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Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated 2Xs
Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 11:55 AM EDT

An attendee, Lee Welburn, at the meeting yesterday in Australia regarding whether or not to approve OOXML as an ISO standard has sent me his notes. I am publishing them as is, without any editing except for making urls clickable, so keep in mind that these are notes taken live.

I'd say things look grim in Australia, but it's not too late to express yourself to Australia Standards. The public is encouraged to continue to send comments until August 21.

Update: I have obtained the slides that IBM's Rob Weir prepared for the occasion, so you can follow along. Page 5 lists some technical issues that need a satisfying answer.

The main points I get from the notes are:

1. Australia will probably go Yes with Comments, which isn't the same as No with comments. No with comments is what you choose for "conditional approval", if you have problems with issues you think need to be resolved before it should be accepted. Yes with comments is, as one person told the room in Australia, Yes with a Christmas card.

2. Australia Standards is still asking for comments from the public until August 21st, so it's not too late to express yourself if you wish to.

3. Microsoft has a well-organized PR push at these events, with the ever-present Rick Jelliffe and in this case a representative from CompTIA claiming its members want a Yes vote, which will not surprise you. But in this case, CompTIA apparently was called out by the IBM representative, who pointed out that IBM is a member of CompTIA and does *not* approve of OOXML. And if Jelliffe is going to be introduced an an "independent" expert, I suggest asking if he or his company receives money from Microsoft which is used to send him to all these OOXML meetings.

4. Google was there. Sun was not. Microsoft representatives claimed that Microsoft's patent pledge is as good as Sun's on ODF. I would disagree with that heartily, but no one was there to express disagreement from Sun.

5. There were empty seats. Where were you, for that matter? Remember that it's vital to make a record of all the tricks and weaves in this process.

6. Microsoft is pushing the idea that multiple standards are fine. They are not fine for anyone but Microsoft, who can afford whatever happens. But what about the disabled? Do applications now have to be done for both standards for them? Yes. What about Microsoft's competition? The issues are not limited to accessibility vendors and disabled users. All application vendors face similar issues. Who pays for all this extra work and effort? Not Microsoft, I'm sure. Do you see the anticompetitive effect here?

Adding support is a tremendous undertaking Look how long it is taking to get it added to the Mac Office, and they're a Microsoft partner. And adding support for OOXML does not make your product more competitive. It just restores a compatibility you already had, compatibility with Microsoft Office. So the effort spent to add OOXML support will come at the expense of effort that would have otherwise been spent developing new features or otherwise competing with Microsoft Office. The net effect is Microsoft will have the competition spending a couple of years taking a "time out" to restore the level of compatibility with Microsoft Office they already had with the binary formats. This retooling effort becomes a big expense on the competition just to maintain the status quo and gives them no net benefit in the end.

Jelliffe is said to have told the room that OOXML will be the de facto standard no matter what anyone says or does. See, that is precisely the problem. Monopolies do what they do, but should standards be a monopoly enabler? We're not talking standards on DVDs now. We're talking about documents, an item that everyone in the world uses and one that has to be interoperable no matter what operating system you use if there is to be competition in the marketplace. It has to be as easy as sending each other email. We can do that no matter what operating system we use. With documents, it has to be even better, so no features are dropped or distorted. Unless you *want* only one company controlling the world's communications and owning your documents. Is that desirable? I see why Microsoft would want that, but why would you? The end result of two standards in this fact pattern as I see it is that true interoperability will be impossible for anyone who does not use Microsoft products.

7. This was yet another meeting on this issue opened with comments that sound very weird to me. In this case, the room was told that the meeting wasn't for the purpose of discussing technical issues. The technical shortcomings of this proposed standard are the main reason not to vote for it. So who writes the opening speeches, one has to ask?

That's the bottom line to me, actually, that Microsoft refuses to join with ODF and make something the whole world can use to really interoperate; instead it wishes to push its own standard out there to try to destroy ODF. That, to me, is saying that Microsoft doesn't wish to be interoperable. It wishes to own the market. Nothing new there, but since all its PR recently has been about interoperability, I wanted to point out the truth as I see it. Oh, and yesterday at LinuxWorld, Microsoft said no virtualization on Linux of XP or Vista:

Microsoft will not allow Windows Vista or Windows XP to be virtualized on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.

Update 2: The story has changed, and the headline now reads Microsoft Has No Plans to Optimize Windows for Virtualization on Linux:

Microsoft is not working on optimizing the virtualization of Windows Vista or Windows XP on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.

While Microsoft does provide customers with licenses to run the two Windows operating systems in a virtual machine regardless of the underlying host operating system, including Linux and the Mac OS, its technical efforts around Windows and Linux interoperability on the desktop are primarily focused on .Net and Java interoperability, he said in an address titled "Linux and Windows Interoperability: On the Metal and on the Wire."

"What we have heard predominantly from customers is that they want to be able to mix and match their data center applications, but we haven't seen significant demand for Linux applications on the desktop or for desktop virtualization on top of Linux," Ramji said.

Microsoft's customers have evidently become confused, then, or have lost their craving for virtualization since Novell and Microsoft entered into their agreement back in November. Either that or it's only in the server space that they care about virtualization. May I please direct you to this article about Novell's SEC filing, which includes this as one announced goal of the two companies' technical collaboration:

* Novell and Microsoft will develop technologies to optimize SLES and Windows running as guests on each other's operating systems.

