Open standards beat Microsoft 13 to 4

By   |  July 19, 2007

Microsoft‘s plans of having its OOXML document format accepted as a national [1]standard[/1] were thwarted by a conclusive vote against the move in a meeting yesterday.

The question that was put to vote was whether or not [2]Microsoft[/2]’s OOXML document format should be accepted as a standard by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). This was part of a larger, global move by Microsoft to get the format accepted as an international standard by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Yvonne Ndhlovu of SABS, who acted as project leader for the local leg of the process, informed Tectonic that the votes amounted to 2 votes of yes, with comments; 2 votes of yes, without comments; and 13 votes of no, with comments.

"South Africa will vote no," she said, referring to the international voting to take place.

The process for acceptance begins in each participating country. To be accepted, 75% of the committee members must approve. Each country then forwards their decision to the international body, where each country’s vote carries equal weighting.

As reported earlier, Benjamin Henrion, founder of the site, explained: "Microsoft is spending millions on rent-a-crowd support for international certification for its proprietary Office format, OOXML. But we already have an ISO standard for word processing, called ODF (Open Document Format). OOXML is Microsoft’s attempt to subvert this existing standard, to keep its strangle-hold on the world of documents."

A source close to the voting process speculated that Microsoft might still attempt to cripple the process bureaucratically before the vote is taken internationally in September.

Ndhlovu added that the comments were being collated and would become available in about three weeks.

Potlaki Maine, Microsoft’s South African technical officer was unavailable for comment as he was out of the country.


9 Responses to “Open standards beat Microsoft 13 to 4”

  1. Anonymous
    July 19th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    This was not a vote about whether OOXML should be a South African standard. But was a vote about what position South Africa should take in the ISO vote for OOXML after its fast track period.

    The vote was also 3 Yes, 1 without comments and 2 with comments.

  2. Microsoft SA
    July 19th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    we was robbed!

  3. David
    July 19th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    From what I\’ve read, Microsoft\’s \”standard\” is not a standard at all. It\’s not a standard if the spec itself is full of vague and undocumented references.

  4. tecty1
    July 20th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    \”A source close to the voting process speculated that Microsoft might still attempt to cripple the process bureaucratically before the vote is taken internationally in September.\”

    Yes, they have done that in Malaysia already when it was clear that OOXML would not be accepted. They had the TC4 committee suspended.

    \”SIRIM CEO goes public about TC4\’s suspension.\”

  5. Richi
    July 20th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Be diligent! Guard your privilege, freedoms and rights! It\’s getting harder and harder for individuals to fight corporations with money. But so long as people don\’t allow themselves to become complacent, there\’s hope that the \”good of all\” will win out over the \”good of the company\”.

  6. Gustav
    July 20th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    I\’m just curious, but what source are you citing? I couldn\’t find any

  7. D. Suse
    July 20th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Some considerations to support the rejection of the Microsoft-sponsored Ecma 376 (OOXML) proposed standard :

    1) The main contributor to the problem of document incompatibility – namely Microsoft, through constantly changing it\’s office document formats in the past in order to force a financially-lucrative upgrade cycle upon it\’s customers – previously made no effort to produce an open format until it was forced to do so by open-source competition (namely, the approved ISO-standard ODF format). Suddenly reinventing the wheel to the tune of a very complex 6000+ page proposed standard, apparently due to a stubborn refusal to adopt an existing international standard data format (ODF), places an unnecessary and anti-competitive burden on the open-source consortium currently and very successfully using the ISO standard ODF format. Microsoft certainly has MUCH greater financial resources at it\’s disposal which will allow it to easily adopt the ISO standard ODF format while not suffering irreparable hardship. Forcing open-source companies and organizations to adopt another and very complex document format would place an unnecessary load on the resources of those companies (which do not have the financial resources of Microsoft).

    2) Occam\’s razor states that the best solution to a problem is the most parsimonious; this criteria is used as a basis for decisions in all walks of science, engineering, and social planning. The ODF format is about 600 pages long. The Ecma 376 (OOXML) format is an unnecessarily long 6000 + pages. The ODF is also already developed, in common use world-wide, and is an approved international ISO standard. The OOXML is therefore superfluous, and the use of this format should be discoraged at all costs. There is nothing stopping Microsoft from adopting the ODF format and becoming a contributor to this standard.

    3) The point of one international data format is just that; to have ONE format that can be exchanged between businesses, governments, and that can be maintained as a backwards-compatible format as time passes. Having TWO or more document formats defeats this purpose, placing us back in the situation of maintaining and dealing with multiple, incompatible data standards (wasting the resources of all those involved with this process).

    4) Microsoft has been previously convicted of monopolistic and anti-competitive business practices; indeed, Microsoft is currently threatening open-source Linux companies (the very companies who use and distribute programs using the ODF format) with lawsuits based on “unspecified” software patent issues. At the same time Microsoft also refuses to acknowledge a legally-binding new software license, GPLv3. This paints a picture of a company which certainly can not be relied upon to cooperate with other companies or organizations. The only way this cooperation can be established is through government and international regulations, namely the continued use of one international document format (ODF) which is not controlled by any one company or organization. History shows us that it would be a grave mistake to allow a company with the track record of Microsoft to have primary jurisdiction over any international standard. Microsoft can become a contributor to ODF, and therefore cooperate with other businesses and organizations in a non-destructive manner.

