Richi Jennings

Microsoft bashed in OOXML shens (and comparing loos)

August 28, 2007 6:44 AM EDT
Hello to Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which the deadline looms for national standards bodies to vote on Microsoft's proposed "Open Office XML" ISO standard. Not to mention comparative lavatories...

Rob Weir started the grumbling
The word for today is "disenfranchisement" ... An attempt to fraudulently disenfranchise a voter is despicable wherever it occurs ... misrepresenting the rules and procedures in order to prevent another party from exercising their right to vote ... is universally deplored.
I just received an email from someone in a national standards committee considering the OOXML ballot, concerning false information given to his committee which suggested the Sept. 2nd ballot deadline was not real, that they actually had 30 more days to decide. I'm not going to name names in this post, but I will say that this isn't the first note I've received regarding such tactics. Some of the other ploys I've heard of include ...
  • One NB was told that the stated deadline from ISO had been extended ... If they had listened to this advice, this NB would have missed the deadline ...
  • Another NB was told that they were not allowed to vote ... Luckily this NB decided to check the facts for themselves.
  • Several NB's were told that JTC1 had resolved all contradiction concerns with OOXML ...
  • Several NB's have been asked not to submit comments to JTC1 at all ...
  • Many NB's are being asked to throw away their right to a conditional approval position ...
I'm expecting that such shenanigans are only going to increase as we go into the final week of this 5-month ballot. [more]
Pamela Jones adds:
Is that not sad? What a revolting picture we've gotten of the standards process ...  I'm not sure shenanigans is quite a big enough word, legally, to describe such things.  Norway, I have learned, will abstain, but how it got to that result is simply appalling. If you read about what happened there ... your jaw will simply drop. I do think there is something the matter with the ISO process if this is how it works.
A lot of people in Norway ... contacted their ISO committee ... In fact, every comment was negative. And not a single comment made it through the chair's process ... Another cynical exercise, where a standard no one has yet implemented (the article calls it a "theoretical exercise") and many say won't be implementable by anyone but Microsoft, and maybe not even by Microsoft, and that has many technical problems that need fixing first, gets through anyway.

I hope the process that chose the standard for electrical outlets wasn't like this. People could get killed. [more]
IBM's Ed Brill comments:
I guess this shouldn't surprise me, given some of the other tactics I've seen used for other efforts over the years. [more]
Microsoft's Brian Jones crows:
Similar to what we just saw from Germany earlier this week, the US has voted to approve Open XML as an ISO standard.
As I pointed out yesterday, Ecma has already publicly committed to dealing with all comments that have been raised by national bodies, and I've seen some pretty good ones coming in so far. The review that Open XML has undergone during this process has been phenomenal, and we'll see a much better specification as a result of it. I haven't seen many comments come through yet that will be too difficult to deal with, so it should be a fun several months working towards the Ballot Resolution Meeting. The majority of the comments are seeking to have bugs in the spec fixed, or further clarification on specific details.

We're already working within the Ecma TC to create a good system for collecting all of the comments and properly categorizing them as we've seen a number of the same issues come up in multiple countries. We're also looking into ways to assign any comment to a specific change in the spec. This way people can quickly see what the actual change was that resulted from their comment. [more]
Geir Isene explains why he thinks the U.S. voted to approve:
OOXML promises interoperability with earlier closed binary formats (the Word Doc, older Excel file formats etc.). But it doesn’t deliver ... [so Sun's] Jon Bosak gets Microsoft to admit that the interoperability with legacy documents are only marketing speech. He further gets an agreement in the comments to suggest an amendment: DIS 29500 be amended to include a reference to a mapping from the Microsoft Office 97 - 2003 formats, to OOXML.

By forcing Microsoft to comply with their very own promise in the standard, he puts pressure on them to release a full mapping of the old legacy formats to OOXML. By this he gains market access for SUN and everyone else. [more]
Niklas Derouche sounds worried about Sweden:
There’s a bunch of Swedish companies that really should take a long look at themselves in the mirror tomorrow. Because becoming a complete Microsoft pawn is not quite what their customers might be expecting of them. And the vote from the SIS working group went as expected. A yes to OOXML which means that now SIS has to decide whether they have the balls to go against that recommendation. I sincerely hope they do. Oh, and here are some of the companies whose participation in the process and discussion was turning up at the vote, paying 17 000 Swedish Krona ($2 600 approximately) per company and voting ... I note that there are a lot of Microsoft Gold Partners there. This smells worse by the minute. [more]
Microsoft's Stephen McGibbon counters:
I hear that IBM is still telling national bodies that a [Ballot Resolution Meeting] isn't guaranteed. I am unsure how IBM reached that conclusion but this seems to be concrete evidence to the contrary. [more]
Here's Rob Weir again, with a counter-counter:
Let me help refresh Mr. McGibbon's seemingly repressed memories. First, scheduling a BRM does not guarantee it will be held ... The SC Secretariat has some discretion here ... if a ballot passes by large margins, or fails by large margins, a BRM may not be necessary.
Of course, Microsoft already knows all this, and no doubt that is why they are working so hard to urge NB's to vote "Approval, with comments" with promises that their comments will be addressed at the BRM, a BRM that might not even occur. In fact, if everyone listened to Microsoft and followed their advice then that would almost guarantee that no BRM would be held and no NB's comments would be adopted. [more]
But Microsoft's Jason Matusow seeks consistency:
One argument that keeps getting raised by individuals representing companies with deep commercial interests in ODF is that Open XML is not technically ready to be approved. This seems inconsistent to me as those same folks are clearly OK with the fact that ODF was clearly not mature at the time of its JTC1 adoption.
8 of the 32 P- member countries voted Yes with comments for ODF ... ODF is not a static specification - ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF) is no longer the most current version ... Microsoft did not work to block this contributed specification from our competitors - we voted in favor of its adoption by ANSI of ISO/IEC ODF as a recognized National Standard. It is remarkable that so much effort is going into the blocking of an ISO/IEC specification. In other words, when ODF was submitted the same sense of civic duty was not as strongly felt by those opposing Open XML today.
people with glass houses should not be throwing stones. Specifications mature over time. A real litmus test for the viability of the ISO/IEC DIS (draft international standard) 29500 (Open XML) is whether or not there are independent implementations. The answer to this question for Open XML is an unequivocal yes. There are independent Open XML implementations based on the existing specification in applications that run on Linux, Mac, Palm OS, iPhone, and Windows. [more]
And Mark Shuttleworth seeks unification, ubuntu-style:
It’s too early to say for certain, but there are very encouraging signs that the world’s standards bodies will vote in favour of a single unified ISO (”International Standards Organisation”) document format standard. There is already one document format standard - ODF, and currently the ISO is considering a proposal to bless an alternative, Microsoft’s OpenXML, as another standard. In the latest developments, standards committees in South Africa and the United States have both said they will vote against a second standard and thereby issue a strong call for unity and a sensible, open, common standard for business documents in word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

It’s very important that we build on those brave decisions and call on all of our national standards committees, to support the idea of a single common standard for these critical documents.
This is not a vote “for or against Microsoft” ... Open, consensus based document standards really WORK WELL - consider HTML ... A SINGLE standard with many implementations is MUCH more valuable than multiple standards. [more]
Buffer overflow:
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And finally... Raymond Chen asks, "Is this the normal way of comparing toilets?"
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: