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ODF/OOXML Roundup: A Catastrophe in Detail, Better Days Ahead

Posted in Courtroom, Formats, Fraud, Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 5:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protest against OOXML

ISO Sold Out to ECMA

Broken ISO

It’s too hard to forget what ISO and Microsoft have done and continue doing. From their high horse they continue to snub developing countries. Here is how Bob Sutor puts it.

I think that ISO and IEC are on the edge of a precipice which, if they fall off, will cause them to rapidly lose relevance to IT (ICT) developments in many parts of the world, especially emerging markets.

What they appear to be saying to India, Brazil, South Africa, and Venezuela is “Go away, our process works. We love our process. You are wrong. Live by our rules and be quiet.”

If the appeals process is cut off without detailed community examination of the charges against what happened in the OOXML experience, I think that the reputations of the ISO and IEC will continue to diminish. It does not seem to me that anyone at the senior levels of these organizations get this. Rather than giving these four nations the cold shoulder, and doing it with what appears to this reader as having arrogant undertones, it makes far more sense for ISO and IEC to allow the process to carry on.

Complaints will surely continue to come. In fact, the process was so obviously broken and abused that Rob Weir has just published this detailed item. It shows what a disaster it has been from beginning to end.

When a new 6,000 page DIS is submitted to JTC1 only one month after the publication of another standard (ODF) in the exact same space (XML document formats for office applications) and 19 NB’s submit contradiction statements, and the JTC1 Secretariat’s “best effort” is to hold no consolations with the NB’s claiming contradictions, to hold no meeting, to make no attempt to resolve the question, then I believe that any NB would has a legitimate grounds for appeal on the inaction of JTC1 with regards to contradictions. There is no evidence that a “best effort” was made here to resolve the contradictions. Doing nothing is clearly incompatible with the required “best effort”.

It starts gently and gets down to more gory details. Just imagine that the BSI was taken to court over the abuses [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

A Call for Change

The FSF has just issued a post urging people to join the fight against Microsoft’s OOXML.

The fight against the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard is continuing in many countries. In the UK the UK Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) unsuccessfully, sought a judicial review of the British Standards Institute’s decision to vote yes. UKUUG are now seeking to appeal against that rejection of a review and you can help them.

“Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process.”

Richard Stallman, June 2008


As shown a couple of weeks ago, OOXML may be a security menace. Watch another potentially serious issue that Microsoft has introduced with its ‘moving goalposts’ approach.

I was coming in from Sunday School this past week into the main church service when I was summoned to the audio/visual booth. There was to be a presentation that morning and the PowerPoint file was not compatible with the A/V computer. Why? Because the file was created in Office 2007 & the computer ran Office 2003.


Now all the A/V people have to do is get the Microsoft update and there will be no other issues. But why should they have to go find it? Why wasn’t it automatically pushed to them. People with Office 2003 will (at some point or another) open Office 2007 files. They don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work. Most times, they won’t even know why it is not working or how to get it to work. All they want it to do is have it work.

So thanks, OpenOffice, for just working.

As this post hopefully demonstrates, not only has Microsoft broken compatibility with rival office suites; it also jeopardised users by breaking compatibility with security software whose filters are not ‘OOXML-fluent’ (and never will be).

A World of Freedom, Choice

Aside from Web-based substitutes to Microsoft Office, the following new article presents one among many options.

Another change has been the spread of the open-source software movement. Desktop competitors to Microsoft Office, such as OpenOffice.org, have begun to get some traction. These suites may not come with all the features of the Office apps, but they don’t come with its price tag, either. They also offer good functionality, good support for Office document formats (as well as truly open formats of their own), and you pay whatever you want to pay — or nothing at all.

As a result, users have become more open to considering alternatives to Microsoft’s ubiquitous suite.

Here is another short article about a lightweight alternative.

Abiword: One Lean, Mean, Word Processing Machine

OpenOffice.org gets a lot of attention these days as a practical, no-cost alternative to Microsoft Office. While OpenOffice.org does a fine job, however, there are times when a smaller, faster, feature-packed word processing program would be useful. There is another open-source application that fits the bill perfectly here — and it deserves far more attention than it gets.

The monolithic nature of Microsoft Office (one size fits all) and the monopolistic data formats typically mean that people’s computers must obey Microsoft’s hardware requirements, which they negotiate with companies like Intel to boost their profit. It’s never about the consumer or developer; the customers are OEMs, hardware manufacturers, the government, and the media industry.

Europe’s Commission intends to bring an end to this abuse. It seems genuinely willing to do the right thing and there’s room for citizens’ feedback until the end of September.

The draft document based on which the final EIF v2.0 will be elaborated is now available online on the IDABC website of the European Commission. External comments from all of those interested are welcome by 22 September 2008.

Even the Commission seems more open than ISO. Long live ISO.

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