Here's the 8K so you can verify that is indeed what the technical collaboration agreement says. You can read the joint press release here, which also included a paragraph about virtualization:

“As a result of this collaboration, customers will now be able to run virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux,” said Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell. “Customers continually ask us how they can consolidate servers with multiple operating systems through virtualization. By working together, Novell and Microsoft enable customers to choose the operating system that best fits their application and business needs.”

And they said something similar in their Joint Letter to the Open Source Community still on Novell's website:

# Virtualization

* Microsoft and Novell will collaborate in enhancing and developing the functionality required to efficiently virtualize Windows on Linux and Linux on Windows.

* Both will now be first class citizens in data centers, addressing the needs of mixed environments. They will both enjoy optimized, supported and tuned device drivers to maximize their potential.

So customers demanded virtualization and now they don't? Or Microsoft sees no demand for virtualization on the desktop? How is that even possible? Anyway, that's the latest on this story.[end update]

That is how much they *don't* want to be interoperable, so don't let anyone tell you how much they do or how important it is to reach out to Microsoft in a mixed environment. You can't be pals with sharks. Sharks have no friends, only feeding opportunities.

And that is why, in my view, ODF matters so much, if a person actually does care about interoperability and the right for people to get away from a single vendor monopoly if they so desire. The fact that Microsoft makes it impossible to interoperate 100% even with translators is the reason some will be determined to get away, frankly, and I believe many governmental entities around the world will feel that way. I feel that way. I don't want anyone forcing me to use Microsoft's software if I don't feel like it. And I am sure, 100% sure, that over time, enough people will fall in love with GNU/Linux systems, if only because they are becoming disgusted with Microsoft's overbearing tactics, and that they will choose to escape, no matter what the initial cost.

With that, here are his notes:


Standards Australia Forum on DIS 29500/OOXML, by Lee Welburn

Note the following is from notes and memory as it was impossible to write and keep up with all of it, recording was not allowed but SA have stated that some sort of transcript of the forum will be available in the future. I only a software engineer and am not a member of any standards setting organisation and any errors or omissions are my own.

It was not a full house they stated a maximum of 30 could attend and there was a few seats spare.

The forum was opened by Alistair Tegart of SA. There was a short discussion about the various ways SA can vote namely

• Approve
• Approve with comment
• Abstain
• Disapprove with comment

There was some discussion about the point of “Approve with comments” as there is no guarantee that the comments will be considered or implemented, there was a comment that it may as well be “Approve with Christmas card”. Alistar went on to say that the forum was not about debating technical aspects of OOXML which I thought was a little strange.

First speaker up was Rick Jelliffe(check spelling) Rick was introduced as a XML expert and his association with Microsoft was not mentioned he was put forward as a independent expert.

Rick briefly outlined his background and went to on say that OOXML had created quite a “bun fight” in SC34 . He restated some of what he has posted here about contradicting ISO standards like programming languages ISO POSIX and ISO Linux. Stating that he believes there is no issue with overlapping standards.

Also did not see the issue with OOXML becoming a standard as standards are voluntary and no one has to use them. The issue I think with this is that if it gets pushed by a desktop monopoly the likes of Microsoft and the standard is not up to scratch, it has the potential to distort the market. Rick later said that OOXML would become the "de-facto standard" anyhow, with or without ISO approval, and that ISO was threatened with irrelevance if it did not approve it.

Rick believes that OOXML has had more review than ODF and is more complete than ODF and that the first paragraph of the ODF spec and OOXML spec are very similar and it is in the second paragraph that they deviate.

Rick made it clear that OOXML is application specific in its features. Which I think fails the basic idea of an ISO standard, because Microsoft and its dependent partners hardly constitute a group in that sense. He also stated that in regard to standards "small is beautiful". How is 6000+ pages of poorly written specification small or beautiful?

Next up was Kaaren Koomen for IBM. Karen was there alone as Paul Robinson was unable to attend as he had a back injury that prevented him from attending. Kaaren played a slide show and audio prepared by Rob Weir.

Some highlights was a graph that shows that a average standard is 50 pages and takes two years but OOXML is 6000 pages and has taken less that a year. It reiterated the well known deficiencies of OOXML like the bit maps, the copy word 97 type behaviours etc. Also mentioned some features only support IE which is fine for MSDN but not for a ISO standard. Recommended SA vote No with comments and take out of fast track and maybe split into multiple parts.

Rick Jelliffe disputed the graph because ODF includes various other standards that each had their own process. Which I did not really get as it is a ratio so even if it was taken into consideration it would still be similar. ODF does use many other standards, instead of trying to undermine them by defining conflicting methods for the same purpose, which bloats OOXML. The forum was moved on because of time constraints.

Next was Microsoft. Greg Stone spoke for Microsoft there was also 2 other Microsoft staff there. Stated did not want to get into technical aspects, said that ODF and OOXML are not competing standards but fit for different purposes. A goal was for a clearer spec believe that trying to accommodate requests is why it has blown out from a initial size of 2000 pages to 6000 pages.

Talked a lot about legacy support and that is why the spec needs this and that, seemed to imply it allows support of the old binary formats even though it does not describe them . Noticed they called it OpenXML the same as Rick Jelliffe did in his presentation. Microsoft mentioned Rick several times in his presentation.

