ECMA to Begin Drafting XPS as Alternative Standard to PDF

A meeting of ECMA International Technical Committee 46 will be convened next month in Cambridge, to begin the drafting process for an independent specification for "XML Paper" or XPS - the typeset document standard created by Microsoft as an alternative to Adobe's PDF format.

The notice came silently, as a very short post on the organization's Web site. However, it immediately drew criticism from attorney Andrew Updegrove, who represents high-tech firms and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Linux Foundation.

In a statement to reporters this afternoon, Updegrove believes the fact that ECMA will probably submit its independent specification to the International Standards Organization as a complement to its already submitted specification for Office Open XML - Microsoft's current format for Office 2007 applications - is an indication that Microsoft intends to use XPS as leverage to push aside the competitive OpenDocument Format.

"This new submission provides the clearest evidence why ISO/IEC should reject OOXML," Updegrove writes, "rather than cooperate in perpetuating an ever-expanding document environment designed around a single vendor's products, stifling competition and innovation among multiple products."

Incidentally, XPS is seen as a competitor to PDF, which up until recently had no direct competition in the marketplace for portable, platform-agnostic digital documents either. Updegrove concedes Adobe did not cede control over PDF to a standards body until earlier this year, and perhaps a company questioning Adobe's legitimacy as de facto standard bearer for portable documents, could be empathized with.

"Be that as it may," Updegrove continues, "perpetuating one monopolistic market position after another seems wholly incompatible with the role of a global standards body, tasked with protecting the interests of all stakeholders. If OOXML, and now Microsoft XML Paper Specification, each sail through ECMA and are then adopted by ISO/IEC JTC1, then it may be time to wonder whether the time has come to declare 'game over' for open standards."

Microsoft had intentions on making saving to PDF and XPS formats features in Office 2007, but withdrew those features in response to concerns voiced by Adobe that Microsoft's placement of XPS in Office's menus gave it preferential treatment. Users may now download individual plug-ins for Office for the two formats.

Microsoft announced its intentions to submit XPS to ECMA for consideration last January, as part of its efforts to comply with European Commission requests that the company give more respect to the standards process. "In response to the Commission's concerns," reads a company statement that month, "the company has made fundamental changes to the licensing structure of the XPS fixed-format technology and has committed to submit the technology to an international standards body for adoption as an open industry standard."

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