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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 02:54 AM EST

A reliable source sent me the Ecma terms of reference for Microsoft's Office Open XML format, which will be voted on Thursday at the Ecma International General Assembly in Nice. I also researched the process, and I'll explain it, but to give you the theme, their motto is "better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow."

How open a process will this be, since it is essentially a proprietary XML format? That is one question, and another is, is there a need for another standard, since the ODF standard is already under way as a PAS submission to ISO JTC1? Do we need another document standard for XML, when ODF already exists and is further along the conveyor belt of the standards process?

First, I'll show you the terms, and then I'll explain the process, which, by the way, doesn't include any required declarations of IPR details ever. The default is RAND, not necessarily royalty-free. The covenant not to sue might be enough to solve the RAND issue (it's not compatible with the GPL or most OS licenses), but only depending on what "conformant" means and whether Microsoft follows through, and what is actually covered by the covenant, none of which is clear. The terms are, on their face, disturbing.

The Terms

Here are the terms, with my commentary in colored text:

Office Open XML Formats – Terms of Reference

Office Open XML Formats

Scope

The goal of the Technical Committee is to produce a formal standard for office productivity applications within the Ecma International standards process which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats. The aim is to enable the implementation of the Office Open XML Formats by a wide set of tools and platforms in order to foster interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems. The Technical Committee will also be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and evolution of the standard.

[ So, their aim is to make the standard be compatible with Microsoft's XML format. That's plain as day. So, what? No changes, just rubber stamp?]

Introduction

The objective of full compatibility with the Office Open XML Formats is adopted in order to

1. Guarantee continuous use of the existing base of Microsoft Office documents without losing any of the functionalities
2. Document all the options, properties, formatting, layout and other information of the existing Microsoft Office document base using the W3C XML 1.0 language
3. Guarantee interoperability by enabling standard-based XML 1.0 tools to create, read and write files conforming to the standardized file format
4. Support the needs of governments and businesses to archive and preserve documents using an Open Standardized Format
5. Enable standard transformations using W3C XSLT (or similar techniques) to extract or repurpose information from the file format
6. Support integration of custom defined schemas

[ Um, what was that last one again? Custom defined schemas? ]

Programme of Work

1. To Produce a formal Standard for office productivity documents which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats (1)

This includes:

a. Produce a standard which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats, including full and comprehensive documentation of those formats in the style of an international standard, with particular attention given to enabling the implementation of the Office Open XML Formats by a wide set of tools and platforms in order to foster interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems

[ Doesn't this sound backwards? It sounds like they plan on making the standard fit the MS XML, "in the style of an international standard", instead of working to make the standard and then make sure the XML meets it.]

b. Produce a comprehensive set of W3C XML Schemas for the Office Open XML Formats, with particular attention given to self documentation of the schemas and testing of the XSDs for validation using a wide variety of XSD tools of the market and cross platform

2. To contribute the Ecma Office Open XML Formats standards to ISO/IEC JTC 1 for approval and adoption by ISO and IEC.

Upon completion of the Previous Items, the role of the Technical Committee will be:

3. To assume responsibility for maintaining the ECMA Office Open XML standard
4. To evaluate and consider proposals for complementary or additional technology
5. To assume responsibility for the evolution of the ECMA standard while ensuring backward compatibility with the previous versions to guarantee continuity in the use of the current and future formats
6. To establish and maintain liaison with other ECMA TCs and with other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) as appropriate to facilitate and promulgate the work of the TC

(1) to be submitted by Microsoft Corporation.

Initial list of participants of the Technical Committee

Apple
Barclays Capital*
BP*
British Library*
Essilor*
Intel Corporation
Microsoft Corporation
NextPage Inc.*
Statoil ASA*
Toshiba

* Not currently members of Ecma International

The Process

So, those are the terms. What happens next? First, they have to decide if there is a need for the standard, and hence for a technical committee to be formed. You and I might think there is no need, but it only takes three members to propose it, and it seems unlikely it won't happen. This article [PDF] that appeared in Forbes in February explains the process:

The Ecma process consists of three stages :

• The GA approves and allocates new areas of work to new TCs, while TCs approve work items within their scopes directly.

• The development of final drafts is under the full responsibility of a TC, which balances quality with speed, using Ecma’s principle of “ better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow ! ”. The TCs almost always work on the principle of consensus, but they can use a simple majority vote. Each member has one vote, regardless of the size of the organization.

