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Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 03:39 PM EST

Denmark has announced that open standards are going to be a requirement going forward there, starting in January, which is being hailed as a great step forward for openness. However, if you look closely, you will see that it is pretending that MSOOXML has already been approved as an open standard, equivalent to ODF. ODF is already an ISO approved standard. MSOOXML is not. It was specifically disapproved, and the next meeting will be in February, which is after the January starting date in Denmark. In short, Denmark simply doesn't care about ISO approval.

Denmark ranks the two as the same, and mandates a trial of both. I wonder what the outcome of that trial will be? Why even bother to pretend?

The announcement does say this:

The agreement secures that from 1 January 2008 all public authorities - national, regional and local - must use seven sets of open standards in all new IT solutions, unless it will significantly increase the costs of the project. Moreover, all authorities must be able to receive office documents in two open document standards - namely ODF and OOXML. This allows citizens to communicate with government using open standards.

But let's look at another detail:

During the test period, public authorities must be able to receive both standards, known as ODF and OOXML, and new procurements must be able to handle at least one of the two standards. The test period will be evaluated during the first half of 2009 by a third party in preparation for a new assessment by the Folketing.

In the autumn, the Science Minister will report the status of implementing the timetable to the Folketing's IT spokesmen, and at the same time it will be discussed what criteria are to be evaluated in 2009 in relation to document standards.

Ah! New procurements need to be able to handle at least one. Get it? MSOOXML is thus anointed as an "open standard" before ISO approval, and everyone can use only that. How does Microsoft do what it does? And why even bother to vote in February if ISO approval is not required before a government mandates use of an as-yet-unapproved "standard"?

The EU Commission's report, however, says that to qualify as an open standard the following must be true:

The openness of a standard implies that: * the standard must be fully documented and publicly available;
* the standard must be freely implementable without economic, political or legal constraints on its implementation and use, now or in the future; and
* the standard should be managed and maintained in an open forum via an open process (standardisation organisation).

I don't believe any of those three can be said to be true of MSOOXML, and in fact ISO National Bodies will not be allowed to even discuss the legal restraints at February's Ballot Resolution Meeting. See how the game is played? Standards are now a farce. Politicians anoint whatever they please, and technical experts are simply ignored. The technical experts at the various ISO National Bodies told us that MSOOXML should not be approved. But Denmark's politicians have deemed otherwise.

Update: Here's the latest from Leif Lodahl:

First it was strategical decision in Folketinget (the Danish parliament) in summer 2006. This summer 2007 the agreement between government and the Danish municipals was a fact. And now we are getting close to the operational level. It all should start on January 1th. 2008, where all Danish authorities must be able to receive both ODF and OOXML documents.

A few days ago the Danish IT- and Tele agency published a 'manual' for the authorities. I think the manual as it is leaves the spirit of B103 behind and leaves the authorities with a choice of 'make he easy choice' with no respect for the original purpose and spirit of the resolution.

The manual (in Danish) can be found here.


Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML | 167 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: red floyd on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:02 PM EST
In case PJ did the unthinkable and made a mistake :-)

Please put the correction in the title, e.g.:

Bad => Good

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off-Topic posts here
Authored by: red floyd on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:06 PM EST
For stuff that you think might be of general interest (or even if it isn't).

Just make sure it's not on topic!

Oh, and please follow the instructions in red, and use HTML mode, when posting

<a href="">link text</a>

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks discussions here
Authored by: red floyd on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:07 PM EST
For discussing the newspicks on the right hand side.

Please follow the instructions in red and use HTML mode for links.

Please put the title of the newspick into your title field.

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

So many years have passed ...
Authored by: Jude on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:17 PM EST
. .. and nothing has changed

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Authored by: driftwolf on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:24 PM EST
I'd pretend to be surprised, but I'm not. It just confirms what I've been saying
for a while: money invariably triumphs over ethics and quality. Since Microsoft
has a lot of money, politicians have no ethics anyway, and it's politicians who
invariably make the decisions, the fix was definitely in.

Best I can personally do is try to ignore it and try to continue to find work in
areas where Microsoft doesn't dominate. I'll also continue to educate people,
one by one, on the financial damage Microsoft does to companies. Difficult, but
not impossible.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Which report is right?
Authored by: Jaywalk on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:25 PM EST
The report you're quoting contradicts a more recent report that came up on Slashdot. According to Mac World, the mandate is to use ODF exclusively and OOXML is not an option. The Mac World article does say that Microsoft is fighting it tooth and nail, so maybe the waters are a bit muddied on the subject.

I did some looking around to see if I could find something more definitive. The closest I came was th is blog but it doesn't look like he's got a lot of good information either, unless you understand Dutch. So far, it all sounds pretty vague to me.

