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Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process
Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 09:48 AM EST

Both Computerworld and the Standards Blog report that ECMA answered the objections that several ISO members had against fast-tracking the ECMA 376 standard. Groklaw has its own copy of ECMA answers to objections (pdf). ComputerWorld:
Microsoft Corp.’s Open XML file format cleared a small hurdle Wednesday, after documents released by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) showed fewer countries harboring strong objections than had been expected.

But the number of countries with reservations about Open XML in its current form remains large enough that the format might not be approved by ISO if it were put to a vote today....All eleven countries expressing negative opinions sit on ISO’s 30-member JTC-1 Committee on Information Technology....

It's unclear what happens next....According to sources familiar with the process, Ecma can either officially submit the Open XML proposal to ISO as-is hoping it can sway voters in 5 months, or it can attempt to address concerns by making changes to its proposal.

What really triggered me to write this article was:

Netherlands (brief response): "The Netherlands Standardization Institute is changing its reaction on [OOXML] [from? This is not indicated]. The Netherlands Standardization Institute votes "abstain."
[Updated 3/2/07: I have heard from multiple sources that the Netherlands experience replicated the American National Body experience. See my comments and those of some visitors at the end of this blog entry for further details.]
What does this mean? Well, maybe this page (translation from a Groklaw contributor follows) from the Association française de normalisation shines more light on the issue: The national bodies require consensus on their ISO votes.

Note also that the Linguistic Society of America has posted its letter to ANSI, in which it explains deficiencies it sees in OOXML. -- MathFox


Association française de normalisation

Office productivity formats: ODF, Microsoft Office and International Standardization SHEET 8 | Standardization of office productivity formats: ODF, OOXML, and the ISO

ODF, Microsoft Office and International Standardization


An open format for electronic office documents, ODF, for Open Document Format, was adopted in 2006, following a proposal of the OASIS consortiumi, by the International Standards Organization (ISO)ii, of which AFNOR is the French member.

The openness of this format is made possible by the use of XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a W3C Recommandationiii which has been very widely used since its introduction in 1998. It is the first electronic document format which benefits from the time of its introduction with support in software products (, KOffice, StarOffice, online Google tools...) and a community of users.

Numerous public administrations (in North America, Latin America, but especially in Europe) have taken steps encouraging, and sometimes imposing, the use of the ODF format in administrations. In France, the General Reference for Interoperability (RGI)iv defined by the General Management of State Modernization recommends the use by administrations of this ODF format, cited under its International Standard ISO/CEI 26300 reference. Other, similar initiatives exist, notably, in Europe, Belgium and Denmark; across the Atlantic, the federal states of Massachussetts, Minnesota, and Texas have also taken similar measures.


The company Microsoft, which has dominated the market for office productivity software since the 1980s, has proposed an alternative format from its software suite Office 2007 to an association of industrial firms from the information technology sector, ECMA Internationalv. The latter endorsed it in 2006 as industrial standard ECMA 376. A specific workgroup headed by Microsoft was specially created within ECMA to coordinate this work (ECMA TC45).

An association originally created by European computer manufacturers (under the name European Computer Manufacturers Association), ECMA has established a longstanding relationship with the ISO which allows it to propose standards for international recognition.

ECMA therefor submitted this format to the ISO using the predefined procedure.

A virtuous circle?

We can highlight a circular effect around the ISO standard:

  • The recognition by the ISO of industrial standards simplifies their use in electronic administration (for example, the French RGI),
  • This deployment by large organizations encourages industrial firms to seek the status of ISO Standard for their specifications.


The procedure used in this particular casevi consists of two successive inquiries conducted with the national members of the ISO:

1. The first phase of the inquiry, 30 days long, was completed on Monday, February 5, 2007. This inquiry was meant to identify possible contradictions between the proposed text and existing international standards.