• The GA approves the final drafts for publication as a standard or a technical report.

The process can be seen in this PDF, "Presenting Ecma," in a chart on page 8 and on page 9, it explains:

To begin work, several (3 or more) existing or potential Ecma members must agree a standard is required:
* If the work (area) is new, the GA has to approve it by simple majority, and the Secretary General of Ecma forms a new Technical Committee responsible for creating a standard.

* If the work fits in an existing TC, then the TC has to approve a project for the new work.

What matters is this part of the Ecma Code of Conduct, which states, so far as I understand it, that a patent holder doesn't have to declare anything about its rights at the TC level, or for that matter ever, as it will be assumed they mean RAND terms, which Ecma explicitly does not define:

2. Procedure

2.1 - The questions related to protective rights are in the competence of the General Assembly of Ecma and should not be discussed at the TC level.

2.2 - Each draft standard shall be submitted two months ahead of a General Assembly. All members are required to state no less than two weeks before the GA or at the end of the postal voting period whether they claim any issued protective rights covering the subject matter of the proposed standard and/or have knowledge of such rights of third parties.

2.3 - Replies to this request will be circulated in due time before the General Assembly.

2.4 - When an answer is not received from a Company, the General Assembly may proceed to a vote on the assumption that this Company will act in accordance with the General Declaration, that is to license possible relevant issued patents on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.

It all seems very loose on IPR to me. Although not part of the code of conduct, this page explains even more explicity:

Submission of a patent declaration is not mandatory for Ecma members because the members of the Association are assumed to agree with the Ecma Code of Conduct in patent matters.

I think Microsoft could work its way through the entire process without a word about any patents it might or might not have or what it intends to do with them. That same page says that Ecma doesn't police its members but if it finds out RAND terms are not being followed, it can withdraw the standard. Of course RAND terms are not compatible with the GPL, so it's cold comfort anyway, if Microsoft were not to ever get around to fulfilling its promise to offer the standard under its covenant not to sue, or if the covenant's "conformant" language means something more exclusionary than we hope.

Further, the "Presenting Ecma" paper states on page 10 that "IPR and other nontechnical issues must be resolved outside technical meetings," and in fact, members of the TC can only vote against the draft on technical grounds:

Ecma is designed to defuse and separate the political and the technical:
* "No" votes at the TC may only be for technical reasons
*ALL members, not only Ordinary members, can vote at TC level
* At GA "No" votes and abstentions are not counted, only "Yes" votes are counted: only Ordinary members can vote at GA level

They *really* don't want IPR to even come up, I take it. When they say they offer industry a fast track, they mean it. And once you get on the fast track, how can you lose? Ecma's track record: 2/3s of their publications become an ISO/IEC standard. Page 11 lists the members who get to vote:

Avaya
Canon
Ericsson
Fujifilm
Fujitsu
HP
Hitachi
IBM
Intel
Macromedia
Microsoft
NEC
Panasonic
Philips
Pioneer
Ricoh
Sony
Toshiba

They have nonprofit members too, like Mozilla, but they don't say if they get to vote or not. Apple isn't a voting member, except on the TC level, and neither is Novell, who expressed interest in the process, but who is not listed as a prospective member of the TC, I notice. In short, a stacked deck, methinks. No vote for Novell, as currently configured. Page 15 is where they say RAND doesn't mean necessarily royalty-free.

I guess the obvious solution that springs to mind is to have lots of new members join, pay the dues, and vote. Larry Rosen suggested that, but looking at the terms, what good would that do, if the goals are stated from the get-go as basically saying Microsoft's XML is to be made a standard? The only possible derailment would seem to be at the ISO level, not in ECMA, not unless there is something technically the matter. They view IPR as "political" and not relevant to what they are about, I gather. I'm not discouraging anyone, of course, but where in the Ecma process would there be a way to even raise the important patent issues? The issue about proprietary extensions? I don't see any place, so the questions we have about the covenant not to sue are not going to be hashed out in Ecma, from all I see, and we'll be left in the dark, unless Microsoft chooses to explain.

You might also enjoy reading page 20, What is Ecma's Value?

A proactive, problem solving experts' group that ensures timely publication of international standards;

Offers industry a "fast track", to global standards bodies, through which standards are made available on time;

Balances Technical Quality and Business Value:

*Quality of a standard is pivotal, but the balance between timeliness and quality as well: Better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow!

