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Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and crumbling towers
Monday, April 14 2008 @ 09:08 PM EDT

Here's a quotation for the ages, from an Alex Brown comment on Andrew Updegrove's Standards Blog (scroll down) asking Brown if he'd agree that ODF was cleaner than OOXML:
"I'd go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished."

Now he tells us. Still, better late than never. And I couldn't have put it better myself. But if it's that bad, why is it an ISO standard? A standard with secret passages is a standard no one can implement unless they have a map and the keys. We don't have either. Only Microsoft does. Thanks, ISO, for this little anticompetitive joke.

Meanwhile, the protests are not stopping, despite the rather cynical call for peace and an end to "personal attacks" from 30 of the attendees of the Microsoft-heavy SC34 committee that met in Oslo recently to try to figure out what in the world to do next with OOXML. Now that it's a "standard", somebody has to scrape off all the goo and make it actually work. I call it cynical, because as far as I'm concerned, OOXML is itself an attack on ODF. It seems to me to have no other purpose. Well. The ghosts.

Speaking of personal attacks, did that Microsoft executive ever apologize to Matthew Holloway, by the way, for that smear? How about the attacks on me and on Groklaw? Were the Microsoft folks planning to apologize to me personally? Jason? That would be refreshing. After I recovered from hitting my head on the pavement after a ladylike swoon from the shock. Notice how I never got into the gutter with retaliation for what they said? It's not because I don't know how. It's because I consider such smears undignified and indecent, and I won't do it.

And for another example of contrast, here's Steve Pepper's speech at the Oslo protest. Notice any personal attacks? On the contrary, it was a dignified and fair presentation. The contrast is obvious. Of course, if they meant Microsoft and its friends should cut it out, or Alex Brown should stop, I heartily agree. Personal attacks are never acceptable.

That same SC34 meeting came up with some odd resolutions, "Resolutions of SC 34 Plenary Meeting, 2008-04-05/09, Oslo, Norway". One thing they decided is that the final draft of the format, the one everyone already voted on in its unfinished state, will be done for real and available by May 1st. And this: "Acclamation: SC 34 expresses its appreciation to Dr. Alex Brown for his leadership and excellent work in running the BRM on DIS 29500 as the Convener." He's anointed to run the maintenance group too, of course. Here's who sponsored the meeting:

Acclamation G: SC 34 expresses its appreciation to the following organizations for sponsoring this meeting.
* Linpro AS
* Mamut ASA
* Software Innovation ASA
* StatoilHydro ASA
* Questpoint AS
* Microsoft Norge AS

You remember StatoilHydro, I'm sure, the faithful Microsoft supporter that ended up starring in the article Scandal in Standards Norway, and on the rest, Google is your friend. I see a lot of Microsoft. And here's my favorite part of the resolutions:

c) Transparency of process, consistent with JTC 1 Directives, is a goal of the recommended process.

Hahahaha. They are cracking me up. Here's my second favorite:

e) The proposal should recommend ways in which onward work on ISO/IEC 29500 may be carried out in as timely a way as possible, without recourse to the accelerated mechanisms of PAS or Fast Track procedures.

I see. The hurry was only to get it rubberstamped. No need to hurry to make it work *now*. The ad hoc group will present its findings and recommendations in October. They claim they want to hear what is wrong with OOXML, but the world already tried to tell them, and they didn't want to hear it. But you might start with the OSP, if you ever get serious. A standard that FOSS can't safely use is not a standard to me.Here's who attended:

National bodies and Liaison organizations present at the closing plenary:

Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, USA, Ecma International and the XML Guild

Resolution 4 suggests setting up a maintenance committee for OOXML to get its facelift, and they envision more:

The passage of ISO/IEC 29500 has instituted a new era of standards activity in SC 34 related to document formats. ISO/IEC 29500 does not represent an isolated phenomenon, since SC 34 is also responsible for ISO/IEC 26300 and for interoperability between these and other projects.

SC 34 envisages the creation of three distinct working groups that meet the needs of:

1. ISO/IEC 29500
2. ISO/IEC 26300
3. Work on interoperability/harmonization between document format standards
and wishes to incorporate existing expertise on these standards.

For these reasons, SC 34 hereby establishes an ad hoc group pursuant to the JTC 1 Directives, clause 2.6.2, for investigating how the first of these groups may be set up most effectively.

