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The Definition of Insanity

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In the computing world, ISO standards have a mixed record. But standards don't rule the computing world. Microsoft has historically had an ambivalent view of standards. This historical record makes the recent global activities over the "Office Open XML" (OOXML) document format so interesting.

In this case a competitor manged to place a stake in the ground first. The Open Source project (managed by Sun, a fierce Microsoft competitor) spawned an ISO standard for office document storage called "Open Document Format" (ODF), which was adopted by several other office automation software packages, none of them with a fraction of the size of the market share of the leader, Microsoft Office, of course. The danger in this for Microsoft was that once an official ISO standard for office documents existed, governments could potentially be lobbied to adopt it as their official document standard. ODF is a format that Microsoft Office does not currently support and Microsoft does not control.

Microsoft countered by creating the OOXML office document format, which was made the standard in Microsoft Office 2007 and donated it to the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) to shepherd it through the ISO standardization process.

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