  • Concerning this first phase, AFNOR identified the possibility of contradictions between certain international standards and the ECMA document, following discussions in the relevant committee.
  • 20 countries in total expressed themselves on this question and submitted comments. It should be noted that in the absence of consensus, the USA (represented by ANSI - the American National Standards Institute) did not wish to make any comments.
  • This will result in further examination and appropriate responses from ECMA, whose response is awaited by February 28th. The ISO will then determine the calendar of the second phase.
2. The second phase is an inquiry of 5 months on the opportunity to give this document the status of ISO Standard. The member countries of the ISO must then determine when the time comes between the following options:
  • approval,
  • rejection duly justified,
  • abstention, notably in the hypothesis that the relevant committee cannot come to a decision by consensus.
In such a case, to prepare its position, AFNOR will submit the ISO proposal to a national probationary inquiry of 2 months, published in the Journal Officiel and open to all, the results of which will be thoroughly scrutinized by the relevant committee.

The ISO's decision will then be taken with the approval of at least 2/3 of the countries and the rejection of fewer than 1/4 of the countries.


The relevant committee put in place by AFNOR is a coordination group entitled "Information Technology General Commission".

This committee is an open structure which includes, on a voluntary basis, information technology firms, telecom operators, specialized services companies, public administration representatives, user groups.

Two government representatives in particular (Ministry of the Economy/General Management of State Modernization/Department of Development of Electronic Administration and Ministry of National Education) participated in the meeting which drafted the comments for the first phase.

Other concerned parties may be invited. AFNOR has notably a rule that any concerned party having emitted observations during the probationary phase of the inquiry be invited to defend their observation.

Taking into account the great interest shown by a number of actors on the subject of standardization, AFNOR is prepared to welcome into the relevant committee other representatives of the State or of communities having a direct interest in the subject upon request, in order to further improve the quality of the collective decision.

The Decision-Making Process Within The Committee

The decision will be made by consensus, in other words by the search for a point of view acceptable to the majority of represented sensibilities. There is no vote: it is therefore impossible for an actor or a category of actors to impose a point of view merely by having the greatest number of representatives. If the points of view remain irreconcilable, AFNOR will be led to abstain. However, as in general this is not in anyone's interest, it is rare to not find a common ground, even if this conclusion does not correspond to one or the other's original position.

Other source of information: PRIME (Privacy and Identity Management for Europe) Standardisation Workshop:



Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process | 122 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: feldegast on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 09:52 AM EST
So they can be fixed

My posts are ©2004-2007 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Views on some of the issues
Authored by: eamacnaghten on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 10:15 AM EST
I have written an article connected to this for Free Software Magazine. The article is here.

(PS - Please excuse the self-plug ...)

Web Sig: Eddy Currents

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: feldegast on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 10:21 AM EST
For everything off topic

My posts are ©2004-2007 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"ODF is genuinely open. There is no reason why Microsoft cannot use it"
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 11:03 AM EST
"ODF is genuinely open. There is no reason why Microsoft cannot use it" Click Here maintaining monopolistic practices and situations are usually considered illegal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The feeling I get...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 11:49 AM EST
These responses have a general feel of an old document once circulated on
Usenet: "if you don't like it, see fig. 1".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 12:01 PM EST
I've been trying to think how we as community of interested individuals can try
and help the "right" thing to happen now.

From what I have read I have formed the opinion that the right things to happen
* that OOXML and ODF are harmonized.
* that OOXML be rejected by ISO.
* MS integrate the harmonized standard in their products.

I write these 3 things in that order as I see that is the only order that will
have a causal effect. Let me explain.
I only see MS integrate a harmonized standard if OOXML is rejected by ISO.
Without a draft spec showing that OOXML and ODF can be harmonized I can see ISO
potentially failing to withold aproval for OOXML.

The the thing is I also don't see any harmonization work is likely to start
unless ISO rejects OOXML... stalemate!