    5) Environmental reasons should also weigh in this decision. A higher load or overhead of code generally requires more processing power. As an example of this, please note the requirements for new and much more powerful computers to run Microsoft\’s current office programs and graphically-intensive operating system (*Vista*TM). This requires more energy and more landfilling of less powerful computers which are not up to this processing task. This is particularly true if you consider that Microsoft is not only proposing an much larger and much more complex document standard, but essentially is proposing that we have at least TWO open document formats with the inclusion of the existing ODF ISO standard, thereby increasing the complexity of the code required to run on business computers. Occam\’s Razor again provides us with the solution; stay with a single more streamlined and energy-efficient international standard, ODF, and save our landfills and our atmosphere from millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases related to power generation and the manufacture of computer components. New computers will always be required to replace old or worn-out units, but new machines can be made much more energy-efficient, due to lower processing load.

    6) The ODF format is just that, open. Therefore, any and all issues that Microsoft may have with this format can be easily solved by altering their proprietary code in their office programs, and/or by making constructive and cooperative contributions to the ODF codebase.

    I therefore urge the rejection of Microsoft\’s proposed Ecma 376 (OOXML) data format, and the adoption of the current ISO standard ODF format by all businesses, government agencies, and also by personal users who are concerned with the maintenance of fair and open business practices, and with the safeguarding of our environment.

  8. anonym
    July 24th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Microsoft is very stubborn about this,weird because adopting ODF could actually be helping Microsoft, as stated before.
    (They could have a ready-to-go, thouroughly-tested, low-cost, universal document format just like that and still have something to say over it when they want to implement stuff that current ODF doesn\’t supports!!!!!)

    It would be a stupid decision of Microsoft for refusing it. Microsoft is like refusing a free cookie if you look at all the things that Microsoft has to do to make their own document format and battle ODF.

    So much lost work for a lost cause!!!!!!!
    The company would make more money if they adopted ODF, doesn\’t that makes you laugh with Microsoft when you know this?

  9. Prof Barry Dwolatzky
    July 25th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    I\’m writing this email in my capacity as Chairman of Standards South Africa, Sub-committee 71L (or StanSA SC71L). This sub-committee was set up as a local mirror committee to follow the work of an international standards committee JTC 1/SC 34. In September, members of this international committee will be asked to cast an online vote on whether to accept as an ISO standard a standard already accepted by ECMA [\” Ecma International is an industry association founded in 1961 and dedicated to the standardization of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Consumer Electronics (CE).\” – ]. The ECMA standard in question (Ecma 376 / DIS 29500) , also known as \”Office Open XML\” has been submitted to JTC1 using a \”fast track\” process.

    I know that this all might sound a bit complicated and convoluted – but that is my point. The process of setting international standards is not a rugby match, and I strongly object to the the headline and spirit of James Archibald\’s article in your recent Tectonic newsletter headed \”Open Standards Beat Microsoft 13-4\” . The headline and article are factually incorrect in a number of respects and is an example of extremely bad journalism.

    Some of the more glaring errors:

    \”Open Standards Beat Microsoft 13-4\” – the vote had nothing to do with Open Standards versus Microsoft.

    \”Microsofts plans of having its OOXML document format accepted as a national standard were thwarted by a conclusive vote against the move in a meeting yesterday.\” – OOXML is not \”Microsoft\’s\” but ECMA\’s, and it was being discussed as an international standard, not a \”national\” standard\”.

    \”The question that was put to vote was whether or not Microsoft\’s OOXML document format should be accepted as a standard by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). \” This was not the question that was put to the vote. The question we voted on was \”How should SC71L advise its parent committee (SC71)to instruct SABS, as SA\’s representative on ISO, to vote on the question of whether to accept or decline a proposal to \”fast track\” Ecma 376/ Dis 29500\”. There was no discussion or vote on accepting OOXML as a \”SABS Standard\”.

    Your article correctly says that the meeting decided to recommend that South Africa votes \”no, with comments\”, but does not say what the nature of these comments will be. The feeling of the committee members was that the OOXML document was not acceptable, in its current format, as a good and usable standard. The door was certainly left open, however, to recommend the acceptance of a revised (and better-drafted) version of the document as an ISO standard in the future.

    Including the quotation in the article attributed to Benjamin Henrion, who was not at the meeting, and the comments from a \”source close to the voting\”, are (in my opinion) sensational, propogandist and irrelevant to the substance of the debate – another example of poor journalism.

    I agree with Yvonne Ndhlovu that you should withdraw this article. It does nothing to inform your readers, and (as I\’ve tried to demonstrate) is filled with inaccuracies.

    Prof Barry Dwolatzky
    Chairman StanSA SC71L

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