Talked more about requirements to work with backend systems rather than document fidelity, also mentioned a Linux Java app that can use OOXML acting on the structured data. Believes requirements are different now than they were in the past years. Had a slide with many examples of support of OOXML including the ODF converters etc, did not explain how ODF converters can work when one of the reasons that they do not like ODF is that it has deficiencies that meant it is not suitable for Microsoft to use. Believe that any vendor can operate on a equal footing with OOXML. Talked about support from Apple IPhone (did not mention the issues they are having with OOXML support on OSX). Believes that Microsoft's Open Specification Promise is as good as Sun's patent promise.

CompTIA was represented by Danaka Bakailch and were pro OOXML mentioned they have 25000 corporate members and gave the impression that she was speaking on behalf of the member companies. Kaaren from IBM asked how this position was arrived at as IBM is a member and does not agree with that position(Sun is also a member), I don't believe CompTIA adequately explained how they arrived at this position. Claimed it was feedback from members but this was disputed.

James Dalziel spoke as a member of E-Learning Australian Standards Committee (IT19-1) stated that they want a no vote as they believe 2 ISO documents standards would not be good for students, James also stated he is a member of IT19 (Standardisation of practices relating to libraries, documentation and information centres, indexing and abstracting services, archives, information science and publishing, particularly to produce standards to address the use of computer applications in information and documentation) and said two of the members of this committee wanted it stated that they want a yes vote on OOXML. The stated position of IT19-1 was heavily debated and disagreed with by Rick Jelliffe and several other OOXML supporters debated on this point, the general argument was that even different implementations of a single standard may not guarantee fidelity between different documents. One of IT19-1 worries was student's been forced to buy Microsoft Office to submit assignments, once again the forum was moved on.

In open questions comments they tried to give whoever wanted to say something a opportunity but they did not want to get into technical details or back and forward discussions.

There was quite a few pro OOXML companies represented but most of their points were more to do with standards and/or XML in general, and were not OOXML specific, but were represented in that way. The focus was more that transactional systems could use a defined schema to extract data, they did not focus on document fidelity between applications. There was no real arguments for why it needed to be a ISO standard to achieve this or why it has to be fast tracked.

Archives Australia representative, (I think this was the organisation) stated that they worry about long term preservation of documents and were against OOXML becoming a ISO standard as it was not suitable in their opinion for long term document storage.

There was several people that spoke up against OOXML the fact it was been fast tracked,overly long did not reuse standards and was of poor quality were the recurring themes. The bit map issues, dates, impossible for anyone but Microsoft to implement, the problems with some of the mathematical functions showing a lack of technical review was also mentioned.

Google was represented by Lars Rasmussen and Georg Greve and they also spoke against OOXML becoming a ISO standard.

During discussions Microsoft's Greg Stone stated that he believed that Microsoft's Open Specification Promise was similar in wording to Sun's Patent promise and that it was at least as good as Sun's and that it is not ambiguous.

I asked Greg Stone about this and read out during the forum part of the promise namely “Microsoft Necessary Claims” are those claims of Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement only the required portions of the Covered Specification that are described in detail and not merely referenced in such Specification.”

After the forum Microsoft gave me a Document from Baker & McKenzie titled Standardisation and Licensing of Microsoft's Office Open XML Reference Schema dated June 2006 (here). They believe it should allay any fears about the Open Specification Promise.

At the end of the meeting Alistair stated that Standards Australia will accept comments unit the 21st of August but recommend they be submitted as soon as possible.

My gut feeling is that Standards Australia are leading to vote Yes with comments but this is just my opinion.


Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated 2Xs | 265 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: Erwan on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:03 PM EDT
If any...


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Off topic thread
Authored by: Erwan on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:05 PM EDT
There's always plenty...


[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks discussion here (n/t)
Authored by: Erwan on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:07 PM EDT


[ Reply to This | # ]

Report from Time to rename OOXML as MSXML
Authored by: bbaston on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:20 PM EDT
OOXML is more properly called MSXLM, no? Microsoft's XML.

No openness in it or its steamroller journey to "standard" status.

Perhaps, the real problem is our lay definition of "standard"?

imaybewrong, iamnotalawyertoo, inmyhumbleopinion, iamveryold

[ Reply to This | # ]

Speed of Standard Process
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:34 PM EDT

Every report I ever encountered on standards is that they take a long time, often years. Microsoft drops a 6000+ page standard off, and they get it approved in almost a year???

I just can't figure out how they are achieving such momentum behind their standard. Normally, vendors (like IBM) arguing against a standard slows things down considerably.

My other fear is: Can anyone understand 6000+ pages of a standard?
Is it even feasible to implement this standard?
Will MS Office 2010 implement this standard?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 12:55 PM EDT
Rick Jelliffe disputed the graph because ODF includes various other standards
that each had their own process.

Um, if it refers to other standards then those standards can be referred to.
Will anyone be able to run a copy of the Microsoft software, that is referred to
in OOXML, in 10 or 20 years, let alone 100?

Is referring to a Gregorian calender standard, with leap years not to be



Apologies for shouting.

[ Reply to This | # ]

No windows virtualization on Linux?
Authored by: rsmith on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 01:12 PM EDT
Even if they put that in the EULA, it won't fly everywhere.
Especially not in Europe.

XP installs fine on a Qemu VM. The XP EULA doesn't say that you can't run it on
a virtual machine.