===== Murphy's Law is recursive. =====

[ Reply to This | # ]

Were I a trusting person...
Authored by: Tyro on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:37 PM EST
I could come up with a legitimate reason why a trial should include both MSOOXML
and ODF. Both are being considered for standards (ODF is a standard, MSOOXML
may be anointed one). The trial is to determine future acceptability, so it is
reasonable to test both potential formats.

OTOH, I'm not that trusting, and I strongly suspect that that's a much to
optimistic interpretation. But as I don't read Danish, I can't do much more
than suspect. This is the kind of thing that might easily be muddled in a

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not so fast
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:45 PM EST
I think PJ is reading too much into this equality of the standards.
Denmark conducts a *trial* of the two standards (and in this sense they are
equal), compiles data on the products in daily use, and publishes a rapport of
their findings at the end of the trial period.
We should be happy that MSOOXML is put through it's paces in real-life
situation. I am sure the conclusion will be that the open formats are better
suited and will be preferred. When MS cries foul (like in Holland), Denmark can
in honesty say they tried MS' offering but found it lacking in certain key
And don't think that other EU countries are not paying attention or that MS' ISO
shenanigans have gone unnoticed.
Microsoft made the bed; now they must lie in it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: mjr on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:49 PM EST
Even if MSOOXML gets the ISO stamp, it doesn't make it "open", merely
a standard. On the "open" front it's pretty much pretense all the way.
Not that ISO even pretends to usually care if a standard is open or not, even if
in this case even they seem to be party to the shell game.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Authored by: tce on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 04:55 PM EST standards in all new IT solutions, unless it will significantly increase
the costs of the project.
- new Office, not really ooxml: $$$
- new Free

Moreover, all authorities must be able to receive office documents in two open
document standards - namely ODF and OOXML. This allows citizens to communicate
with government using open standards.
- rx ODF with True
- rx OOXML with any version of MSOFFice: false

The openness of a standard implies that:
* the standard must be fully documented and publicly available;
- ODF: True
- OOXML: False, proposed "standard" includes by reference
undocumented components

* the standard must be freely implementable without economic, political or legal
constraints on its implementation and use, now or in the future;
- ODF: True
- OOXML: False Legal Constraints

* the standard should be managed and maintained in an open forum via an open
process (standardisation organisation).
- ODF: True
- OOXML: False see recent articles on OOXML Bait and Switch

It could be that Denmark set up a way to prove OOXML false at each turn.
Well, it could!. COULD SO!

It all depends on how rigorous / honest the testing will be.

If you don't understand the behavior, check the compensation plan. I wonder if
it will be as easy to follow the money as it was with Sweden (google Sweden
ooxml) or Nigeria (google: Microsoft Nigeria windows linux)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Authored by: Steve Allen on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 05:08 PM EST
"Politicians anoint whatever they please..."

Reminds me of the government body in a midwestern state a few years ago that
tried to pass a law that pi=3.000, because it would be easier for the kids to
work with.

Contrary to popular belief, Unix is user friendly.
It just happens to be very selective about who its friends are.
-Kyle Hearn, 1995

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Authored by: Mathness on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 05:21 PM EST
Bit of old news really, the press release is from 25/6.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does current Microsoft software support OOXML?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 05:29 PM EST
Does current Microsoft software support OOXML as defined in the proposed standard? I remember hearing that none of the document formats supported by Microsoft Office 2007 quite matched the standard as discussed by ISO. Two ways to cause heartburn for Microsoft:
  1. Study the output produced by Microsoft Office 2007, find differences between what is written and valid OOXML.
  2. Create an OOXML document (following the standard) and find that Microsoft Office 2007 can't read the document.
In either case, something will be rotten for Microsoft in Denmark trial.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Strikingly similar to Massachussetts
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 05:43 PM EST
I hope, everyone remembers who that monkey by the name Marc Pacheco was? He
also was the one to keep pressing for "more extensive evaluation
process" despite all the technical evidence being on the ODF side.

Don't you think that what we now evidence in the case with Denmark is all but
identical to that? And what exactly are these bureaucrats going to test? What
CAN they test, given that all their IT experts testified unanimously for ODF and
against OOXML?

So, does this story make the Danish government a sell out? You think? Hey,
Neelie, are you taking notes?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Difficult but Not Hopeless
Authored by: SteveOBrien on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:37 PM EST
I feel quite disillusioned that the standards process has been shown to be so
open to corrupt pressures. But at the same time, especially in the case of
Microsoft's OOXML, there are natural consequences that will come in to play that
might turn around and bite those that choose it.

Does anyone really believe that other companies or Open Source Projects will
actually implement a product that can adhere to Microsoft's OOXML specification
completely? Perhaps the OpenOffice group will get part of it to work just like
they did for the .doc format, but I'll bet that we never see any other product
that completely follows it.

