The New Zealand Open Source Society has come out fighting after an advertising blitz by Microsoft this week put the heat on Standards New Zealand ahead of a crucial international document standards vote.
NZOSS president Don Christie says Microsoft's claims about the Open XML format it is sponsoring are false and the wannabe standard is technically deficient.
"In fact, the whole approach from Microsoft is to accept that the OOXML standard is technically very deficient, but to just to promise to fix it," Christie says in a statement. "That's asking us to buy a pig in a poke — just endorse a standard full of problems and we'll sort it out later."
He says claims that Open XML is a vehicle for protecting old binary formatted documents, the focus of Microsoft's newspaper advertising yesterday, are also false.
"Let's be very clear about this. OOXML does not provide this capability. Indeed, if this were Microsoft's key concern there would be much better ways of achieving that goal," Christie says.
Microsoft took a prominenet advertisement in the New Zealand Herald yesterday to present its case in open-letter style. Addressed "To all New Zealanders", the letter was headed "Protecting our heritage, our future".
"In a few days, Standards New Zealand will make a decision that will have a direct impact on the way New Zealanders store, access and share their electronic documents now and in the future," the ad, signed by Microsoft New Zealand managing director Helen Robinson and director of innovation Brett Roberts, says.
"The final decision will determine whether to support Open XML as an ISO standard alongside other document formats. Open XML is a new format that allows Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents to be easily converted to an open standard, while also supporting the full capabilities of those applications."
However, Christie says the issue of parsing legacy documents is addressed outside of the proposed Open XML standard
"This particular issue is not open for interpretation — there is no information on parsing binary formats in the current OOXML spec, and there is no stated plan anywhere for legacy binary parsing to be added to OOXML," he says.
"If that were the plan OOXML would need to be resubmitted to the standards process for complete technical reevaluation."
He says Microsoft is being "cynical" in the way it is presenting the issue and the fact it has failed to convince National Archives and "a whole swag of government agencies speak volumes". The NZOSS supports Open Document Format, which has already been accepted as an ISO standard, along with tech heavyweights such as Sun and IBM.