Intellectual Property is an oxymoron.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hello, ISO? We're watching now, you know that?
Authored by: billyskank on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 02:07 PM EDT
We're seeing how things are done, and we won't forget.

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

[ Reply to This | # ]

Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated
Authored by: JamesK on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 02:52 PM EDT
"After the forum Microsoft gave me a Document from Baker & McKenzie
titled Standardisation and Licensing of Microsoft's Office Open XML Reference
Schema dated June 2006 (here). They believe it should allay any fears about the
Open Specification Promise."

I considered reading that, but then I decided I'd rather not lose my lunch.

Microsoft is obviously a cancer. Hopefully, enough people will realize that
fact and do something, before it becomes terminal.


[ Reply to This | # ]

And yet, you all buy XBOX and XBOX360
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 03:27 PM EDT
see, what a bunch of hypocrits you are.
you hate microsoft

yet you use windows. oh yes you do.

and you buy the xbox and xbox 360


if you hate microsoft, stop using their stuff, all of it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A short discussion about the various ways SA can vote namely:
Authored by: KW on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 03:48 PM EDT
...a short discussion about the various ways SA can vote namely

• Approve
• Approve with comment = YES, YES
• Abstain = I
don't mind = YES
• Disapprove with comment = yes (If I look the other way)

can't see any NO anywhere. It looks like the choices are:

- I agree to agree
- I disagree to disagree

Not much of a choice

[ Reply to This | # ]

Report from Australia - the bribery world wide continous
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 05:15 PM EDT
Oh my , what do yah say?
Greed works. One day they won't have htis much cash to sprout about until then
we shall continue to grow in numbers and they fewer and as people get more
educated online they too join the FOSS movement. ( note also the gpl windows
apps out there and just a slide for migration....always find something that has
both a linux and windows FOSS app. WHY? so when they finally get fed up with
said evil empire, the migration goes right darn smooth. )

[ Reply to This | # ]

US vote today/tomorrow
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 05:16 PM EDT

The US vote is today, by "letter ballot" at the executive committee level for INCITS. There's a board meeting tomorrow.

The vote is likely to be deadlocked. There are 18 members. To pass, a motion needs 2/3 of the voters and 1/2 of the members. (So, 12 votes to pass unless folks abstain, but at very least 9 votes.)

Microsoft, EMC, HP, Apple, Intel, and Lexmark will vote yes.

IBM, Adobe, & Oracle will vote no.

DoD, NIST, and DHS will probably all vote no. (I work for the CIO of one of these organizations, and I know 2 of the 3 positions for sure.)

EIA will probably vote no.

That leaves AIM Global, Farance, GS1 US, IEEE, and Sony.

How they vote will depend on how hard they got lobbied.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 05:24 PM EDT
is anybody keeping track of the votes - I have a feeling that a lot of no votes
we were counting on are abstaining and I am afraid they are getting yes votes
enough for it to pass.

just wondering

[ Reply to This | # ]

Silly Question
Authored by: sproggit on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 06:04 PM EDT
Does ISO have published policies?

Is there anything in their mandate which requires them to only approve standards
which are 100% documented and maintained by an independent organisation, outside
the control of a single vendor?

As a supporter and user of Free Software in a frighteningly Microsoft-dominated
world, I'm starting to empathise with those free thinkers and radicals who
formed underground communities in totalitarian states.

Though I hate to have to state this, I think it's time to move on from the ODF
debate. It's perfectly clear that MS are going to use their current tactics to
bludgeon any administration into doing things their way. This will continue,
with MS growing ever-more confident, until someone in a high and public position
is caught with their hand in the MS cookie-jar. Then, with luck, this house of
cards will crumble.

[ Reply to This | # ]

    Sun failed to rise
    Authored by: ozbird on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 06:24 PM EDT
    I would disagree with that heartily, but no one was there to express disagreement from Sun.

    That doesn't surprise me one bit. Our local Sun sales rep. in Oz had no hesitation pointing our how Sun and Microsoft are best buddies now, with their Gold Certification in the Microsoft Partner Program. I assume that means they're now certified to keep their mouth shut...

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated
    Authored by: bmw on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 06:53 PM EDT
    I have been able to submit comments, with a recommendation of NO for fast track approval, though The Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT). Reading the above article is a little disheartening, but at least now the Higher Education sector in Australia is well aware of the issues.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    for maximum doubletalk, rick jelliffe is your man
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 07:00 PM EDT
    Anytime you feel a deficit of doubletalk and obscure-speak, visit mr jelliffe's blog at / He claims to be an expert on standards and XML, but if he is he's hiding it well. Some months ago Microsoft offered to pay him to correct the "misconceptions and errors" in Wikipedia about OOXML. Wikipedia even has an article with good links about it, liffe.

    I'm just a dumb old system administrator, but I figure when someone who is supposed to be smart can't explain things in concise, clear language, they're either not that smart, or they're being obscure on purpose.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Desperation or armtwisting?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 07:00 PM EDT
    Rick later said that OOXML would become the "de-facto standard" anyhow, with or without ISO approval, and that ISO was threatened with irrelevance if it did not approve it.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A second report from Australia - the OOXML Forum
    Authored by: gfim on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 07:51 PM EDT
    Thanks for writing it up Lee. I was there too and it was me who made the "Yes with a Christmas Card" comment. You've done a very good job of accurate reporting. That saves me the job of typing up my notes!