This means that there will continue to be lots of free and non-free ODF
compliant products, and a very tiny number or perhaps even only the one product
compliant with MSOOXML. From Microsoft's perspective this is GREAT, but from
the side of customers, not having real choices in the market is not so great.

Real standards are generally good for the marketplace since they encourage
competition. Look what happened to DVD players; I've seen machines that play DVD
movies just fine that cost $29.99. However, in the end, I believe that the
market will deal with phony "standards" like MSOOXML.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Denmark Pretends MSOOXML Already an "Open Standard" & Mandates a Trial of ODF/MSOOXML
Authored by: Alan(UK) on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 06:51 PM EST
"public authorities must be able to receive both standards, known as ODF
and OOXML"

But is there not a problem here? Some people actually use ODF and some of those
use it because of its interoperability. But people that use OOXML do not use it
because of its interoperability - it is limited to a very restricted field of
application, basically Microsoft Office 2007. Most interchange between MS Office
users is using MS .doc format. What is the point of doing trials with a format
that nobody expects other people to be able to read?

Microsoft is nailing up its own coffin from the inside.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS is fighting a losing battle here
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 07:06 PM EST
Don't overlook the fact that the EU is a single integrated economy. It isn't
neccessary that all countries in the EU mandate ODF. It is enough that some
mandate it and all accept it. A big company in the EU with offices in many
countries is going to want to use one document format and if ODF is mandated in
some places and acceptable everywhere then that is the one they will pick.

Microsoft is fighting a losing battle. To win they would need to convince a
country to mandate OOXML and reject ODF. Given the relative credentials of the
two, that would be extraordinarily difficult even for Microsoft. And as some of
the countries in the EU start to require ODF, the pressure on the remainder to
conform starts to become overwhelming. I think the best MS can hope for here is
to delay things and muddy the waters. They are not going to win.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OGG vs. the World, ODF vs. the Monopoly
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 09:02 PM EST
I was going to put this in Newspicks, but I see a parallel
between the problem of what video codec to use for HTML5,
and what document format to use for the government of Denmark.
In Denmark they are proposing to try both, and measure which is best
for their purpose. At the moment the HTML5 group have backed off,
leaving a general specification for the market to fill. One comment on
the whatwg list suggested that the specification defines the empty set.
I believe that if a specification was made for office documents it too
would be an empty set, satisfied by neither ODF nor MSOOXML.

In the HTML5 argument Apple and Nokia are portrayed as the bad guys,
waiting to deploy their patent weapons. Yet they, and MS, are battle-hardened
in the commercial arena, and that experience could be very useful to
Open Source innocents if only both sides would realise that co-operation
would be to their mutual advantage.

The shoot first ask later mentality results in MS destroying the ISO that they
need to give them status, and causes flame wars on whatwg over the use of
"must" vs "should" when it is plainly obvious the needed
word is "may".
MS galivants on its merry way abandoning OOXML in Office 20xx, and
never a thought for my archive of Word5 documents. The ogg guys
paint themselves into a corner cowering against the threatening patents,
while VideoLanClient happily serves up a GPL2 MPEG4 player.

Heads need banging together in high places. </rant>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: E-man on Tuesday, December 11 2007 @ 11:28 PM EST
I can't find where PJ described the sources of her quotes. The quotes near the top seem to be from an English-language press release on behalf of Denmark's Science Minister, Helge Sander. I have no idea what an Danish Science Minister would be.

The page the press release is on has a link for "more information". That links to a page which announces an agreement between the National Ministries of Science and of Finance, Danish Regions and Local Government Denmark (as far as I can figure out). That's what mandates that the governments at all levels from local to national must accept the "open" standards. (They definitely aren't following the US constitution, that's for sure!)

The latter contains the following definition for Open Standards:
* the standard must be publicly accessible and documented in all its details,

* the standard must be freely implementable without economic, political or judicial constraints on implementation and use, now or in the future, and

* the standard must be standardised and maintained in an open forum via an open process (organisation for standardisation).
I think that matches what PJ credited to the "EU Commission's report", so I suppose they cut and pasted from it.

I don't think anyone mentioned this, but I think the MSOOXML would do a much better job of complying with the third bullet point (above) if M$ hadn't recently reneged on it's promise to turn over maintenance to ISO. The Danish agreements were being worked out before they reneged. There would have been a better argument for thinking MSOOXML was open back then.

Finally, I have no idea what a Danish Science Minister is, but I couldn't help but noticing the contact information for her:
Science Minister Helge Sander may be contacted via Information Manager Allan Boldt, tel.: +45 33 92 97 39, [Allan Boldt's email address]

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Dates - Authored by: E-man on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 12:13 PM EST
  • Sources - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 16 2007 @ 04:21 AM EST
Denmarks Science Minister
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 12:39 AM EST
First, Helge Sander is a man!

