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09.03.07

Australia Changes Mind on OOXML, Brazil and New Zealand Explain Why OOXML is Bad

Posted in America, Australia, Formats, Google, Office Suites, Open XML, Standard at 7:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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There is a group of encouraging articles arriving at the moment. Some of them contain interesting details which we can add to our mental notes that can also be characterised as a ‘fraud watch’.

Australia Reports

As you may already know or recall, Australia did not vote on the issue of OOXML uninterrupted. Some irregular activities were reported at various stages. Some of these activities we kept record of in this site as well (good decision in retrospect). After Australia expressed its intent to vote “Yes” on OOXML (initially reported by Groklaw, if not the mainstream press), Australia seems to have changed its mind. Whether this decision was driven by Sweden-like motivations or not (public outcry), it might be hard to tell. The good news, however, is that Australia will not support OOXML. It will abstain from voting.

The standards body, which represents Australia at the International Standards Organisation (ISO), said the decision was due to a clear lack of consensus and commitment throughout the development process.

New Zealand Calls

In Australia’s little neighbour, New Zealand, the promise was kept. A “No” (with comments) remained the response to OOXML. The article about this decision is accompanies by this little nugget of information which is not news, but it nonetheless helps validate our ambitious claims.

Microsoft has admitted encouraging partners to join the national bodies deciding whether to recommend OOXML for fast-track ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification.

Brazil Explains

Brazil’s story is similar to New Zealand’s. Its explanation for the decision is worth quoting.

Among the issues cited are lack of compatibility with the Gregorian calendar, lack of support for languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and security issues including the possibility of password breaches and vulnerability to viruses.

Another Look at the Issue at Hand

Don Parris, whose writings are usually gentle yet filled with impact, has more to say on the issue.

I want to start off by reminding everyone that Microsoft was invited from the very beginning to participate in developing the OpenDocument Format. Microsoft, claimed that it’s competitors were ganging up on it, apparently forgetting that its competitors also compete against each other. In the long road leading up to this point, Microsoft wound up deciding to promote the idea that two or more competing standards is the best way to serve the world. But they miss the goal set forth by the OpenDocument technical committee – a single standard that anyone could implement would mean everyone can share documents with far improved reliability than trying to convert between document formats.

Another new writeup, “Goodbye, cruel Word”, explains why Microsoft Word is becoming obsolete anyway. File format (or what Microsoft wishes to call a “standard”) is among the main reasons for departure from Word.

So that’s how it is now. I write within the pure, glowing universes of Scrivener and WriteRoom. I send articles to the Guardian as plain-text rather than .doc. I am confident that I will be able to open those articles and the chapters of my book again, if I want to, in 30 years’ time. And now a 1000-word review weighs 4K instead of 30K. I weep at all the innocent electrons I wastefully killed over the years, sending those massive, lumbering Word documents through the internet. I apologise for my particle profligacy. I have learned my lesson. Goodbye, cruel Word.

It is worth adding that most people, who are not professional writers, get everything they need from simple office suites such as Google Apps. About a week ago, the Burton Group released some classic Google Apps FUD. We covered this here. Disinformation is apparently being used as a weapon against disruptive trends such as Free software, open formats/standards, and Web-based software. It’s a case of “coming to grips” (adopting/embracing) versus “fighting”. Guess which side Microsoft has chosen?

Now, in 2007, the concept of software as a commodity is rapidly wearing off again. Today, it’s all about the service and maintenance – something that Microsoft isn’t prepared to deal with.

MarketWatch published an article that made some similar observations. This article covered the incident where Microsoft sent its hired lobbyists (the infamous “Men in Black”, i.e. bullies) to a diplomat’s house.

Characteristically, as lawmakers like Homan have learned, Microsoft’s hardly taking a passive position.

[...]

‘Microsoft sees what’s coming. Things like Word and Excel sort of like a drug now getting ready to go generic.’

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