    Unfortunately, I agree that SA will probably vote to "Approve with comments". It was pretty obvious from the way things were run that that was the way they are leaning. Whenever anything controversial came up, they quickly whitewashed over any objections and lead the discussion to more MS friendly ground.

    I, too, was disappointed that Sun were not represented. And I thought that Rob Weir's podcast was a pretty poor way of presenting the arguments relative to Microsoft's live one. But I can understand that Rob can't be everywhere. Google, on the other hand, sent Georg Greve to Australia specifically for the event (he flew in from Switzerland the day before). So, if they can, I think others could have made the effort too.

    Rick Jelliffe tried very hard to appear unbiased. However, it was pretty obvious he had all the answers to the objections down pat. He did raise some valid points but his comments were always very MS friendly. I imagine his arm is sore today from having it raised so often to refute objections. For those that don't remember, Rick was the centre of the "cash for Wikipedia 'corrections'" controversy of earlier this year. See here for more details. In that blog discussion, he also tries to give the appearance of being unbiased while only ever leaning in the MS direction.

    A number of the speakers mentioned that they looked forward to ECMA-376 becoming an ISO standard so that they could use it in their commerce transactions. For instance, one speaker mentioned customs handling (import/export). I can see why they would love structured documents that can contain metadata that can be automatically processed by their back ends but still be human readable. However, it seemed that they had said to themselves: we need this capability, MS does provide the capability but isn't a standard, therefore make MS a standard. They had not considered that there was already an alternative that was a standard. When I tried to ask why ODF was insufficient for this task, I was ignored. Another lady there (Janet?) said something similar but she was ignored too.

    One thing that Lee's report missed was a discussion about the IP rights in implementing an ISO standard. Greg Stone (MS) tried to assure everybody that between their OSP, covenant not to sue, and RAND licensing, there were no problems. Rick Jelliffe piped up saying that part of handing over control of the standard to ISO was to essentially give up any patent rights in implementing the standard. One of the SA people (Max?) corrected that by saying that there was no such requirement in ISO. So despite all the assurances, I am still very leery of IP rights. As Lee mentioned, Greg Stone stressed that the MS IP promises were almost the same as Sun's in ODF. However, as we all know, in legal terms "almost" can make a very big practical difference.

    I also raised the point that the letter that SA sent back in February about the fast-tracking of MSOOXML says "Australia proposes that this document be referred back for discussion within SC34 before it goes to DIS ballot, given the many significant issues that need to be clarified". I can't see how any of these issues have been resolved since then. They may have been "clarified" by explanations from ECMA, but they have not been resolved. So I don't understand how SA can have changed its position. They say they these issues were not theirs - they were raised by contributors (i.e. me and others). However the consensus was reached by them - hence "Australia proposes...".

    Another point I raised was the ECMA response to the objections about undocumented tags in MSOOXML (the infamous autoSpaceLikeWord95 et al). ECMA said (see page 15 of the above link) "If, however, it is decided that more documentation should be provided on the elements in question, or if the elements should be removed from the standard, that is a more appropriate matter for the 5-month ballot, and is not, in fact, a contradiction." Well we're now in the 5 month ballot period. The ISO submission cannot be changed at this stage (if changes are required, it must be rejected at this iteration, fixed, and re-submitted). So the only way these objections can be resolved at this point is to have the objectors withdraw them. I am certainly not withdrawing mine (not that I have any direct say in the matter)!

    So, overall, I was disappointed with the results of the day. I don't know the make up of the SA board that will actually make the vote. However, I can see that is unlikely to vote the way I hoped. I strongly encourage all Australians to write to Standards Australia by August 21 and suggest that they vote "No with comments".


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How long will people put up with Microsoft?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 09:25 PM EDT
    I keep wondering why we care about interoperability. Microsoft
    wants no interoperability at all. I think Linux should oblige.

    Wall Street is already heavily Linux. The courts no longer accept
    Microsoft Word documents, it seems, and use only PDF. The U.S.
    military (and I suspect, other countries' militaries, too) is heavily
    into Linux. We're already moving away from Windows.

    So, OOXML becomes a standard. The question then becomes,
    who's going to use it? Free XML (I prefer to call it that) is already
    a standard, so if someone is bound to using ISO standards, free
    XML is already a valid choice.

    Windows is becoming more complex all the time, harder to use.
    But companies want their software to become simpler, not more
    complex. And now Vista is going to come with adware and
    probably spyware.

    How much longer are people going to put up with all this?

    Linux just needs to keep getting better, so that more people will
    freely choose it, no matter what the standards are.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Empty seats? Where was the meeting?
    Authored by: leopardi on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 10:15 PM EDT

    Neither attendee mentioned the location and time of the meeting. Was it in Canberra? Then maybe I could have attended if I knew it was on. Where are these Standards Australia meetings notified? On their web site, or is there a mailing list somewhere?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Microsoft craves interoperability:
    Authored by: grundy on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 10:33 PM EDT
    Their knife with your back.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    My Comment sent to SA
    Authored by: stomfi on Thursday, August 09 2007 @ 11:39 PM EDT
    It has been publicly stated by Microsoft that they could easily use ODF, but for
    commercial vendor lock in or competitor lock out reasons they prefer their own
    standard be accepted at International level.