* Offers a path which will minimise risk of changes to input specs

* A "safe haven" for IPR

How does any of that speak to the issue of what government needs from an open standard, the stated requirements for adoption by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? I see Andy Updegrove has the terms also, and he provides analysis. His is much stronger than mine:

In summary, what I read here is the following: the working group would be told to take the offered schema and convert them, without change (or charge), into a standard, apply the Ecma imprimatur, and then submit them to ISO, so that users of Microsoft Office may seamlessly use their documents in conjunction with other conforming software, and so that Microsoft may obtain a unique market benefit. The working group would also be told not in any way diverge from this goal in order to improve the standard, or to address the needs of the users of any other products in existence, or to accommodate the functionality of any other product, or to serve the interests of any other vendor, or of any customer that has needs that cannot be served by Microsoft Office.

I would submit that such a request is not consistent with the role of a standards body, but rather the diversion of an organization created to serve the needs of an industry to the unique demands of a single vendor. Were Ecma to be based in the United States, I would not be surprised if accepting such a charter would result (if discovered by the IRS) to the loss of the standards developer's tax-exempt status. . . .

A final note: as expected, there is no mention in the charter of any special IPR requirements that would be imposed on any member of Ecma. This would indicate that while Microsoft may renew it's royalty-free commitment, any other member(s) of Ecma with a relevant patent would have the right to charge a royalty to implement the resulting standard, or to require terms that would be inconsistent with open source licensing.

It will be interesting indeed to see what reception the Terms receive within Ecma, as well as how Ecma is viewed in the global standard setting community in the future (i.e., as a true standard setting body, or as a mere conduit for single vendors to ISO approval), depending on its whether the Terms, as offered, are approved.


  


The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML | 148 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections, please
Authored by: ankylosaurus on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 03:13 AM EST
Thank you.

---
The Dinosaur with a Club at the End of its Tail

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: ankylosaurus on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 03:29 AM EST
Please make links clickable using the guidelines on the "Post a
Comment" page.

---
The Dinosaur with a Club at the End of its Tail

[ Reply to This | # ]

ECMA has been a MS "friend" for years
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 03:43 AM EST
MS has been using ECMA for years. I'm drudging up some old memories here, so
they may be a bit crufty and slightly off.

Back in the early days of the browser war, when MS discovered Javascript, they
took their same embrace, extend, and extinguish methodology forward with IE.

I don't know who took the language to ECMA, if Microsoft took jscript to them,
or if Netscape went there first. Either way, the ECMA meetings were held all
over the globe. Towards the end of the game, Netscape seemed to stop sending
their reps to the meeting sites.

I seem to remember that Netscape wasn't even there when the ECMA people
finalized the "standard" for the language. Of course, MS made a big
deal about how their browser conformed to the "standard" and the other
browser didn't.

I don't know if it's true or not, but I've had the impression for years that
ECMA was little more than a shrill for whoever came to them with the $$$. And,
if your competitor goes there, you had better join too, meaning more $$$ to
them.

Learning more here, it seems pretty obvious to me that the only thing ECMA seems
to do is act as way to give the illusion of legitimacy to those that need
smoke-and-mirrors to appear open.

At one point, I thought it was impressive that MS took the steps to go to ECMA.
And, did Sun go that route for the Java language? I don't remember for sure.
Either way, after this fiasco, ECMA loses a lot of credibility in my eyes.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 04:43 AM EST
Better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow!

English translation:
We take pride in leaving wiggle room within our standards for proprietary extensions.

Pretty sad that ECMA has ISO fast track priviledges. Its pretty sad standards organisations have been subverted.
Does Linux need a its own standards organisation? Seems existing organizations except maybe w3c have difficulty understanding the true meaning of open.

jhhdk
- Linux/Ubuntu user since 20051206 2330CET

[ Reply to This | # ]

That makes me want to barf
Authored by: billyskank on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 04:43 AM EST
:(

---
It's not the software that's free; it's you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank you PJ for all the work you put into this
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 04:58 AM EST
You do seem to give the impression that you are surprised by what you have
found. I think that really you are only surprised to find exactly what you were
expecting.

Looking at the ECMA site is enough to see that it is an exclusive club that
exists solely to serve the interests of its members. There is nothing inherently
wrong in what they are doing. Its original members must have been extremely
frustrated by standards committees that met in plenary session every four years
to issue a different colour book when what they needed was a standard that they
could implement now.

