What was the point of the OOXML battle exactly?

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

ISO LogoUnless you have been living in a cave for the last year (or have no interest in technology; in which case why are you reading this?), you will no doubt have heard about the battle between Microsoft and “open source advocates” (in reality, Sun & IBM) over getting OOXML ratified by the ISO/IEC. It is a battle that I’ve watched with vague interest, but I’ve not had an opinion either way on whether OOXML should have been ratified.

Today though that changed. ZDNet reported that having got approval for OOXML, Microsoft won’t be doing much with it. It turns out that whilst building support for ODF into Office is an easy task, building OOXML support into it is a very hard task. So support for ODF will arrive early next year with Office 2007 SP2, whereas we will have to wait until the next release of Office for OOXML support. This obviously begs the question, what was the point of OOXML exactly? The whole episode definitely tarnished the reputation of the ISO/IEC, yet it turns out to have been for no real purpose!