So they resolve to look into it. I note they have dreams of controlling/maintaining ODF, not just OOXML, and making the two interoperable. We'll see, but I can't see why OASIS would say yes to that. Nor do I believe Microsoft will allow true interoperability with ODF, given a choice, or with the GPL or with any commercial open source vendor. Isn't that the whole point of OOXML? To cut off ODF's air supply, using monopoly presence and determined annoyance factors to make sure no one uses it?

Exhibit A, Microsoft's announcement of more, pages and pages, of "preliminary" versions of documentation for protocols between Sharepoint Server 2007 and other Microsoft server products and with Microsoft Office, Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Outlook, and protocols between 2007 Microsoft Office "system client applications" and "other Microsoft server products":

As an example, developers working with SharePoint protocols will have additional resources to develop products that work with Microsoft Office client applications and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server products. These specifications will help spark the energy and imagination of countless developers to create new products and improve existing solutions.

In another example, developers working with Exchange Server protocols will have additional resources to build applications that directly communicate and store information with either Exchange Server or Microsoft Office Outlook related to e-mail, calendars, contacts, voice mail and task tracking....

As described in Microsoft’s interoperability principles, everyone will have access to this protocol documentation without having to sign a license or pay a royalty or other fee. For those protocols that may be covered by a Microsoft patent, Microsoft will make available patent licenses on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms, at low royalty rates. In addition, Microsoft will publish a list of the protocols that are covered by patents and will make available a list of the specific Microsoft patents and patent applications that cover each protocol. However, open source developers, whether commercial or noncommercial, will not need a patent license for the development of implementations of these protocols or for the noncommercial distribution of these implementations, according to a Microsoft patent pledge for open source developers, issued pursuant to the interoperability principles.

So, what does that mean? I read it as saying FOSS can implement, but not distribute commercially, without crossing Microsoft's palm with silver for Microsoft patents no court has verified as legitimate. Because the rates are so low, evidently the purpose isn't money so much as exclusion. Everyone can interoperate except Red Hat and other real competitors to Microsoft, those who have not sold out and continue to uphold the license that Linux is made available under, the GPL.

I hope no one goes near this stuff at this point, even if you use another license, since nothing is currently clear and in stone about the exact terms, until they are made known later. I take this as Microsoft taking one more step in their patent threat strategy to kill off the GPL and indeed the Open Source business model, to the extent that I understand their thinking. I don't forget the Mike Anderer memo about Microsoft and Linux, specifically Red Hat. Here's that part of it:

In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies.

I see every move Microsoft makes, no matter what they call it, or how often they use the word 'open' or 'interoperable' as actually another step forward in that larger strategy, and I hope the EU Commission sees it, before it's too late.

Of course, it could very well be the case that the published list of patents will not have anything on it anyone needs, as happened with the Samba guys, who presented with a list realized they could work around it all. Or there might be obvious weaknesses in the patents. But no matter how you look at it, it's another danger sign from Microsoft.

That's interoperability, Microsoft style. You can all interoperate, except for the only true competition Microsoft has. A girl might even get the idea that Microsoft is afraid to compete with GNU/Linux on an even field. Hopefully, there will be some progress in the Bilski case, if the court reads the Red Hat brief explaining how software patents harm Open Source and realizes what is at stake, thanks to Microsoft.

Anyway, the protests continue, for the simple reason that people are disgusted by what they saw, I gather, and they understand what's at stake. In India there was an Open Letter to Wipro, Infosys and TCS published recently by students at the National Institute of Technology. It begins like this:

This letter is to express our deep disappointment over your open support to the OOXML format forced through ISO by Microsoft. Being the top IT giants and thus the representatives of the IT industry in the country, it is a great shock to us that you do not stand with academia of the country and its representatives like the IITs, IIMs and IISc in supporting the Open Document Format (ODF) which is a true Free and Open Standard already recognised as an ISO Standard.

