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Re: Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?

  • From: Jonathan Robie <jonathan.robie@r...>
  • To: Rick Jelliffe <rjelliffe@a...>
  • Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2007 13:39:20 -0400

Re:  Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?
Rick Jelliffe wrote:
> There is an organized campaign by the fringe of the anti-Open XML people,
> fanned by closed source vendors of ODF products, where if they cannot
> persuade the various National Bodies that there is no value in having
> Office's format open and documented and with clear IP so that everyone can
> use it, then they will attack the National Body, ISO and the process. But
> don't believe what everything you read: for example, it was claimed that
> the Portuguese committee refused to admit IBM and Sun into a meeting
> claiming that there was not enough chairs, but in fact IBM and Sun applied
> past the deadline to join a fixed-size committee and there were no seats.
> Don't be conned.
>   

Let me be clear that I am not part of any of these committees or 
conspiracies or whatever, I just read an article and reported on it. Do 
you have inside information on the Swedish vote? Is not not true that 23 
vendors, most of them Microsoft partners, joined just in time for the 
OOXML vote? Do you think standards bodies should allow this approach?

One of the articles that I read on the subject mentioned the IBM and Sun 
story, saying specifically that they were rejected because it was past 
the deadline, and compared that to Sweden, where 23 vendors were allowed 
to join at the last minute for the vote. I don't know ISO process, but I 
assume that each national body is allowed to set their own rules for 
participation in votes.

Let me also be clear that I see real value in having Microsoft document 
their formats and bless them with clear IP. I do not yet see the 
argument that one vendor's proprietary formats should be blessed as an 
international standard, though. My gut instinct is that international 
standards for interchange formats should be created by more than one vendor.

> Jonathan, do you seriously think that people who want a standard should
> not be allowed to participate, especially as they find (perhaps to their
> surprise or alarm) that there are so many people trying to block it? Or do
> you believe that it is legitimate to join a standards committee with the
> goal of blocking a standard that other people need (i.e., to use the
> standards process to create a cartel: the US at least has strong
> anti-trust laws against this.)?
>   

When 18 out of 23 of the new members who show up just before a vote are 
Microsoft Gold Certified Partners or Microsoft Certified Partners, it's 
possible that this is less of a grass roots effort than your language 
would suggest. And I do think that every standards body needs to be 
careful to ensure that it's not easy for the largest, most powerful 
companies to push through whatever they want.

I could possibly be persuaded that OOXML should become a standard, I'm 
not yet persuaded. But I definitely believe that standards bodies should 
have procedures that prevent this kind of shenanigans.

> P.S. For an update on the current approval process, see
> http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/08/last_days_for_office_open_xml.html
>
> P.P.S. For my comments on why a "No with Comments" vote (conditional
> approval) is a good thing, see
> http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/08/my_recommendation_on_office_op.html
>   

I'm very glad OOXML exists and that it has clear IP. I'm not sure that 
one vendor's proprietary formats should become a standard. If that were 
not a concern, I would agree with you on conditional approval, partly 
because anything this large and complex needs to have significant 
independent implementations to show that it can be successfully 
implemented across the industry.

Jonathan


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