Perhaps the community can start a project (on grokdoc) to define extentions to
ODF which would allow encoding of all the information that can be stored in

Now the tags like "autoSpaceLikeWord95" can obviously be encoded in
"config:config-item" tags. But we should write down a mapping.

For the bitmap stuff we should write down a better XML way of encoding that

For the WMF stuff we should define some kind of archive namespace/tag (ok so my
XML terminology is not great help me out here!) This was when a document is
first translated to ODF an implementation can convert the image to SVG (or
whatever the ODF image format is) but keep an archive version of the WMF. Some
kind of date stamp is added to the archive copy and the new conversion so that
if the doc is edited and the new conversion is edited then the archive copy can
be removed from the file.

With this kind of spec we can argue that no information is lost from the
original file. But of course as soon as the file is edited all bets are off!

Maybe a way to embed a PDF of the original could be defined. as lets face it
that is the way to preserve the original page layout. - The idea here is that
the original word-processor does the conversion and can store a rendered PDF
inside the ODF++ editable version. Again with a date stamp or something so that
as soon as the editable version is edited then the PDF implant is dropped.

Anyway those are my thoughts and this is too important for me to be silent...
even if people think my ideas are silly!

Anyone who thinks a grokdoc prject is a good idea please reply to this (keep
them all in one sub-tread to keep things tidy though!)

Alex Owen

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 12:29 PM EST
The Netherlands Standardization Institute is changing its reaction on [OOXML] [from? This is not indicated]. The Netherlands Standardization Institute votes "abstain.
IIRC, the original position was to vote against the fasttracking of OOXML. That is, until some very obscure stuff happened and the Institue suddenly altered it's position. Could it be that.... nah, it couldn't, could it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Consensus decision making
Authored by: rcweir on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 01:15 PM EST
I think the AFNOR note's description of consensus decision making in NB's is an
accurate description of this works on most NB's. Remember it was not an easy,
trivial or flippant act for a NB's to raise a contradiction. For most it
required lengthly discussions, several meetings and a super majority consensus.
For example, in Malaysia I believe it was 9 out of 10 committee members voting
for a contradiction submission, in the face of strong and persistent objections
from Microsoft. In countries where there was not a consensus, they abstained.

But abstention should not be read as consent. The same consensus rules that
caused NB's to abstain from contradictions will also cause some to abstain in
the 5-month ballot, if it comes to that. Only the NB's where there is a
consensus to vote "Yes" or "No" will vote. I believe in
this situation that the voting rules of JTC1, requiring approval by 2/3 of
voting P-Members, heavily favors the defeat of OOXML. To win, OOXML require
consensus approval by twice as many NB's as there is consensus disapproval.

That is quite a mountain to climb, and they are starting off on the wrong foot
by responding to the contradiction submissions with an arrogant document that
refuses to concede a single objection, refuses to budge an inch or to make any
changes. We should note that Ecma did not budge a bit in their response.

Historically such inflexibility has backfired. For example, just last year
Microsoft/Ecma Fast Tracked C++/CLI into JTC1/SC22 where it received two
contradiction submission (UK and Germany) complaining that the name of the
standard would cause confusion with another ISO standard, C++. Microsoft
refused to change the name and the specification went directly to the 5-month
period where it failed to get the required 2/3 vote of P-Members. Not
surprisingly, several of the "No" votes commented on how they were
astonished that their contradiction comments were ignored. Ecma ended up
withdrawing the standard from ISO altogether. The lesson is this: it really
doesn't pay to tick-off the people whose approval you eventually need.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Kazachstan etc
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 01:20 PM EST
I have a vague recollection of some new members of the jtc1 that were
"bought" in by MS.

Something like Kazachstan suddenly developing an interest in the ISO
standardization of OOXML.