Of course, India voted against OOXML, but the students noticed the vote breakdown:

1. National Informatics Center - NO
2. Center for Development of Advanced Computing - NO
3. Computer Society of India - NO
4. Department of IT - NO
5. IBM - NO
6. Institute for Electronic Governance - Absent
7. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - NO
8. Indian Institute of Science - NO
9. Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi - NO
10. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay - NO
11. Infosys - YES
12. Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkatta - NO
13. Manufacturers Association of IT - Abstain
14. Microsoft - YES
15. National Association of Software and Services Companies - YES
16. National Institute of Smart Governance - Absent
17. Reserve Bank of India - Absent
18. Red Hat - No
19. Standardization Testing and Quality Certification Directorate - NO
20. Sun - NO
21. Tata Computer Services - YES
22. Wipro - YES (for changing India's vote from NO to Abstain)

The students noticed such fine details, and their letter was a request for an explanation. By the way, did you notice that Sun voted No? Just to put to rest the conspiracy theorists out there busily spinning some fables.

Todays Hindu Report doesn't get all the details right, but they noticed the same thing the students did:

The BIS, which represents India at ISO, had 19 members of which 13 voted against Microsoft’s OOXML. Many academics and colleges (NIT-Calicut among others) have written open letters to TCS, Infosys, NASSCOM, Wipro (that voted to abstain) and Microsoft (voted in favour of OOXML). There is a rising fear among academics and advocates of free software standards that BIS will come under pressure in the absence of any national policy. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the only two States who have a policy in place.

“Very big voices like NASSCOM and Infosys that have not participated in even one meeting have voted irresponsibly. We fear that if such lobbying continues, academics and individuals like us will be put on the defensive, unless there is a policy in place,” said Nagarjuna G., professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, who was part of the technical committee of BIS. This committee alone identified 200-odd technical flaws in OOXML’s 7,000 page document — the Open Document Format is 600 pages — and more than 1,000 others were identified internationally.

I see I am not alone in viewing OOXML as a move of aggression. Microsoft must be realizing by now by the outpouring of dismay all over the world that this isn't just a typical vendor fight, where winner takes all and everyone shakes hands and moves on. The public cares about ODF, because it realizes it will impact every one of us directly, and we see the obvious, that OOXML is a spoiler. This has nothing to do with market share.


Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and crumbling towers | 145 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: entre on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 09:26 PM EDT
Where Needed...

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks here
Authored by: grouch on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 09:41 PM EDT
Please place News Picks commentary here.


-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic
Authored by: ankylosaurus on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 09:42 PM EDT
Please remember to make any URL clickable and to post in HTML.

The Dinosaur with a Club at the End of its Tail

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and crumbling towers
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 09:46 PM EDT
really great to know after the fact what disaster MISO (Microsoft ISO or Master
In Slave Out) has turned into........
As the OSP only effects the US and those countries stupid enough to give in on
the political pressure to accept these patently dumb patents on software FOSS
programmers in every other part of the world can implement the Sewer2007
protocols now. Maybe that's the second best outcome. Sorry Red Hat: you better
rush to move your headquarter to a better place (maybe into a market almost
twice as big as the US, the EU) and sell a crippled US version......


[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and crumbling towers
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:00 PM EDT
Dear ISO,

I am a computer coder and need to write a document so to everyone explaining
what a go on?

Which one do you recommend that I use, Odf or ooxml ? What does ISO use
internally ?

Pedro Morgan

[ Reply to This | # ]

Pyrrhic victory for Microsoft?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:08 PM EDT
If MS no longer control the OOXML standard they proposed and pushed through; if
the ISO try to merge it with ODF or alter in any other way, will Microsoft ever
support it? If they don't who will? How can it then become a true alternative to
ODF? This sounds more like a dead end to me than a victory. They've got to
*make* it an alternative, not just another boring and incredibly complex XML
schema. We have enough of those already. Absent the practical implementation
it's as useless as a dead white elephant.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I wondering if Microsoft hasn't shot itself in the foot
Authored by: jroyale on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:13 PM EDT
As someone that occasionally and tangentially has to deal with bidding for
government contacts and the like, I have to wonder if Microsoft's shinny new ISO
cert isn't going to hurt them in the long run. I'm foreseeing a future in which
software RFPs being created that require the the software to have the ability to
save documents in an ISO certified format.

Only, it is my understanding, that Microsoft doesn't actually conform to its own
format. That's bad for Microsoft. Because if Microsoft actually wins the bid,
all of the losers will have an opening to appeal the bid award... that Microsoft
doesn't actually save its files in the proper format. And if any point in time,
there is friction between Microsoft and its client, the client always has a way
to void the deal. Not easily, mind you, as Microsoft would fight tooth and nail
insisting that is does save in ISO approved formats.