    By their own admission this is definitely not an open standard, but one designed
    to extend the commercial life of their office products.

    If Standards Australia and ISO ratify OOXML as an open standard, in addition to
    ODF, they will be doing themselves a disfavour, as they will be seen as biased
    towards the dominant monopoly and no longer relevant and unbiased for single
    purpose open standards. Their position will have been compromised, and they
    could be seen as corruptible. This is not a good outcome except for Microsoft
    and other industry players who would like to sideline their competition in this

    The world only requires one standard for document interoperability formats, and
    if the standards bodies decide that OOXML is more applicable and open than ODF,
    they must withdraw ODF, and ensure OOXML can be freely used in place of ODF.

    Standards Australia and ISO need to remain unbiased and having only one open
    standard for document interoperability is the only way they can do this,
    otherwise International open standards will be seen as irrelevant and a plethora
    of non compatible industry standards will once again cover the world.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Standards Australia - why exepct anything different?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 10 2007 @ 12:09 AM EDT
    Perhaps I've become cynical over the years, but I would expect nothing different from Standards Auatralia.

    A few years ago, the NSW Government introduced legislation which requires all companion animals (effectively dogs and cats) to be microchipped and registered. Part of the grand scheme was for veterinarians and other registered microchippers to log on to their web site
    Companion Animals Register - Authorised User Login>
    to record details of the animal which has been microchipped.
    As you will no doubt note, this is rather "interesting" if you are using anything other than IE on Windows. It used to lock older versions of mozilla, so be careful

    Who developed and maintains this site?
    Why, none other than Standards Australia, as can be seen in this google auatralia search>

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Standards Council of Canada plans?
    Authored by: Rudisaurus on Friday, August 10 2007 @ 01:14 PM EDT
    I read the public input on the forum that the Standards Council of Canada set up for that purpose (here -- deadline for submissions was July 5, 2007) but couldn't find any reference to a discussion meeting like that held by SA under discussion here or to a ratification vote.

    Anyone else know anything more about the SCC process?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Updated 2Xs
    Authored by: Rick_Jelliffe on Friday, August 10 2007 @ 01:37 PM EDT
    "And if Jelliffe is going to be introduced an an "independent"
    expert, I suggest asking if he or his company receives money from Microsoft
    which is used to send him to all these OOXML meetings."

    Err, I don't believe the word "independent" was ever mentioned.

    I was not paid by Microsoft to attend the Australian meeting (there are no more
    training sessions or re-education camps that I know of), I paid myself as a
    representative of my own software company which makes its money from XML test
    rig systems based on Open Source code I have maintained for the last 8 years
    (Schematron) that has nothing to do Microsoft, and as a consultant to the
    publishing industry on documents and standards, again nothing to do with

    If people are concerned about people being flown in by large companies, why does
    this also not apply to Georg Greve? Or should there be one set of rules for some
    people and a different set for others? That is no way to run a standards
    process. A postman has to deliver Micorsoft's letters even if he strongly
    objects to monopolies.

    I was invited to speak by Standards Australia. As an active participant in SC34
    on and off for more than a decade, and as the editor of an ISO standard, I have
    some knowledge in the area and no need to apologize for my opinions.

    Not that it will make any difference, but I have no objections to countries
    voting no with comments that are in the spirit of the particular goals of Open
    XML and I think it would be a good idea to split the spec up.

    My take on the meeting is at <a

    I don't believe I used the words "de facto standard", because I try to
    only use "standard" for ISO and national standards. However, my point
    was OOXML would not go away even if it was not standardized. The choice is
    between a world with MS engaging to whatever extent in the standards process,
    and MS free to do whatever it wants. People who are concerned that MS has no
    regulating or balancing forces at all should support OOXML becoming an ISO
    standard (with all the changes that are necessary when a big draft gets

    One the issue of me being biased towards MS: in the particular case of OOXML,
    they have swing around 180 degrees (due to whatever mix of anti-trust fears and
    commercial interest, I don't care) and they now are doing the things that I and
    others have been calling for for years: I am not so ornery as to change my
    long-standing (and documented, over the years) opinion just because MS has been
    forced down the correct path for however long. I think the ODF sideshow has
    blinded people about how much of a step forwards OOXML is, for the people who
    have to deal with Office files.

    I certainly did not say that "part of handing over control of the standard
    to ISO was to essentially give up any patent rights in implementing the
    standard." I said that participating in a standards process made it
    impossible to turn around and demand licenses and royalities: see the <a
    > material about the Dell case for what I was talking about.

    I also asked the Standards Australia people to provide more public information
    about Standards Australia's attitude, which is (IIRC from what they said in the
    meeting) that they accepted the JTC1 vetting process for standards, which in
    turn relies on the Ecma process.

    During the meeting someone claimed that Australia had claimed contradictions,
    and the Standards Australia representative was very quick to jump on that; it
    passed on the comments without necessarily endorsing them, but asked for more
    SC34 (i.e. the committee I work with) discussion. However, ISO said
    "no", that they were matters that didn't raise to the level of
    de-railing contradictions and so could be dealt with by the normal process of
    national review and balloting. ISO didn't blink.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    No demand for applications on Desktop Linux - Report from Australia - the OOXML Forum - Upd 2Xs
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 10 2007 @ 03:26 PM EDT
    Go to the desert. Dig a hole in the sand. Stick your head in it. You will
    then see no demand for applications on the desktop Linux.

