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Now It's Spain and OOXML - More Standards Highjinks?
Tuesday, July 24 2007 @ 01:19 AM EDT

It seems there may have been more games played by Microsoft in the OOXML saga, or at the very least some confusion spread, and this time our story comes from Spain, where the government of Andalusia has now sent an official letter of protest [PDF, Spanish] to the president of the technical committee deciding whether or not to accept OOXML as an ISO standard, denouncing what it called an attempt by Microsoft to manipulate the process by selectively quoting from a letter from the Andalusian government back in January as if it were an endorsement of OOXML as an ISO standard today. That January letter, Andalusia says, was not intended to indicate that it felt there should be an acceptance of OOXML by the technical committee.

Andalusia's story begins on the day before the technical committee was to meet in Spain to discuss whether or not to accept Microsoft's OOXML as an ISO standard. All the members of the committee received a letter from Microsoft. Attached were some letters, which Microsoft characterized as supporting a yes vote on OOXML. One of the letters was a letter [PDF, Spanish] from the government of Andalusia, which indeed spoke of the importance of open formats. It wasn't an endorsement of OOXML as a technical specification now or ever, it has now clearly announced, stating that it is profoundly disturbed by what has happened and writes its letter of protest to clarify where it stands.

Andalusia's letter expresses its unhappiness with what it views as an attempt to mislead the committee by distorting the meaning of its letter from January, which referenced phase CP 29500 of the OOXML process, a much earlier aspect, not the current phase of the work of the technical committee, phase DIS 29500, the part about whether to accept it or not, something that was not even certain to happen back in January. Andalusia never has stated that it supports a yes vote for OOXML by the technical committee. That part of the letter says this:

En ese sentido, mi carta manifestaba el apoyo al estándar abierto ISO/IEC 26300 en materia do formatos de documentos, y en ningún caso al estándar ISO DIS 295000.

Roughly translated, it says that the January letter was intended as support for open formats generally and specifically for ODF, not OOXML. It mentions OOXML in the context of the fast tracking request and discusses a willingness to be of service in that process and does express how important open formats and standards are, but it does not endorse OOXML technically or suggest the technical committee should vote yes. Back in January, that wasn't on the table yet. Its letter of protest expresses the hope that any confusion can be clarified so no one votes based on misinformation.

This story was so hard for me to believe, it took all day to get several volunteers to verify it by translating it for me from Spanish to English, so I could be reasonably sure I understood that happened. I'd like to thank DiriGato, Larry Vance, vruz, Martín Nigoul, kosmonaut, and many others who volunteered to help make sure I understood the Spanish documents, which you can read for yourself in this article if you read Spanish. All the links are there. If anyone sees any refinements needed, please let me know, so we can fine tune. It's our goal to be accurate, but translations are always nerve-wracking. If you wish to review, you can read about Portugal here and about Italy here.

Update: Another volunteer has now explained the contents of all the letters:

To understand the documents they should be read in chronological (by date) order. The first one is a letter dated January 2007 from the Andalusia Government CTO (the equivalent to Peter Quinn in MA) expressing interest for the standarization process and offering its support, advice and help to the technical committee, but which states very clearly that ODF/ISO26300 is the standard of choice for the Government of Andalusia.

The second one dated in February is just a note that reminds AENOR that the Ministry for Government Administration recomended that Micrososft submit their format specifications to an international standards body or either that Microsoft compromised itself to publicly document and make available these specifications under non-discriminatory terms (these terms seems to be much different from Microsoft's point of view and from the European Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes', and other government intitutions for example).

The third one is a letter from a manager of the department for geographical information of the Ministry of Public Infrastructures (Ministry of "Fomento") that I think was misleading to sign a letter that seems to be dictated by some Microsoft salesperson, since you can read the typical marketing nonsense on it. This letter was portrayed by Microsoft as proof of official backing of the Ministry of Fomento to its MSOOXML format.

The fourth letter is the formal protest of the CTO of the Government of Andalusia asking the technical committee for rectification and for an explanation of the misrepresentation.

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