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Re: Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?

  • From: Jonathan Robie <jonathan.robie@r...>
  • To: Len Bullard <len.bullard@u...>
  • Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2007 13:21:30 -0400

Re:  Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?
Len Bullard wrote:
> The author of that article is on dangerous legal ground.
> "One would think that SIS would not accept new companies to participate in
> the vote since they haven't been part of the earlier discussions and
> meetings. But according to SIS they didn't see any problem that new
> companies wanted to take part in this vote without prior notice. So what
> happened here is that Microsoft gather together a bunch of loyal partners
> that would vote yes to their standard without any questions."
> None of that other than the time they signed up is supported by evidence.
> It is more likely that Microsoft partners vote for this submission for the
> same reason Massachusetts changed the position given switching costs.  This
> is self-interest.  No proof of bribery is shown.  There is no indication
> that questions have not been asked.  Continuing to make that charge in
> public forums without proof is opening the author and the employer of the
> author as well as the publisher to slander lawsuits.  This is not a good
> thing, Jonathan.

Len, there's no allegation of bribery in the article, there is only an 
allegation that Microsoft had something to do with gathering most of the 
new members together, and the author of the article supports this 
allegation by pointing out that 18 of the 23 are either Microsoft Gold 
Certified Partners or Microsoft Certified Partners. The article does not 
say anything specific about what kind of communication may have occurred 
between Microsoft and its partners. The article does suggest that it's 
pretty unusual when a standards vote is determined primarily by people 
who were not members of the group the day before, and are partners of a 
company who was going to lose the vote. Do you think this was just a 
coincidence? Do you think this is the way important votes should be held 
in standards bodies?

> Google's paper is specious.  It claims wide use for ODF without the numbers
> to back that up.  

Here's what they say: "Counting the number of documents found by doing 
Web searches for different document types the older Microsoft Office 
formats dominate, but the second most widely used format is the existing 
ISO standard ODF. As translation is needed anyway it would make more 
sense to convert to ODF, the existing ISO standard for editable document 
types." You suggest that Google does not have the numbers to back that 
up? Er, this is Google, after all ....

> My guess is the number of users of products that can use
> OOXML is far greater than that of ODF and in fact they support that later in
> the paper.  Worse, they claim to be offering no legal advice, then go on to
> make legal assertions about the OOXML IP.

Google's argument seems to be this:

1. ODF already exists, and can represent Microsoft documents as well as 
the documents from other vendors. Blessing OOXML as a second format 
results in two mutually incompatible formats that can each claim to be 
standard. Google invokes memories of Betamax to suggest this is bad.

2. OOXML is too large and complex to be easily reviewed, and does not 
play well with existing standards. "The OOXML standard document is 6546 
pages long. The ODF standard,
which achieves the same goal, is only 867 pages. The reason for this is 
that ODF references other existing ISO standards for such things as date 
specifications, math
formula markup and many other needs of an office document format 
standard. OOXML invents its own versions of these existing standards, 
which is unnecessary and complicates the final standard.", "Considering 
that OOXML has only received about 5.5% of the review that comparable 
standards have undergone, reports about inconsistencies, contradictions 
and missing information are hardly surprising."

3. OOXML is not yet widely adopted, at least on the Web. ODF is the most 
common XML format for office document data, and it would make more sense 
to translate data from proprietary formats into a simpler, existing 
standard format that has already received extensive review.

4. There is not widespread adoption of OOXML outside of Microsoft. Most 
of the OOXML implementations are from partners of Microsoft who have 
contractual agreements to implement OOXML software.

5. There may be legal issues with Microsoft's "Open Specification Promise".

Up to now, I have been summarizing their argument, rather than offering 
my own views. To me, at least 1-4 seem to be valid arguments. I'm not as 
able to evaluation 5.

I guess I should express my own views too. I think OOXML is a good 
thing, and I'm very glad Microsoft produced it. I don't think it should 
be a standard, because it is designed precisely to represent one 
vendor's office documents, not as a general purpose office document 
format created by a group of vendors.

> I am not arguing technical merit here.  This is about a slander campaign
> conducted by companies and individuals opposed to OOXML.
> This bitter butter battle over white elephant products demonstrates in a
> very disappointing way the hypocrisy of claiming moral high ground for the
> sake of commercial advantage.  They are destroying their own credibility.

Yawn. I'm not very good at arguments about who are the good guys and who 
are the bad guys, but I don't find this kind of language terribly 
convincing. Maybe I've heard too much of it.


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