What interest have Intel and Toshiba (the only two other voting members on the
technical committee) in M$ XML? The fully paid up voting member with a real
interest in this is IBM, but they are nowhere to be seen.

Yes, ECMA will just be rubber stamping the M$ standard; but all this means is
that if you want to interoperate with M$ XML then this standard is available to
you. This is actually a good thing because it means that M$ has to actually get
the thing down in writing and would be made to look a bit silly if it applies:
embrace, extend, extinguish to its own standard.

M$ has finally been forced to concede a little ground. They can no longer just
ignore the competition. All they can do now is to use their dominant market
position to force all users of competing products to use their format. They are
no longer in a position to be sure of having the best office suite, but they are
in a position to stop anyone producing anything better. They have the rest of
the market playing a perpetual game of catch-up. If OpenOffice.org invent some
wonderful new feature, they will not be able to include it if it cannot be saved
in M$ format.

This is all very clever of M$, but they have made one very big mistake. If they
had done all this when MA first started to take an interest in open standards,
they would have got away with it. Who, outside of a very exclusive circle, would
even have heard of ODF? As it is, by being arrogant bullies, they have put ODF
into the limelight and really done a Sony on themselves.

Alan(UK)

BTW I was thinking of protecting 'done a Sony on themselves' by patents and
trademarks so that I would become famous and rich. The problem is, if I kept it
to myself like that, I would never become famous. I will certainly never become
rich in any case.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Patent proposal
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 05:29 AM EST
All countries recognising software patents should enact a simple additional
piece of legislation.
"No claim of patent infringement shall be upheld against any user or
producer of implementations designed to meet a "standard" where the
patent holder, or any predecessor in interest of the patent holder has been
involved in the standard setting process and does not immediately repudiate the
standard as soon as it is published."
This would remove all arguments about RAND terms and compliant implementations,
further it is not something that any patent holder could possibly object to.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • A Patent proposal - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 08:23 AM EST
Rubber Stamp! What about ISO process?
Authored by: Felix_the_Mac on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 06:00 AM EST

It couldn't be any clearer:

The job of the TC is to:

"1. To Produce a formal Standard for office productivity documents which is
fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats (1)"

where:

"(1) to be submitted by Microsoft Corporation."


There is to be no technical input at all.

Whereas, as pointed out by others, the ODF specification was designed through
the committee to meet the needs of a wide range of organisations, using existing
standards wherever possible.

It looks like Ecma is a done deal and any effort to produce a standard that we
can have any faith in needs to concentrate on the ISO process.

Hell, with terms of reference like that it could be an Ecma standard by
Christmas eve!

So does anyone know anything about the ISO submission process. Is there any
opportunity for the needs of the users, open source community or industry to be
addressed there?


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: Lourens on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 06:05 AM EST

"5. Enable standard transformations using W3C XSLT (or similar techniques) to extract or repurpose information from the file format"

Does that mean that they will remove that secret binary string that represents the formatting? That would at least make it open from a technical (as opposed to legal) point of view.

On the other hand, there seems to be wiggle room here as well. They are not stating that all information may be extracted or repurposed, so they may as well be referring to the text only (as it currently stands).

---
Post licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Netherlands License.

[ Reply to This | # ]

RAND
Authored by: JRR on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 06:58 AM EST
Since ECMA are careful not to define RAND, surely it can and should be argued,
vociferously, that conditions which prevent standard-compliant software from
being distributed under a particular licence (eg. the GPL)
"Discriminate" against that licence, and therefore cannot be
"RAND".

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • RAND - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 07:50 AM EST
  • An important argument - Authored by: rdc3 on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:25 PM EST
  • RAND - Authored by: PJ on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 04:28 PM EST
The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 07:55 AM EST
Once again we see microsoft just making a joke out of everybody else in the
industry - especially the customers.

they also made a joke out of the judicial system too.
only microsoft can get away with telling a judge the new guy did it when they
recently told mp3 manufacturers that they could only use their codecs.

this is nothing but microsoft buying people to make their own standards and
anybody who thinks it isn't better wake up and smell the coffee.

