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Does Microsoft Want to Kill ISO More Than Its Wants to Win an ISO?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, ISO, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 10:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ODF formatFirst and foremost, it is important to emphasise that ISO is just a part of a bigger battle. To remind ourselves of this fact consider a new contribution from a reader who wrote in to say:

Denmark’s public sector requires OOXML or ODF. Microsoft Office supports neither, so it is one suite that will be locked out of Danish government. OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, Symphony, and others all get the green light:

Here is the new article which back his assessment but only to an extent.

Denmark’s public sector will not be affected if Microsoft’s latest file format is rejected or accepted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a government official said Wednesday.

Our reader speaks of open and well-documented standards that are implemented with an open source reference design, which also happens to be available for reuse (LGPLv3-licensed, for a good reason). It all aligns pretty well with this decent new article from a standards expert. He talks about the symbiotic relationship between open source software and open standards.

The acceptance and success of open source development methodologies pose both a challenge and an opportunity for standards organizations such as the JCP. Some argue that standards are less necessary in an open-source world, or that the collaborative efforts of open source communities can develop “de facto standards” in a more agile manner than the more traditional standards bodies whose processes are necessarily more cautious and time-consuming. I believe that both open standards and open source are necessary; they can and should complement each other. Open standards are essential to enable multiple competing implementations, protecting against vendor lock-in.

The definition of open standards is in jeopardy though, or at least their formal approval and status. See SubSonica’s comment right here. It is defended very strongly by the following blog spot which explains why Microsoft will gain in case it successfully ruins ISO altogether.

Hasn’t anyone learned anything over the last few years. It doesn’t matter if OOXML is approved or not. All that matters is that the process that gave ODF it’s international standing is ruined. ODF got where it is today because it is an international standard, not because it is necessarily the answer to every possible question. People believed in the ISO process and believed that a standard with their seal of approval was actually worth something in the real world. By badgering, bribing and threatening, Microsoft has effectively destroyed the ISO process. So who cares if OOXML becomes a standard or not? No one if there isn’t gold standard for it to be judged against. While ODF was a saint, the sinner of OOXML looked very dark and shabby. Now Microsoft has cast doubt on the lineage of ODF everyone is a sinner.

It is a sad truth and the quote below validates it further.

“We want to own these standards, so we should not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.” ¶

–Microsoft Corporation, internal memo (source [compressed PDF])

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  1. Ziggyfish said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm


    We are quick to punish ISO, for this, but in September the process worked, what we should as a Open source community is shun the ECMA standard group, Because how did such a incomplete standard pass ECMA? If anything the ECMA standard group has loss most to all of it’s reputation(if it had any).

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 30, 2008 at 8:48 pm


    Back in September the process did not work, either. It was a total disaster, with Microsoft going as far as bribing to have its specifications approved. Shortly after September, parts of ISO fell apart (people quit, or fled). It’s true that ECMA, along with Microsoft, are the cause for ISO’s demise, but suggesting that the process was OK back in September is very wrong. The whole OOXML/ODF saga (and fiasco) actually go back to around

    ECMA International is what Tim Bray referred to as a “toxic leech”. Not so long ago we saw a connection between ECMA and what then became a Microsoft lobbyist in CompTIA, which is a very vile pressure group. All of these groups need to be dismantled. They serve no function other than to corrupt the system with money and influence.

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