Strike One Against Microsoft

March 3, 2008

by Michael Cunningham, Executive Vice President & General Counsel

Strike One!

In our last blog posted on February 21, I proposed three test pitches for Microsoft to help judge the meaningfulness of its latest efforts to turn over a new leaf on interoperability. The first of these was to embrace the extant, multi-vendor ISO standard, ODF (Open Document Format) in lieu of its single vendor dominated efforts to create a new standard, OOXML (Office Open XML).

The first pitch was thrown in Geneva last week at the ISO ballot resolution meetings on OOXML. And we can safely say: strike one! There was no renouncement of the OOXML standard by Microsoft. Instead, every indication was business as usual.

By the way, you have to seriously wonder about those Geneva meetings. According to reports I’ve received about the meetings (which were closed but reportedly audio recorded), only a disturbing 25 or so of the approximately 1,000 substantive comments that were scheduled to be acted upon were actually discussed. As for the remainder of the comments, it appears that, in order to complete the agenda, a decision was made to vote on all of the remaining, undiscussed comments in a single vote.

When the votes were counted, 18 delegations abstained (I’m told most of the abstentions were attributed to frustrations over the comments not being discussed), four delegations refused to register and vote (some apparently as a protest to the BRM process employed). The remaining 10 delegations voted, with a 6-4 vote, for “approval.” In other words, a sadly small minority of 6 out of 32 delegations actually supported the approval.

I, for one, would welcome some sunshine on the process and urge that ISO make the reported audio recordings of the Geneva meetings publicly available.

In any case, OOXML does not deserve to become an ISO standard when voted upon by ISO members in the next thirty days.

A little aside: You’ve got to respect the naming creativity for Office Open XML:

  • it sounds a little like a multi-vendor, open standard, but it is not,
  • it sounds a little like it is just an XML implementation but it is not and
  • it sounds a little like Open Office but it is not,
  • it sounds like it might be open source-based, but it is not.

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