OOXML vote was fair – Microsoft

By   |  April 8, 2008

Software giant Microsoft has said in an interview that allegations that it had improperly influenced the vote on OOXML as an ISO standard were unfounded and arose mostly from individuals and companies unhappy with the vote’s result. “People who didn’t like the outcome are attacking the outcome,” said Tom Robertson, Microsoft’s general manager for interoperability and standards, in an interview Friday. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) last week anounced that its members had voted in favour of approving OOXML as a new document format standard.

Critics, particularly those from the open source community, lobbied aginst the ratification of OOXML as a standard, arguing, in part, that there was already an ISO-approved document standard in the Open Document Format or ODF.

South Africa’s minister of public service and administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi, said in a speech ahead of the voting process that the introduction of a new standard for doument storage would add confusion to the market. “It is difficult to see how consumers will benefit from these two overlapping ISO standards,” the minister said.

Unfortunately, coverage of the minister’s speech by some SA media confused the issues, and set Fraser-Moleketi against the IT industry as a whole. UWC’s Derek Keats addressed many of these confusions in a published letter to the Business Report.

South Africa was one of a handful of countries that voted against approving OOXML as an ISO standard. Other countries that voted against OOXML were Canada, China, Ecuador, India, Iran, New Zealand and Venezuela.

Ubuntu Linux founder and Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth said in an interview with ZDNet that the adoption of OOXML was a “sad” day for the ISO and computing in general.

“It’s sad that the ISO was not willing to admit that its process was failing horribly,” he said, noting that Microsoft intensely lobbied many countries that traditionally have not participated in ISO and stacked technical committees with Microsoft employees, solution providers and resellers sympathetic to OOXML.

“The things that make for a very good standard are clarity and consensus, and the genuine belief that multiple organizations can implement the standard,” he added, noting that much of OOXML is a compilation of old Office “quirks and inconsistencies” dumped into an XML format that different Microsoft developers implemented differently for different versions of Word and Excel.

“They have a tasty dump of all of that declared as a standard,” Shuttleworth claimed.


4 Responses to “OOXML vote was fair – Microsoft”

  1. Derek
    April 8th, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

    Kind of makes you wonder whether ISO processes would qualify for any kind of ISO certification!

  2. Spaulding Smails
    April 9th, 2008 @ 1:42 am

    Individuals and companies were unhappy with Microsoft’s OOXML well before the ISO vote was cast in favour of making DIS29500 an open standard. And with good reason too; the format was broken and incoherent from the start and was simply pushed through without any regard for the ISO process.

    It may also be worth noting that Microsoft’s victory may be hollow as none of their products actually support the current ISO version of OOXML, rather its Office suites support an older xml format that is incompatible with DIS29500.

    Government and private organizations may wish to think twice before adopting the Microsoft standard as any document generated by Microsoft Office will be incompatible with the ISO version of OOXML.

  3. Mick
    April 9th, 2008 @ 5:05 am

    Ok, so the vote was completely within the rules of the game, I can acknowledge that. But the ethical boundaries (the “unwritten rules” as it were) that most would stick to haven’t just been broken, MS stopped to take a big steaming dump on them on the way. I hope it has been worth it for Microsoft, their reputation and image (and that of ISO) are severly tarnished. I hope everyone involved in pushing this standard through got paid well – I know that my soul would cost a pretty penny.

  4. Tectonic » Microsoft to support ODF, aid OSS community
    May 22nd, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    […] from a bruising battle with the open source community over document formats, Microsoft says it is ready to support the […]

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