    Hey guys, in case you've missed it, ***VISTA IS A LEMON***
    People *DON'T WANT IT*.

    Given a choice Vista or Ubuntu, I think you are going to be greatly shocked.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Multiple Standards
    Authored by: BassSinger on Saturday, August 11 2007 @ 05:23 PM EDT
    Microsoft has proposed and is supporting the concept of multiple standards.
    They say this would be good for the computer industry.

    We need to specify what a standard truly is, though. It is a definition that is
    clearly laid out and freely available to anyone who wishes to implement it
    without cost or permission required. Nothing less should be called a
    "standard", because it is not available to *everyone*, which is part
    of what a standard should be.

    Now let's examine two cases of multiple standards.

    1. Bolts & Nuts. Bolts and nuts come in two different paired standards.
    First, there is coarse and fine threads for thread-count per unit of measure.
    You can usually tell them apart visually if you use them regularly. Still,
    there are two standards, so you need to keep a supply of each to fix things.
    Second, Metric and English systems of measurement for diameter, and tool
    compatibility. Since the diameters of a 1/4" bolt and a 6mm bolt are very
    close (as are several other pairs) it is sometimes possible to begin the fitting
    of a nut from one onto the bolt of the other, but they cannot be used
    interchangeably. Thus, when working with nuts and bolts you usually need to
    keep separate supplies of each, as well as tools for each (wrenches for the bolt
    heads and nuts, drill bits for the holes they go through, etc.). To meet all
    possible needs, you must keep four ranges of nuts (metric fine, metric coarse,
    English fine and English coarse). Thus, in this case we have two standards
    increasing the overhead of working with both systems. Each of the pairs of
    standards for nuts and bolts adds overhead for everyone who has to perform
    repairs on both. While this is a pain, since both standards are clearly laid
    out and full specifications for each exist in such a manner that anyone can make
    a given bolt or nut and anyone else can use it for the intended purpose, anyone
    can work with those standards.

    2. Audio/Video computer formats. There are several standards for both audio and
    video in the computer world and they only serve to make the interchange of these
    formats more difficult. Primarily this stems from the "Intellectual
    Property" rights claimed by the inventors or owners of these
    "rights". They want to be paid for every use of that format. Thus,
    if you own a Windows PC it will play .wmv files easily, but you need to pick up
    some plug-ins or extra applications to play either .mov or .mp4. Sometimes a
    "security" patch from Microsoft disables the ability of these plug-ins
    to function correctly. Likewise, using a Macintosh will make reading and
    playing .mov files easy, playing .wmv is much more difficult. The bottom line
    is that while the formats are available to anyone, because of IP rights and
    charging for use thereof, it is virtually impossible to find an application that
    will play all of the movie formats you may find. This impacts the user more
    than anyone else. Friends send humorous videos and it is a coin flip whether
    you can view it or not. A political speech or important conference is recorded
    and put on the web and who knows if they can view it without trying. I've made
    video training tapes for the chorus with which I sing and posted them online; I
    must post them in .wmv, .mov & .mp4 to insure that every member of the
    chorus can read them. This is a case of non-functioning multiple standards.
    Because use of the format and/or specification is limited or financially
    encumbered, there are problems for anyone using these multiple

    Needless to say, a "standard" with a 6000+ page definition that refers
    to other documents and definitions only available with permission (and an NDA)
    and with proprietary extensions that are not available to everyone is *not* a
    standard. For these reasons, it is pretty obvious that OOXML is *not* a valid
    "standard", nor will it be good for the computing community.

    In A Chord,


    "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created
    them." -- Albert Einstein

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Multiple 'standards' accentuate errors in fidelity during conversion
    Authored by: iraskygazer on Sunday, August 12 2007 @ 09:23 AM EDT
    Simply look at the 2 standard measurement systems. The English and Metric
    measurement systems are constantly presenting issues in conversion fidelity.
    Simply put, the more you take one item, whether that item is tangible or an
    electronic document, and move it back and forth between the 2 'standards' the
    greater the error in fidelity will become.

    When standards acceptance bodies like the ISO suggest that 2 standards can
    co-exist we can't deny this reality. But we'd also be foolish to deny that the
    acceptance of 2 standards, to perform the same functions in life, ends up
    costing society more when attempting to deal with the conversion error. It would
    be ideal to have everybody agree to one standard and thus eliminate the fidelity
    issue but this has never been the concern for Microsoft and its partners. That
    is because all companies that sponsor this second standard within OOXML will
    also benefit financially from enabling the second standard so that they then can
    be directly involved in providing solutions for the 'fidelity conversion

    The whole idea that companies thrive on this self induced 'multiple standard'
    conversion error is sickening to me. But what can one person do to stop a
    multi-billion dollar a year company in their tracks? Not much when standards
    acceptance bodies like the ISO pander to the idea that multiple standards should
    be allowed simply because that is the way it's always been and should continue
    to be.