But judges in the US can sometimes be quite literal and if Microsoft format
doesn't ALWAYS dot the right "i" and cross the right "t",
they're going to lose in court. And I see this as an even bigger problem for
them in the EU (which I stereotypically and probably incorrectly see as
"standards happy"... not that that's a bad thing).

Anyway, a pox on Microsoft for corrupting the entire process giving such derk.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Brown gets it wrong
Authored by: star-dot-h on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:19 PM EDT
Reading through Alex Brown's comments I came across this monstrous spin:

"We do better than just estimate, I think. For 29500 most known problems were fixed at the BRM, mostly thanks to our block voting procedure. NBs will take different views but a figure I've heard from a technically impeccable source is that 30-40 of these issues remain badly unresolved from this process, but of a non-showstopper nature"

Please, don't let that statement go unchallenged. The voting process simply accepted the bulk of Ecma's initial responses to the 3000 NB comments. Most of these responses were incomplete or simply disagreed with the NB comment in the first place. See some analysis of one NB's comments for example.

That was a critical problem with the BRM. The handful of Ecma responses that *did* get discussed were changed considerably because they were often so bad in the first place.


Free software on every PC on every desk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oh, really!
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:20 PM EDT
PJ: "Personal attacks are never acceptable."

So how is accusing me of arguing for Microsoft acceptable?

E-man (Still waiting for the apology)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Canada and South Africa voted against OOXML
Authored by: andrewkm on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:34 PM EDT
I would love to know what they said at the meeting.

I'm bringing this up simply because I find it interesting that the panel wasn't
entirely pro-OOXML groups.

FYI: since this is my first non-anonymous post on Groklaw, I'll announce I work
for IBM, but my post here are my own thoughts. I will state I personally do NOT
approve of OOXML, though.

[ Reply to This | # ]

And Bats, cobwebs, squeaky [back]doors
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:39 PM EDT
And a moat too!

But, the analogy is good, as a castle is a place
to retreat to when things are not going your way.


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

He forgot to mention the patent vampire lurking in the basement
Authored by: Zarkov on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 10:53 PM EDT
The vampire is definitely there... just waiting for some poor fool to take the
OSP bait and venture inside...

[ Reply to This | # ]

SC34 control of OOXML/ODF
Authored by: pcrooker on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 11:22 PM EDT
If I put on my conspiracy hat, Microsoft looks to be wanting control over ODF,
in the interests of harmonisation with OOXML, of course. The SC34 is a good
platform for this, stuffed as it is with their supporters. And we know how the
ISO and ECMA are both so accommodating.

Far from losing control in this move, I think they realise how successful their
DIS29500 campaign was and how easy to manipulate the process, they are confident
they will retain control indirectly.

BTW, I thought this wasn't a standard till the appeals were completed. Isn't the
SC34 jumping the gun here?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A girl might get the idea that Microsoft is afraid to compete with GNU/Linux on an even field
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 11:47 PM EDT

And you'd be right. Microsoft knows how well liked they are, and are aware that
given a decent chance a lot of their customers would defect. Heck, their
customers are already defecting, Apple's sales are up, and most of us know
people who've formated their computers and installed GNU/Linux EVEN THOUGH

Microsoft is one of the most disliked companies on the planet, they know it, and
they know unless they keep the competition from competing they are going to
loose market share.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown forgot one
Authored by: tyche on Monday, April 14 2008 @ 11:59 PM EDT
"I'd go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a
neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a
baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and
ghosts: it is all too finished."

He forgot the skeletons in the closet.


"The Truth shall Make Ye Fret"
"TRUTH", Terry Pratchett

[ Reply to This | # ]

So, Alex,
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 12:27 AM EDT
when can we expect Microsoft to allow SC34 to release IS29500 Service Pack 1?
You know, the corrections they promised the BRM, that are supposed to bring
IS29500 up to alpha-release quality?

--Bill P, not a lawyer. Question the answers, especially if I give some.

[ Reply to This | # ]

NB's must not waste their time on this standard
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 12:28 AM EDT
All they will be doing is wasting precious resources.

So where before there was 1 document standard to maintain, now there are 2, also
requiring an interoperability group.

That is nonsense.

If any standards organisation is going to waste their time supporting such a
stupid situation then they should be sacked.