Anyone can confirm this?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process
Authored by: iraskygazer on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 03:10 PM EST
<p>Again, Micro$oft has proceeded to corrupted the system by manipulating
the ECMA in order to go through the back door of the ISO. Notice that MS was
allowed to create their own technical commitee, TC45, under the auspices of ECMA
to push off OOXML as ECMA 376. What good are standards if one company, any
single company, is allowed to create a so called international standard with
allowance for licensed proprietary extensions that can shut out others from
repoducing documents with an equivalent fidelity?</p>
<p>MS Internet Explorer is one example of how Microsoft has managed to
corrupt an international standard through their proprietary extensions of HTML.
We are seeing the same thing with the introduction of OOXML. Isn't the 80%+
desktop market share for desktop computers enough for MS?</p>
<p>Once MS gets its way with the ISO then we'll see the next thing happen.
It is easy to notice that MS will create another sort of economic stream for
companies, including itself, that create document reformating software. Well
this looks like another business opportunity for those riding in the MS
bandwagon. It is so sad that the everyday user of MS software doesn't see that
the MS business model is actually costing them more than the cost for the
support for OSS.</p>

[ Reply to This | # ]

I still want to know...
Authored by: Altair_IV on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 05:06 PM EST

Just why did Microsoft/ECMA get three weeks to come up with responses to the objections before they were released to the public? Andy Updegrove pointed out in his blog that this was not SOP.

Ordinarily, contradictions would be posted at the JTC1 site relatively quickly. However, in this case I am told, Ecma will be given the opportunity to prepare responses before the contradictions will be posted, with a deadline of February 28. On or before that date, Ecma will respond with its proposed "resolution" for each contradiction. Once this has been received, JTC 1 will publish the response, accompanied by the text of the contradictions themselves, as submitted by the national bodies. At that point, a decision can be made on the next step.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has yet explained the reasoning behind this.

Monsters from the id!!
m(_ _)m

[ Reply to This | # ]

Feedback to USA Gov -> ANSI -> INCITS? Microsoft and the OOXML ISO standard process
Authored by: tce on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 05:30 PM EST
USA representation on this matter by INSITCS creates a concern with regard to
business "practicalities" possibly having weight over government,
national, and international citizen benefit.

Any notions on how the USA National leadership's attention is directed toward
ANSI to then direct their wise and thoughtful attention to the INCITS Exec

Did anyone contact ANSI, did you get any feedback?

(Reading the Response Doc, it seems appalling that, subject matter aside, our
"Professional" representatives could actually stomach saying NOTHING
about the quality of this "document" that was clearly pointed out by
their less shy peers in other countries. E.g.: sect 5.12 Kenya... I would love
to have been the author...see: 5.12.4, pg 44, line 12: "Here is where
things get weird....define "pct" as a fiftieth of a percent...")

Thanks USA/ANSI/INCITS exec Board, Yep, sign your name (and your Soul) to this
one, Oh Boy. ..Daddy, what fine work on the standards board did you do today?
Will it improve life the world over, for everyone?..Did you speak the Truth?

[ Reply to This | # ]

The main argument from ECMA...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 07:18 PM EST
seems to be that ODF doesn't address reproducing the format of the majority of
legacy office documents already in existance. Well, are these legacy office
documents stored in any kind of open standard to begin with? No, they are stored
in a proprietary format which has a dark cloud of proprietary IP hanging over
it. Why should an open standard address a legacy proprietary format at all? If
there are converters that can faithfully convert these legacy documents to a new
open format that will cause the newly saved versions to display and print out
the same as they did when using the legacy proprietary software that created
them, then they should be converted to the new open format and saved in that new
open format going forward, so the legacy proprietary software company no longer
holds any black cloud of IP over the end user's documents.