[ Reply to This | # ]

ECMA's credibility at stake
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 08:37 AM EST

Well, I guess it depends on how much ECMA values its own credibility -- or
whether it will go the way of the EU commissioners and the Boston Globe.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Open Office" and "Office Open XML"
Authored by: seraph_jeffery on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 08:43 AM EST
I feel strongly that SUN (in the spirit of how Microsoft would do it) make
Microsoft come up with a name that is less "like" the name "Open
Office." This quite easily could confuse many people, and lead some to
falsely believe that MS Office Open XML is what is implemented in the PRODUCT
"Open Office." I can imagine typographical transpositions in
documents leading to great confusion.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm a simple guy
Authored by: ThatBobGuy on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 09:04 AM EST
This site is great for me in that I can look into details I doubt I would
normally have access to. I'm extremely grateful that smarter people than me are
working on this, but to me it comes down to something very simple. My IQ
doesn't really break the bank so I try to put this in my own perspective.

Imagine if Ford and Chevy had proprietary gas requirements.
"Yeah, I'm almost out of fuel, need to stop at the Ford dealership to fill
up." The staggering costs of refineries and distribution are mind blowing.

There is your open standard (oasis) delima.

Now imagine that Ford makes 99% (they won) of all cars running in America.
Tomorrow they decide that instead of $2.25/Gallon it should be $5.00/Gallon.
Nothing you can do about it (well you can go to court for 25 years or buy a
chevy).
There is your anti-trust delima.

Since 99% of all cars are Fords, that *makes* it a standard so the governement
owns all Fords.
There is your MS XML delima.

"Ford annouced that it will no longer support, nor allows support for cars
older then 2 years or 100,000 miles."
There is your license agreement delima.

(I drive a Saturn)

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ: from isopatentpolicy, ground for dismissal ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 09:48 AM EST
From this Link

"
2 .14 Reference to patented items
2.14.1 If, in exceptional situations, technical reasons justify such a step, there is no objection in principle to preparing an International Standard in terms which include the use of items covered by patent rights – defined as patents, utility models and other statutory rights based on inventions, including any published applications for any of the foregoing – even if the terms of the standard are such that there are no alternative means of compliance.
"

Now why is this ms-xml in an execptional situation that this needs to be an iso standard?
And how can there be a justification on technical grounds?
I mean there is already an equivalent standard called ODF IIRC.

[ Reply to This | # ]

So, which is it...?
Authored by: MacsEntropy on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 10:13 AM EST
...interoperable, or conformant to MS XML?

The whole reason this farce is going on is that genuine interoperability would be lethal to Microsoft's business model.

Even if you were inclined to disbelieve this, their arguments in the Massachusetts debacle - not to mention their behavior - justify a strong suspicion of it, and the well-known fact that they were members of the OASIS ODF TC but made no effort either to help it accommodate their legacy formats, to steer it to their preferences or to conform their own work to it makes their motives crystal-clear.

Do I state the obvious when I posit that their only plausible motive here is grandstanding in hope of confusing the marketplace, with the clear intent of nursing their faltering monopoly along until the next round of lock-in, which solves the recurring reverse-engineering problem by patent protection?

It has become painfully clear that open-source developers are fully able to reverse-engineer their secret formats well enough and quickly enough to ruin their advantage, even when they change them with every new release. Patent protection solves that problem by making it illegal to implement the formats regardless of how you discover them.

Either the patent encumbrance of the formats or the vendor's long and consistent history of abuse would alone be enough to rule out accepting them; together they make it suicidally stupid.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Joint Stewardship
Authored by: overshoot on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 11:19 AM EST
So,to be perfectly clear:
The TC's marching orders are to put a ribbon around whatever Microsoft gives them, even if it's totally broken.

That's as may be but I think it's pretty clear that it also totally negates the "peer review" and "joint stewardship" elements of the Massachusetts IT Open Scale.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Seems to me ECMA's got it backwards...
Authored by: archanoid on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 11:25 AM EST
Better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow!
ODF is the good standard today. It's here now. It's good. Microsoft's Office XML is not here today but will be perfect (for Microsoft anyway). They're deliberately going against their the "good standard today" in favor of the "perfect one tomorrow" to benefit Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Process is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
Authored by: artp on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 11:49 AM EST
From Andy Updegrove's blog:
>I would submit that such a request is not consistent with the role of a
standards body, but rather the diversion of an organization created to serve the
needs of an industry to the unique demands of a single vendor.

To which I say: Exactly!

We're talking about a sow's ear here, not a silk purse. Ecma International's
purpose is to further the economic advantage of their members. It's not
compatible with our aims, but it's true. Their purpose has apparently changed
from the days when I worked with their standards, and may have been subverted.