Let the standard die a natural death - MS will never bother to implement it,

[ Reply to This | # ]

These people are incredible
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 01:20 AM EDT

They claim they want to hear what is wrong with OOXML

Well, that tells us how sincere they are and how much integrity they have. The world told them what was wrong with OOXML - many times, and in great detail.

They didn't listen. They didn't want to hear.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is "Stop! Thief!" a personal attack? n/t
Authored by: FreeChief on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 01:22 AM EDT

[ Reply to This | # ]

There is a positive side to this
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 01:36 AM EDT

I see every move Microsoft makes, no matter what they call it, or how often they use the word 'open' or 'interoperable' as actually another step forward in that larger strategy [to kill off the GPL and cripple Free Software]

I think that people in the Free Software community are at last waking up to this - and to the fact that Microsoft is extremely powerful and effective. Understanding the situation, and understanding the enemy, is the first small step to winning.

The Free Software movement has had its collective head in the sand for too long. That may be ending. I hope it is not too late.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What constitutes "noncommercial"?
Authored by: drh on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 02:14 AM EDT

I agree that there is no place whatsoever in an ISO standard for patents, and I agree that the acceptance process is a disaster. Anyone who has worked with software for more than 5 minutes comes to learn that since you cannot fix it, you work around it. One possibility follows:

"In addition, Microsoft will publish a list of the protocols that are covered by patents and will make available a list of the specific Microsoft patents and patent applications that cover each protocol. However, open source developers, whether commercial or noncommercial, will not need a patent license for the development of implementations of these protocols or for the noncommercial distribution of these implementations, according to a Microsoft patent pledge for open source developers, issued pursuant to the interoperability principles."

Firstly, Microsoft has yet to produce the patent list to my knowledge, and I doubt they ever will. Even if they did, there will be some left off that list to give them leverage in the future. In addition, there are still many countries that do not recognize software patents so their protection may be invalid.

Secondly, Linux distributors do not sell OSS software, and I do not buy it. Redhat, Canonical, etc are selling their package, which is a service. What I buy is their packaging, bundling, configurations, all the things that make it easier for me to get Linux running on my machine. This is a service, not a product. Even if I buy the "server" packages I am still getting a service: support, more configurations, tested updates, etc. I realize that RedHat and Novell in particular DO sell software as part of some of their distros, those items however can be separated.

Linux distributors tend to be major "contributors" to Linux and the surrounding apps, these are donations and are not commercial, there is no buying-selling, no monetary gain. This is the actual software and this is what is covered by the MS open source pledge. It would actually appear that as long as this software is distributed under the GPL (or similar) license, it is covered by the pledge. This gives more weight to distributing under GPL and is another factor in its favor. If a Linux distributor leaves the realm of GPL they could lose their protection.

I realize this may all be a fine legal point, and that MS could pull the pledge at any moment.

Just another day...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Part of a carefully crafted legal strategy
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 03:22 AM EDT
I hope this doesn't surprise many Groklaw readers. This is part of Microsoft's
carefully crafted legal strategy against free software and the GPL. Microsoft
views free software and the GPL as the biggest threats to them, and I think
they're right.
The point here is that Microsoft is trying to split the free software community
along a commercial/non-commercial line. Many people will think that Microsoft
is being fair because they are offering patent licenses for free to free
software developers. This creates a rift between commercial and non-commercial
developers. It also creates a problem for the GPL because if a fee is required
for a patent license, I can't really distribute an application that uses the
patent license because this is an extra restriction on the further distribution
of my software under the GPL.
Remember, the wording of these statements is not an accident. Microsoft is
deliberately trying to block GPL software.
By the time the problems implementing MS OOXML and getting interoperability are
fixed many years will have passed and trillions of dollars will have gone to
Microsoft. I can only hope they bring out more mistakes like Vista.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sharepoint and OOXML
Authored by: Ian Al on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 03:49 AM EDT
So, Alex Brown is
anointed to run the maintenance group too, of course.
We might enjoy that. What are the chances of those who pressed for important changes and were denied continuing to provide their energy and expertise for the maintenance? We know how the yes men have effectively frozen the work on other ISO IT standards by not bothering. Will they bother for maintenance? Have puppets got the necessary skills and knowledge? This is not architecture of world heritage importance. It is more of a 1960's Las Vegas pastiche. They usually don't last long enough to crumble. They get dynamited when the next architecural fashion takes over. Office 2010, anyone?

