"It may sound amazing. They are working on it now. But the current standard doesn't have it," Paoli tells me.
In addition, ODF is not backward-compatible with Excel -- or any other Office file format -- so you can't migrate old Excel files to ODF.
"The Office plug-in from OpenOffice does not support that," Paoli says.
Robertson and Paoli gave me many more examples, to the point that they say OpenXML and ODF are not even competing products, like in the way HTML does not compete with PDF.
Integration with other business data is more problematic with ODF, Robertson adds. OpenXML reads custom schema so that a program can identify the kind of information that is inside a document in order to send it to a back-end process and reuse it, say, for an ERP system. Because OpenXML can define and understand the structure of data, it can pull data out of a document and map it to populate a database.
"You cannot do that with ODF," Roberston says.
Interestingly, both sides see the differences between the two formats as a matter of offering more choice to the user, and both Sutor and Robertson used those words to describe why their format is best.
"Governments need to choose the format that meet their needs." I don’t know who said that, but both believe their solution meets that requirement.
Where do I stand? Well, at the risk of getting a lot of hate mail saying I am in Microsoft's pocket, if what Robertson and Paoli say about OpenXML and ODF is correct, then I think OpenXML is needed, at least until ODF becomes backward-compatible with older Office file formats and offers the capabilities large organizations require in their productivity solutions to run their business.
What you shouldn't expect is any meeting of minds between the two companies. However, while this may appear to be a battle to the death, I don’t see the fight over file formats as Armageddon. That will have to wait for another day.