Helge is a man's name in Scandinavia.
Helga is a woman's name, typically in Germany I guess.

However, being a science minister without education seem scary. It is as if someone would nominate Dan Qualye for any higher political posts, perhaps.

I don't know Helge any well but his background as a journalist trainee in 1968-1971, football trainer, chairman of Herring Cycle Club, and member of a "Christian TV viewer's organisation" don't give high ranks on my list.

I just can't have too high hopes on him setting this straight. He just doesn't seem fit for the job here. But, I have been wrong before... -

[ Reply to This | # ]

Background information for this story
Authored by: elhaard on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 01:40 AM EST
I can see that there is a bit confusion about this story, so I'll provide y'all
with a little background info.

First of all, this is not really a new story. The decision on a trial period of
both ODf and MSOOXML was taken this Spring, after a heated debate. I was
involved in the debate and participated in writing both hearing replies and
letters to politicians. Unfortunately, there was a lot of pressure from other
organizations as well. Mr. Gates even paid a visit to our Prime Minister and to
the Minister of Science, Mr. Helge Sander.

In the end, many politicians were afraid of both the cost and the functionality
issues of changing from a predominantly MS Office environment to the
"unknown" ODF suites (i.e. As a compromise, it was
determined to have a trial period with both formats.

One major concern with a sudden change was the fact that at Januaru 1st 2007,
the public administration in Denmark was reformed at the municipal level, with
fusions of local administration into larger units, reducing municipal regions to
a third. This has cost a lot of money on local level.

The national politicians can only make decisions for national administration.
But they can also influence local administration in financial negotiations.
However, since there has already been massive expenses in local administration
due to the reform, our national politicians were hesitant towards risking the
extra costs that might be the result of a sudden shift to ODF.

I do not agree in the decision, even though I understand the background.

It is still much too early to say how the trial will turn out. Most of the
politicians I have talked to say that it will probably not matter whether
MSOOXML gets an ISO approval or not. And several of them understands the need
for having just one standard instead of two.

Still, anything can happen in politics...

This comment is licensed under a Creative Commons License (Attribution 2.0).
Share & enjoy!

[ Reply to This | # ]

And we are surprised, why?
Authored by: Superbiskit on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 08:48 AM EST
Sad to say, we seem to forget the "golden rule:" He who has the gold makes the rules.

We have seen plenty of evidence that the opposition thinks "business ethics" is an oxymoron, and has no hesitation doing whatever is necessary to achieve his ends.

How did we imagine this would turn out any other way?

Cetero censeo Collegium SCO esse delendam.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hold your horses PJ ... :-)
Authored by: SplatMan_DK on Wednesday, December 12 2007 @ 10:37 AM EST
PJ (and everyone else) hold your horses.

While I am big fan of interoperability and open standards, I don't see a problem
with the test project being conducted. Being a Danish citizen with a personal
interest in IT infrastructure I have followed the debate and the process in
Denmark closely.

The project you refer to, is an operational test. It was decided by the
"Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation" (department of IT
architecture) to complete such a test regardless of the status of OOXML or ODF.

The goal of the project is to gain hands-on experience with the day-to-day usage
of both file formats, the use of FOSS productivity applications (such as
OpenOffice and StarOffice), and the use of file converter tools (such as the ODF
plugins to Microsoft Office). As a geek, I think a project with focus on the
technical aspects is a great idea.

If the project shows that OOXML is difficult to work with, regardless of what
Microsoft says, I believe that is important information for everyone. If it
turns out that OOXML is really not that much of a problem, then that is
important to know too - from a technical point of view.

The project will force literally thousands of public workers to convert
documents from OOXML to ODF and back every day. It will show the strengths and
weaknesses of both formats, and the experience/data collected is a great asset
not only to our nation, but to Microsoft and the FOSS community as well.

Personally I can't wait to see what interesting issues will arise when files
need to be converted between these two formats. And at the end of the day I
think this will benefit the FOSS community a lot more than it will benefit

Nobody in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has suggested that
both formats will prevail, or that OOXML is a true open standard. It is a field
test. A pilot project. And its goal is to collect first-hand experience with
both formats.

Isn't that better than all the constant "religious talk" and
conspiracy theories from both Microsoft and FOSS evangelists alike? Is it
suddenly wrong to collect ACTUAL information and facts on a sensitive subject?


- Jesper

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proper Punishment
Authored by: BassSinger on Sunday, December 16 2007 @ 08:44 PM EST
for anyone who proposes a rule such as treating OOXML as a standard should be
that they must personally implement a version of software matching the OOXML
"standard" before proceeding to *any* other endeavors. If nothing
else it will keep them from uttering other pronouncements for *many* years.

In a Chord,


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Huh? - Authored by: E-man on Monday, December 17 2007 @ 10:30 PM EST
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