Perhaps Alex might get some Microsoft staffers to, at least, bring it to publishable form. On the other hand, what do they know about standards? Could it be that ISO will have great difficulty in even getting the first version of the standard published by ISO?

At this point I would like to say what a great and important idea Sharepoint is and how the current version is already a useful component of collaborative working in an all-Microsoft environment. There is prior art to the broad concept. A non-Microsoftware-interoperable version could be produced by the free software community. The important point is that anyone tempted to develop interoperable tools for Sharepoint should remember the past. All of Microsoft's development tools have been upgraded on such a regular and significant basis that independant developers have been left swinging in the breeze. Also, Sharepoint will depend on the current Microsoft document formats and is unlikely to ever work with ISO standard document formats even if software was capable of generating it. Finally, don't forget that all of Microsoft's development tools are patent encumbered as the developers of Mono will find out.

Developers and IT departments have to hope that a genuinely free and open collaborative environment is ported to Windows to provide long-term, full and transparent interoperability across all of their document standards (well, those based on XML {well, those other than Microsoft's based on XML}).

The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that large businesses and government organisations will increasingly procure only software that produces documents to international standards and only that which has an independant compliance test suite. They know that such documents are likely to fit into a software environment with many different software contributors so that each part can be best commercial, technical and performance fit. Standards are demanded when necessary to meet organisational objectives and this does not extend to Microsoft coffer enhancement or document lock-in.

I think Microsoft have driven at speed down a blind alley with proprietary lock-in. Have they built themselves a reverse gear? Even if they have, they need to go backwards some considerable way before finding the open road.

The key to Microsoft's survival is their big-business customers. Their performance with the Vista and latest Office software convinces me that they are not capable of producing a collaborative business IT environment that will work with other proprietary software manufacturer products. What happens when a company department decides to move to Linux because it has no need for a complex IT environment? Perhaps the business specific software is all web-based. Microsoft is likely to say that it was a terrible mistake and that the department is forever excluded from the collaborative IT environment of the rest of the company. What will the business view be of that? What analysis will they make of the rest of the business dependancies on the Microsoft lock-in? What IT procurement decisions will be made for the future?

PHBs will be the centre of IT inertia for a long time to come, but I think the tipping point will be catastrophic for Microsoft rather than a slow decline.

Ian Al

When nothing else makes sense, use Linux.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is anybody appealing yet?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 04:15 AM EDT
As far as I see, there are two clear, almost indisputable, procedural errors.

1. The final text was not available on time, and also not available at the
voting deadline.

2. The BRM didn't use a consensus process (which at a minimum requires that all
issues are discussed and all participants heard).

Each of these should be sufficient for aborting the fast track process.

This leaves aside the technical problems and the various voting irregularities,
for which there are different opinions.

/Niels Möller

[ Reply to This | # ]

How to be nice and still say no
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 04:44 AM EDT
From the SC 34 plenary notes, Resolution 1:
SC 34 notes:
that (through the efforts of the Canadian and New Zealand National Bodies in particular) significant support for accessibility has been added to the final text of ISO/IEC 29500 OOXML
Canada and New Zealand both voted NO and suggested DIS29500 should be removed from the fast track for a normal treatment through working committees.

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Microsoft releasing documentation - I suspect the EU is the reason
Authored by: yscydion on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 05:34 AM EDT

I suspect that Microsoft is releasing documentation not for any of the reasons they give in their PR spin but because that was required by the EU to avoid further penalties under competition law. It's like someone being fined and ordered to do some community service. Imagine a PR piece... "Thanks to the public spirited generosity of [some celebrity] the floors of the sanitation department will gleam as a result of the time she so generously contributed to cleaning them...". Newspaper editors would ridicule that because they know that it was a sentence imposed by the court, and both the offence and punishment are things that most ordinary people understand.

I suspect Microsoft gets away with their spin because few people understand just what is so wrong with what they have been doing, why this part of the penalty matters, and how what Microsoft has done in releasing documentation falls short if what is really needed.

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What ISO standards require payment to a vendor?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 07:09 AM EDT

Just curious. What other ISO standards require paying a vendor
to use?

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Fork ODF from MS-ISO version?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 07:14 AM EDT

Maybe OASIS needs to fork ODF from the MS-ISO version.
The next MS version is likely to have Microsoft patented
code in it.