I see that Ecma International has acronymized their name. Back in the 1970's, it
was ECMA, the Electronics and Communications Manufacturers' Association. They
are not a standards body. They are a manufacturers' association who also
specifies standards to help expand the market for their members' products. A
manufacturers' association exists as a trade group to advance the market for
their members' products. They have no altruism whatsoever.

ECMA originally (from memory) specified standards for plug-compatible equipment.
Nobody could manufacture everything needed for a complete system, so they
specified interface standards.

From 1979 to 1982, I worked at a control systems equipment manufacturer. I was
not on any standards bodies, that was generally the work of the design
engineers. I did engineering support, and needed to be familiar with the various
standards that our equipment used.

There was a great difference in standards bodies. The ones that were
manufacturers associations were not nearly as useful as those that included
manufacturers and end users. The manufacturers' associations had no incentive to
tie themselves down to much. The bodies with end users had a great incentive to
provide enough information to make it work. Government or legislative
involvement made the standard even better. (Back then.)

Thus, an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Boiler Code was much
more specific than an AWWA (American Water Works Association) standard. ANSI
(American National Standards Institute that "filled in the cracks." I
can't imagine a standards universe without some governmental body filling that
role.

To return to Ecma Int'l., Their standards are one step above the manufacturer's
catalog. In fact, my employer in 1979-1982 had much more detailed catalogs than
any ECMA standard at the time.

If you'd like, I could research this some more to provide examples. I am curious
how Microsoft got on the Electronics and Communications Manufacturers
Association. Maybe on the basis of their mouse and keyboard products ? ECMA
didn't traditionally (from memory) get involved with software. Especially since
software at that level was paddle switch, paper tape or ROM based. Most of it
was discrete analog electronics.

Let me know if you'd like more depth in this. I have to run right now, and won't
be back online until late tonight.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Acronym - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:12 PM EST
The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: FrnchFrgg on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:06 PM EST
My 2 cents : They clearly say they won't endanger the compatibility with the
submitted draft to ensure that users won't have any problem to use their
existing files...
But there aren't any file in this format today ! The coverage of existing files
is a false reason not to modify the standard; whatever the format that comes out
of ECMA process, it will be a new format that none already has used, and towards
which conversions will need to be made.

Or perhaps Microsoft plans to submit exactly the 2003 shemas ?

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_FrnchFrgg_

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Remember Betamax
Authored by: kawabago on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:13 PM EST
Sony put their format out as an international standard but it was patent
encumbered and the license more expensive than the competing VHS format.
Manufacturers flocked to the cheaper format, VHS, and buried Sony's Betamax
format with overwhelming volume.

Betamax was a technically better format but lost in the market because commodity
manufacturers choose the cheapest to implement standard. Betamax was buried
under the volume of VHS machines produced.

In the case of ODF vs MS Office XML, it is developers of new applications made
possible by the standard that will decide the victor in the marketplace.
Microsoft is already losing the developer wars, so the writing is on the wall
for MS Ajar Office XML. It will fail in the marketplace.



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TTFN

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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: John Hasler on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:25 PM EST
> Were Ecma to be based in the United States, I would not be
> surprised if accepting such a charter would result (if
> discovered by the IRS) to the loss of the standards
> developer's tax-exempt status. . . .

I doubt that ECMA would have any use for 501(c)3 status to begin with. It's not
the sort of organization that solicits charitable donations from the public.

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Licensed under the GNU General Public License

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RAND
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 12:55 PM EST
Is there any possibility of having the definition of RAND to determine that
licencing terms that prohibit use with the GPL are considered discriminatory?
This way, anywhere RAND is used, it has to be compatible with the GPL.

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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: markdj on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 02:01 PM EST

While I applaud your coverage of this subject and all that you do, the summary article you posted is incorrect. You ask "Do we need another standard for XML?" That question could indicate that you have a misunderstanding of the situation and points the reader in the wrong direction. Microsoft is NOT trying to redefine XML. It has decided to make its Office document format a published standard and that format uses XML. XML itself already IS a standard.

Now, do we need another document standard (besides(ODF)? This is not a problem as long as there are readers for this format that don't require MS Office to be purchased, and MS isn't able to withdraw the format from being an open standard in the future.

