Re: Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?
Rick, Before I say anything else, let me make myself very clear: I DO NOT SPEAK FOR MY EMPLOYER ON THIS TOPIC. In fact, I have removed my normal signature block to avoid any possibility of confusion on that subject. But, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to reveal that I work for Oracle, which has been perceived (incorrectly, as it turns out) as having a strong position on this subject. Speaking strictly as a multi-decade participant in international and domestic standardization, I share Jonathan's concern about the seeming abuse of the standards processes in this situation. In several National Bodies, not just Sweden, a flood of new members arrived literally days before a vote was scheduled to be held on this specific fast-track document. In all but one or two of those National Bodies, that flood was sufficient to reverse what would have been a vote against the standard. The vast majority of those new members were Microsoft partners, some closer than others. In addition, several new National Bodies suddenly joined the process at the last minute -- National Bodies that had never previously expressed the slightest interest in international standardization related this subject. Every single one of those National Bodies have been reported as having voted in favor of progression, and most are reported as having a membership made entirely, or primarily, of Microsoft partners. Is all of this "legal"? Yes, of course it is...the processes have, as far as I have been able to tell, been within the letter of the ISO Directives. (Of course, I have no clue whether any process violations have or have not occurred in any given National Body, other than in the USA. In the USA, as far as I have been able to tell, there were no process violations.) But, is it in the long-term interests of international standards? I submit that it is most certainly not! If very large companies are always (or nearly always) able to complete subvert the spirit of the consensus-based process by ensuring that new members with favorable positions join various standardization bodies just in time to avoid a defeat (or to ensure a defeat), then everybody else might just as well quit trying. And then we're back to the situation 20 or 30 years ago, where another giant was able to do exactly that. (Clue: its common name has three capitalized letters.) We didn't like it back then, and we shouldn't like it now. (In fact, Microsoft is alleged to have complained in several forums about the dominating tactics used by that other giant...but that was before Microsoft had the sort of muscle it takes to pull it off.) Don't get me wrong. Microsoft has every right to press their interests in the standards arena, as well as in the marketplace itself. But it must do so fairly and within the rules. I believe that it has an ethical obligation not to subvert the process for short-term gain at the cost of destroying the process's long-term credibility. Any standards process that comes to be perceived as nothing more than a marketing arm of some commercial enterprise will not for long be perceived as a standardization process at all. One more thing: I have it on impeccable authority that at least two of the last-minute joiners of one National Body said during a meeting break that they didn't understand the subject was on which they were going to vote, but Microsoft had instructed them of exactly what to say and how to vote -- and paid their membership fees and other expenses. If that's true (and, since I wasn't there to hear it, I can't tell if that "impeccable authority" I mentioned misunderstood something), then it is probably illegal -- and I do not mean "violation of standards bodies' rules", but "violation of the law" -- in the country involved. In the USA, we would call it restraint of trade, I guess. In closing, I want it to be clear that I have no personal opinion about the proposed standard itself. I have not read the 6500+ pages of the document, nor have I read the ODF standard. I love competition (but doubt that the effect of this is going to be increased competition) and I care very much about being able to express complex document semantics in XML. I use Microsoft products and I have a love-hate relationship with those products. I do not think that Microsoft is the devil incarnate. What I care about is the long-term viability of the standards processes. And I believe that the, um, fiasco that has been happening with respect to this proposed standard is truly a train wreck in effect. Microsoft will almost certainly (I give it better than 99% probability) of succeeding in making OOXML an international standard. But, in the process, they will have significantly damaged the credibility of the process itself, and of their own relationship with standardization. Grumble... Jim At 8/28/2007 11:15 AM, Rick Jelliffe wrote: >Jonathan Robie said: > > > One of these new companies was Google, which strongly opposes OOXML, and > > has created the following position paper: > > > > http://www.odfalliance.org/resources/Google%20OOXML%20Q%20%20A.pdf > >Doubly interesting in that Google is the world's most prolific generator >(Google Maps to IE) of VML, which is part of the Open XML standard. I >suppose it is much easier to generate documents than to accept them, so >they need a standard for one but not the other... > >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. > >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.)? > >If you don't like ISO C# as a language, don't use it. Use ISO C++, or ISO >Common LISP, or ISO Pascal, or ISO FORTRAN, or ISO ADA, or ISO Eiffel. But >an ISO C# person should not try to block developments in ISO C++ just >because it is not their liking, or because it goes against their corporate >interests. > >Cheers >Rick Jelliffe > >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
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