I'm beginning to agree with those who want to divorce ODF
from ISO. Perhaps by then, governments will no longer require
ISO formats, at least for software.

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MS is looking for free labor
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 07:22 AM EDT

"Wishes to incorporate existing expertise" , , ,

Now Microsoft wants to use the "existing expertise" of the
very people whom they scorned through this whole process.

The "existing expertise" will be needed because Microsoft
doesn't have it. ISO meetings consist of unpaid labor, it
looks like.

Let's see a show of hands: How many out there want to
donate your code to Microsoft?

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  • I don't think so - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 10:14 AM EDT
FOSS implementations
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 09:58 AM EDT
"open source developers, whether commercial or noncommercial, will not need
a patent license for the development of implementations of these protocols or
for the noncommercial distribution of these implementations, according to a
Microsoft patent pledge for open source developers, issued pursuant to the
interoperability principles."

I would take the "OR" in the logical sense. So commercial or
non-commercial FOSS programmers (including BSD) get to program the standard

The "or noncommercial distribution" is redundant, meaning (I would
say) "if you're a FOSS developer or (if not a FOSS developer) distributing
the implementation without payments if the distribution is

I.e. if you're a shareware developer (non-commercial) your free version needs no
license. If you sell copies you need a license.

Sucks for shareware that want some renumeration and is nearly as bad for nagware

Though you could get round this by making the MSOOXML a plugin, selling the full
version and giving a free upload for the plugin.

After all, FOSS *does* include BSD implementations, so no need to give out the
source code when you have a BSD version. Just make the enduser (who isn't
distributing) download the update.

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What's the rush? - Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 10:52 AM EDT
"No need to hurry to make it work *now*."

I am sure that PJ and many Groklaw readers were of the opinion that as soon as
they could put the ISO stamp of approval on Microsoft Office, the presure to
make it a working standard would vanish. (I know, the stamp is on OOXML, not
Microsoft Office, but you know how it will be marketed.) Sort of like buying a
degree from some school that is more interested in collecting tuition than in
educating students.

However, there is a little detail:
"Member of EU Parliament asks if Microsoft should be excluded from public
procurement." One of the things Microsoft is going to have to do to
wriggle out of this one is to really make OOXML work. If they get hit by the EU
Commission again because of OOXML, it won't help them at all!

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ISO's view of the criticisms being leveled at it...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 15 2008 @ 01:31 PM EDT
Hear no evil...

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Alex Brown neutral? well, check his Wikipedia edits
Authored by: jonathan888 on Wednesday, April 16 2008 @ 01:28 PM EDT
He's been fairly active on the OOXML pages on Wikipedia, and I do believe that
he is sincerely trying to correct misinformation, especially about the
standardization procedure. However, several of his edits have seemed to be
apologetic from the pro-MS viewpoint. He's no rabid MS fanboi, but, he doesn't
seem that impartial to my eye either.

On that note, the entire Wikipedia set of articles is a blatant example of MS
aggression and tenaciousness overcoming the voices of reason. The main article
has been sanitized into a commercial message and the sub-articles that actually
deal with controversy are spun so fast and hard by the MS fanboi/shills that
true NPOV is impossible. Look for the 'controversy' section in the main article
(hint: check standardization), for that matter look for the vote results... they
are there but nearly invisible through massive POV edit fraud.

Google 'OOXML' and see what comes up first... that's right a sanitized MS
corporate message sponsored by the kind folks at wikipedia. The main opposition
editor who tried to keep the articles somewhat balanced and in check was smeared
and black-balled then blocked for a week - for supposedly doing what it is
obvious the MS fanboi/shills are guilty of (check the talk archives of
user:HAl). I eventually gave up, I have a life and a job and I don't get paid
to edit Wikipedia daily or hourly.

I know there are some editors of Wikipedia who read here, your voices are
needed, even now, to balance and restore reason.

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Alex Brown: OOXML is like a baroque castle with secret passages and crumbling towers
Authored by: sportember on Friday, April 18 2008 @ 09:14 AM EDT
Two things, that may worth to mind. On one hand, upset people, please check out this post of Miguel. I liked to know, that it is now possible to produce office apps that are really compatible with the old MS Office series created docs. On the other hand, baroque castles are nice.

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