorporate the specs in a new productivity suite, thereby crowning Microsoft Office effectually the de facto standard, according to Sutor.
"Microsoft is trying to write a new chapter in lock-in on products using standard as the basis for this," Sutor says, adding that any organization that requires OpenXML -- or as he says, "OOXML" -- will force themselves into a Microsoft-only corner. "While it will be theoretically possible to do another implementation, it won't happen."
The best analogy I read was one that said Microsoft Office is like prescription medicine and ODF is the generic version.
Microsoft's Robertson and Jean Paoli, general manager for interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft, see it quite differently.
Robertson says that despite 6,000 pages of documentation there is already an implementation from DataViz for Palm OS, one by a company called Numeric for spreadsheets, that Novell has an implementation of OpenXML for OpenOffice on Suse Linux, and that Corel has announced an implementation for WordPerfect. "Sun is working on an implementation as well," Robertson says.
Paoli says ODF reflects what OpenOffice can do. OpenXML reflects the capabilities that Microsoft Office has.
As far as those 6,000 pages of specs is concerned, there are 350 pages in the OpenXML spec alone -- half of the entire ODF spec -- just to describe spreadsheet capabilities, which ODF doesn't have, Paoli says. For example, ODF can't describe or calculate a formula in a spreadsheet.