    MS could easily work with the ODF but they won't for no other reason than to
    pull more money into the company coffers. Oh, and don't forget about their
    coat-string pulling partners.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    My letter to Standards Australia
    Authored by: RTH on Wednesday, August 15 2007 @ 10:11 PM EDT
    Dear Dr Langdon,

    I downloaded your comments spreadsheet to make comments upon this proposal, and
    was, frankly, disgusted with what I found. By containing only fields for comment
    on specific sections and proposed modifications, the document begs the question
    as to whether this standard should be approved at all. Filling out such a form
    is completely unacceptable: individuals attempting to honestly study such a vast
    and turgid document have no hope of making good and sound critique prevail, when
    a company with billions of dollars at its disposal can devote any amount of
    staffing necessary to write waffle "rebuttals" to a hundred times more
    criticism than individuals can possibly compile with honesty and diligence.

    Quite clearly, the "fix is in", and approval of this travesty of a
    standard has obviously been purchased in Australia by Microsoft. Have you been
    watching other countries, for example Portugal, where IBM and other
    representatives were denied entry on the spurious grounds that there was not
    enough seating, and the meeting was stacked by Microsoft employees and partners?
    Has this happened in Australia?

    Surely you and everyone else involved must be aware of the huge mass of
    devastating criticism of this 6,000 page document that has been uncovered,
    despite the disgracefully short time scale that has been available for study of
    such a large document? Obviously, the only question we should now have about
    Standards Australia is whether the standard has been slipped in due to
    incompetence or corruption.

    If you go to
    you will find a simply scandalous number of mistakes and subterfuges in this
    fake standard. Merely listing the headings of their report makes for shocking
    reading. I include this for your convenience below.

    As a single example, what could possibly condemn a document as an international
    standard, if not the fact that it describes elements as working "the same
    as <some proprietary product by Microsoft for which no current licence can be
    purchased>"? Answer this single question before you vote in favour of
    this corrupt document in any shape or form.

    So please do not say that you were not warned about the contents of the
    document. This is a matter which, if pursued further by Standards Australia,
    raises real questions as to whether your body should lose official recognition
    for corruption and/or incompetence. It is a question that should be raised with
    every parliamentarian in the country.

    Like it or not, the capacity of the world to preserve and exchange information
    is damaged if there are two standards instead of one: and Microsoft refused to
    take part in developing the one, namely the concise and simple Open Document
    standard. Whatever you and your committee decide to do in the immediate future,
    we can all rest assured that the future - the distant future when today's
    documents are historical artefacts - will judge harshly all those who pursued
    the OOXML distraction.

    Ron House
    Lecturer in computer science,
    University of Southern Queensland.

    # 7 Ecma 376 contradicts numerous international standards

    * 7.1 The Gregorian Calendar
    * 7.2 ISO 8601 (Representation of dates and times)
    * 7.3 ISO 639 (Codes for the Representation of Names and Languages)
    * 7.4 ISO/IEC 8632 (Computer Graphics Metafile)
    * 7.5 ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument Format for Office Applications)
    * 7.6 W3C SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)
    * 7.7 W3C MathML (Mathematical Markup Language)
    * 7.8 ISO/IEC 10118-3, W3C XML-ENC, and other cryptographic hash standards
    * 7.9 W3C SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)

    # 8 Ecma 376 is immature and inconsistent

    * 8.1 Fabricates units of measurement
    * 8.2 Internal inconsistencies: the w:sz element
    * 8.3 Internal inconsistencies and omissions: ST_Border
    * 8.4 Confusing and inconsistent definitions of lengths of hexadecimal
    * 8.5 Unspecified terms: plain text
    * 8.6 Poor names and inconsistent naming conventions for elements and
    * 8.7 Inflexible notation for percentages
    * 8.8 Inappropriate non-document settings (application settings)
    * 8.9 Non-XML formatting codes
    * 8.10 Mismatched detailed description
    * 8.11 Inflexible numbering format
    * 8.12 Uses a Microsoft-specific namespace
    * 8.13 Emca 376 redefines standard color values
    * 8.14 Nonstandard, inflexible paper-size naming

    # 9 Ecma 376 uses bitmasks, inhibiting extensibility and use of standard XML

    * 9.1 Background: bitmasks
    * 9.2 Bitmasks in Ecma 376
    * 9.3 Bitmasks are not extensible
    * 9.4 Bitmasks cause significant validation problems
    * 9.5 Bitmasks defeat XSLT manipulation
    * 9.6 Bitmasks conflict with the Ecma TC45 charter

    # 10 Ecma 376 relies on undisclosed information

    * 10.1 Undisclosed proprietary specifications
    * 10.2 Cloning the behaviour of proprietary applications
    * 10.3 Relies on application-defined behaviors

    # 11 Ecma 376 cannot be adequately evaluated within the 30-day evaluation

    * 11.1 Ecma 376 has not met the stability requirement

    # 12 Ecma 376 cannot be reasonably implemented by other vendors

    * 12.1 Ecma 376 requires implementation of undisclosed specifications
    * 12.2 The "compatibility with legacy formats" can only be
    implemented by Microsoft
    * 12.3 Patent rights to implement the Ecma 376 specification have not been
    o 12.3.1 The Microsoft covenants not to sue grant no rights
    o 12.3.2 Microsoft licensing terms are ambiguous
    + The Microsoft Open Specification Promise is
    + The Microsoft Covenant Not to Sue is irrelevant and
    ambiguous in any event
    * 12.4 End-User License Agreements (EULAs) may forbid full implementation
    * 12.5 Ecma 376 is a vendor lock-in specification

    # 13 Ecma 376's full name, "Office Open XML", confuses the
    # 14 Ecma development process not open nor the result of industry consensus

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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