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David J. Marks

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MS and ECMA how it worked for .NET
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 04:43 PM EST


Normally, ECMA takes a draft from a company like Microsoft, modifies it to their
liking, and then votes on it.
If the vote is on Thursday, ECMA has either already made changes, or they
decided that since the “standard” is already out in the field (in large numbers)
they will just rubber stamp it.

This is how it worked for the .NET standard.
Microsoft submitted their version/draft to ECMA (ECMA always gives the
submitting organization the right to present the first draft). ECMA modified it,
and fast tracked it to a ECMA 1.0 Standard, and then passed it over to the ISO
committee who made their changes and created an ISO 1.0 standard. ECMA then
ratified the changes ISO made into an ECMA 1.1 standard so the two would match.
Microsoft then changed their software to match the final ECMA standard, this
happened over time, small changes were made as patches or service packs, some
waited until the next version, a few still have not been made.
Microsoft then submitted their version 2.0, and the process started over.

It looks like the current Microsoft version will just be rubberstamped (given
the Thursday vote). For the next version, Microsoft will submit a draft; ECMA
will make changes, and Microsoft will modify their software to match the
standard. This will happen during the beta period of the next release of Office,
so the final RTM version will include any changes ECMA makes.

As far as I can tell from watching the Mono project, when there was a
discrepancy found between the Microsoft version, and the ECMA version,
reasonable efforts were made to reconcile the difference. Sometimes the standard
changed, some times the Microsoft version changed.

RAND

ECMA is flexible about what it reasonable. If the “price” is not outrageous,
they are OK with it. I do not think something like each end user has to apply
for a license would be acceptable.
There is no flexibility in the Non-discriminatory; the deal offered to anyone,
must offered to everyone. No co-marketing, co-branding, or volume discounts.

Microsoft offered to have the ECMA standard be reality free, but ECMA refused,
because it would have required them to modify their standard contract. But once
they made a deal with HP to let HP use it from free, my understanding is that
everyone could use it for free.

There have been no problems with what Microsoft released to ECMA for .NET; The
issues have come from parts of .NET (System.Windows.Forms, System.Data) that
were not part of the ECMA standard. Still Microsoft has not taken any action
against anyone implementing those.
Note that DotGNU is a GPL version of .NET. they were fine with the ECMA
standard.

Since the ECMA standard of OXML covers the format, not the software that access
it, I don’t see how it would conflict with the GPL.

Dennis


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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 05:20 PM EST
> is there a need for another standard, since the ODF standard is already
under way as a PAS submission to ISO JTC1?

The funny thing is, ECMA dishes things out a lot faster than ISO, so "Open
XML" is likely to become an "official standard" before ODF.
At which point, it will be tempting for pro-MS folks to ask why ODF is needed
when there is already an existing ECMA standard.

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Rubber Stamp! What about ISO process?
Authored by: Felix_the_Mac on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 07:20 PM EST
It couldn't be any clearer:

The job of the TC is to:

"1. To Produce a formal Standard for office productivity documents which is
fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats (1)"

where:

"(1) to be submitted by Microsoft Corporation."


There is to be no technical input at all.

Ho ho ho, with terms of reference like that it could be an Ecma standard by
Christmas eve!

Whereas, as pointed out by others, the ODF specification was designed through
the committee to meet the needs of a wide range of organisations, using existing
standards wherever possible.

It looks like Ecma is a done deal and any effort to produce a standard that we
can have any faith in needs to concentrate on the ISO process.

So does anyone know anything about the ISO submission process. Is there any
opportunity for the needs of the users, open source community or industry to be
addressed there?

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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Thursday, December 08 2005 @ 08:41 AM EST

I liked this bit from the introduction

2. Document all the options, properties, formatting, layout and other information of the existing Microsoft Office document base using the W3C XML 1.0 language

Does this meen that OOo will finaly be able to get their hands on Microsofts Office file formats :)

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The Terms of Reference for Ms' Office Open XML
Authored by: wvhillbilly on Thursday, December 08 2005 @ 02:58 PM EST
I also researched the process, and I'll explain it, but to give you the theme, their motto is "better a good standard today than a perfect one tomorrow."
They actually use this as a motto? If so this shows me how much they care about quality standards. And if they're just going to rubberstamp every half baked, weasel worded, patent encumbered thing that comes along, my inclination would be to treat whatever comes out of there like it was infected with the bubonic plague.

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What goes around comes around, and the longer it goes the bigger it grows.

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