I know, I know, I'm preaching to the choir here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft playing the old DR-DOS - Wordperfect trick again
Authored by: kh on Sunday, March 04 2007 @ 03:52 AM EST
This is the link from Groklaw news picks: rce/?p=959

And original reference:

If this is true I don't understand why it isn't being discussed more and taken up with the supposed anti-trust people dealing with microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

    Hey, just a minute!
    Authored by: Ian Al on Sunday, March 04 2007 @ 04:52 AM EST
    There's something odd, here. Microsoft have been saying that they need to make
    OOXML backwards compatible with all their earlier file standards. Why? There is
    no reason why their new Office components cannot be made to open all the old
    file formats as well as the new one. In fact, there is every reason why they
    must be able to do that. They cannot complain that this would reveal the secret
    sauce in their old formats because the same thing can be achieved by opening an
    RTF file and saving it as an old format file.

    The same sort of argument applies to other software producers using the OOXML
    standard. There is no need to embed the old MS file format elements: just be
    able to open and save in those old MS formats as well as the new one.

    Apart from the 'minefield' effect of making all the obsolete stuff act as an
    impediment to anyone else implementing OOXML (which would make the 'standard' a
    ludicrous thing... does make the standard a ludicrous thing) it seems to offer
    no practical use or value to anyone including Microsoft.

    Have I missed something, here? Do Microsoft gain something by making OOXML a
    sort of convoluted, glorified wrapper for the old document elements that I am

    Does it lend itself to including old files when it comes to the MS metadata
    tools? If so, file conversion rather than file element inclusion would be more
    elegant, efficient, cheap and universal that this current stew.

    These appalling excuses for new file formats are and will be costing Microsoft
    hundreds of millions in development costs. There must be something more to it
    than just a sideswipe at Sun Office.

    Ian Al

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Open Office - Shame on You
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 04 2007 @ 04:38 PM EST
    ODF defines an element called “config-item” that enables applications to extend the format in application specific ways for storing certain settings.
    For example, OpenOffice stores in an ODF document the following information:
    <config : config-item config: name="UseFormerLineSpacing" config: type="boolean">false</config:config-item>
    This indicates that the OpenOffice application that created the ODF document was using a line-spacing behavior that was used in older versions of OpenOffice. The only difference between OpenXML and ODF is that OpenXML attempts to completely define the list of behaviors allowed (e.g., “useWord97LineBreakRules”) while still allowing for extensibility. ODF instead forces each application to create its own proprietary string e.g., “UseFormerLineSpacing”)
    If any Open Office programmer is reading this, please can you make your shameful proprietary hacks distinguishable - for example by using an OO prefix, e.g. OOUseFormerLineSpacing. Thanks - giafly.

    Of course some kind of namespace would be even better, but I still prefer the ODF approach.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    White paper for the CIO needed on why they must demand open ....Microsoft & OOXML ISO std prc..
    Authored by: tce on Sunday, March 04 2007 @ 05:45 PM EST explain in clear, terms of self-interest, why the CIO, as a customer,
    needs to get their MS rep in his or her office to explain to the Rep that the
    data belongs to the customer and the format of the data shall be an open
    standard, not an MS "standard".

    That all of the vendors, for everything, not just wordprocessing, shall use
    open, unencumbered, community based, FOSS compatible, standards for data.

    Starting Now.

    That it is worth it to the CIO in hard dollars to delay all current MS
    implementations (and anyone else too) of systems that exchange data with private
    formats to wait for systems exchange data using common standards.

    Microsoft *is* right: The market place must figure out what they want and
    DEMAND it.

    Things that come to mind:
    Office stuff: Word processing (with data tags), spreadsheets, presentations,


    Web based collaboration content (wiki, SharePoint, CRM, etc)

    Business Process Rules and descriptions (the processes)

    Business Process Task data (a running process)

    Version control documents


    Time to compete on a level playing field, not with lock-in. For citizens, its
    like finally moving to a single currency. The banks can still be banks, but for
    the good of all, they must no longer get to print their own currency.

    This is a citizen/nation issue, not a corporate issue.

    I need tools to explain this now, because too late is in 6 to 12 month.

    If it does not exist (what do IBM, SUN, etc say to the CIO when they come to
    call?) then I pledge time and effort for a Grokdoc project to bring it

    - Tom Evans

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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