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ISO Rubber Stamp for OOXML? Not So Fast (Track)

Posted in America, Antitrust, Asia, Europe, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 9:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML under fire

OOXML is badWe experienced some downtime earlier, due to an overwhelming load on the server. This hopefully won’t happen again, especially at this crucial time.

Let’s just go very quickly at the overlooked facts which Microsoft and its press are less than keen on informing you of.

Two Months for Appeal

The story is not over yet and with various ongoing investigations, antitrust concerns and enormous scrutiny, this battle won’t be an easy one for Microsoft. Over at Groklaw, it’s even stated that OOXML “sits on hold”.

Now that OOXML has been shoved through, (and if you are new to the story, here’s a very complete and succinct history of what happened by James Hogarth on Tideway), we find it cut and bleeding on the other side. What about appeals of the travesty? There is an appeal process, although you may have noticed that Standards Norge’s decision was objected to elsewhere. Perhaps folks have gotten the idea that ISO is a bit tilted at the moment.

NetworkWorld agrees and here is what’s stated there, based on the simple rules in the ISO/IEC JTC1 Directives.

If any national standards organizations do make appeals to the Joint Technical Committee of ISO (JTC1) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that worked on the draft, then Microsoft may have to wait several months longer while the appeal is heard, according to Section 11 of the ISO/IEC JTC1 Directives.

Microsoft is already expecting some difficulties. It’s actually acknowledging that these challenges lie ahead.

Now that Office Open XML (OOXML) has been certified as an ISO standard, there is a possibility that the vote leading to that result will be challenged. It seems Microsoft is already counting on it.

Antitrust Issues Kick In

The vote on OOXML may actually be illegitimate for various reasons, including the possibility of WTO intervention. Over at InfoWorld the antitrust question and related implications are being brought up.

Microsoft’s ISO win may worsen its antitrust woes

Microsoft may have won a year-long quest to make its OOXML (Office Open XML) document format an ISO-recognized international standard, but claims of foul play in the voting process may come back to haunt the software giant when the European Commission concludes its latest antitrust investigation of Microsoft’s business practices.

More Irregularities in the Press

Reports about wrongdoings haven’t ceased spreading. Some of them actually reach the more popular press [via Open Malaysia] where the story about Malaysia is told.

Minister ignored objections

According to Open Malaysia, the Malaysian Industrial Standards Committee for IT (ISC-G) took a vote on Mar. 27 to decide the country’s stance on the OOXML-ISO vote, with 13 disapprovals, five abstentions and only three approvals.

By eventually taking the decision to abstain in the OOXML ISO ballot, Maximus Ongkili, who is two weeks into the job as Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation–following the country’s Mar. 8 general elections–appeared to have ignored the ISC-G’s majority “disapprove” vote.

The BSI is not off the hook yet, either. Far from it in fact.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has always been one of those iconic central points of reference in British life – a kind of Big Ben for standards. But it’s a little hard to square that image – perhaps hopelessly outdated – with the BSI’s recent decision to vote in favour of Microsoft’s OOXML document standard.

You don’t have to take my word for this cognitive dissonance. Someone rather more qualified than me to comment on the process to produce the final version of the proposed standard is Tim Bray. He’s generally credited with being one of the fathers of XML, which of course lies at the heart of OOXML. It’s true he’s currently employed by Sun, the main backer of the rival ODF standard, and so potentially biased, but I don’t think anybody has ever impugned his integrity because of that.

Britain’s situation was last summarised yesterday. There will be a formal complaint about what seems like serious misconduct. There will be at least one investigation and a decent amount of evidence is already available.

Over in France (see yesterday's post), the founder of OpenISO protests against what has happened. He seems determined to explore and to help bring justice.

Having participated within the responsible technical committee of the Swiss Association for Standardization and considering the decision-making process that has been used to be unsatisfactory, I find it interesting to look at how things have been handled in other countries, in order to see what can be learned from that. I plan to focus my attention in this regard on countries where the primary language is German, English or French, so that I will be able to understand any relevant documents which might become available to the public or personally to me.

To sum up, the story isn’t over until — as some folks say — “the fat lady sings.” It’s not just a question of procurement though. Microsoft’s OOXML might still lose its ISO and it appears to be facing an uphill battle as highly disturbing findings continue to emerge or resurface. These not only shatter the already-stagnant image of the company, but might also have it lose this small battle, in which it invested a helluva lot.

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