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10.06.08

ISO Fallout, ODF Uprise

Posted in ECMA, Europe, Formats, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard, SUN at 11:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

flickr:2400865918

When we last looked at the demise of ISO, as expressed by blogs and evidenced through the mainstream press, there was not sufficient feedback from ISO itself. None of this has truly changed and the near-silence is deafening.

The word about ISO is being spread very quickly at the moment, mainly thanks to diplomacy at Norway, which tolerated the corruption less than anybody else (or any other country for that matter). There is a good roundup of the situation over at ComputerWorld (Boycott Novell is referenced as well) and in InformationWeek’s Microsoft blog, which is understandably apologetic about it.

Last week, 13 of 23 members of Norway’s International Standards Organization (ISO) committee resigned. They were resigning in protest to Norway’s official decision to favor Microsoft’s OOXML document format as an ISO standard, despite a “no” vote by 21 of 23 committee members. (Microsoft and Statoil were the Norway committee’s only two “yes” votes.)

A week earlier, IBM voiced dissatisfaction with the OOXML approval process, and threatened to leave ISO if the organization didn’t protect its decisions from “undue influence.” Now there is some concern that Microsoft is trying to take over the Open Document Format (ODF) process in an attempt to control or destroy its document-format competitor.

As always, the bad news for ISO and for OOXML is coupled by further progress for ODF. OpenOffice.org 3 is set to be released next week (October 14th) and tomorrow Sun will release the fourth release candidate. In addition, SoftMaker supports ODF now.

Not only does it happily read or write Microsoft Office documents in all formats up to Office 2003/ XP (even password-protected Word files), but the suite also reads OpenOffice SXW and OpenDocument ODT files for maximum compatibility with other suites.

ODF awards will be coming soon. ODF is mostly in the hands of OASIS at the moment, so ISO’s (and ECMA’s) gutter-level reputation should have little or no influence — for now.

“This was horrible, egregious, process abuse and ISO should hang their heads in shame for allowing it to happen. Their reputation, in my eyes, is in tatters. My opinion of ECMA was already very negative; this hasn’t improved it, and if ISO doesn’t figure out away to detach this toxic leech, this kind of abuse is going to happen again and again.”

Tim Bray

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8 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Gravatar

    The Information Week Blog infuriated me. While they apologize for the obvious corruption, they sympathize with the latest outrage and commit several gross errors. The worst error is this:

    For better or worse, OOXML encapsulates, in an XML form, all the baggage of the Office file formats. Those have built up like a barnacle-encrusted hull over the past 25 years as Microsoft Office has evolved. ODF may be better in various ways, but it can only represent a subset of the features currently in Office.

    This is hogwash. If M$ themselves can not translate their “features” into ODF they won’t be able to translate them to OOXML either. He might as well say it’s impossible to print M$ documents as PDF.
    It is also irritating that he seems to think of M$’s horrid binary formats as any kind of standard, much less a “proven” one. If anything Office is a proven disaster. Every major version of their Office suite has forced countless hours of re-formatting. Often their formats are so machine specific that moving them to another printer or computer would result in damage. Cooperation has always been difficult except for the most feature free documents imaginable. This is the sorry state of affairs that drove otherwise normal people to task themselves with authoring free alternatives.
    There is no excuse or apology that can justify OOXML and the attack on ISO. The real goal is obviously the destruction of free alternatives and the continued dominance of M$ in the computing world through format lock-in.

  2. twitter said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Gravatar

    Please reformat the above to end blockquote at the correct end of the quote, ” features currently in Office.” My bad, sorry.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Gravatar

    This is hogwash. If M$ themselves can not translate their “features” into ODF they won’t be able to translate them to OOXML either.

    That’s right.

    Microsoft can’t support Open XML

    “Microsoft did everything it could to make its Open XML pseudo document standard an official ISO standard. Fight, cheat, whatever it took. Nothing was too low. And, at the end, Microsoft won. Too bad after all that, Microsoft can’t even get their ’standard’ to work in their own products.

    “No, I’m not making that up. As reported on May 21st in SD Times, Microsoft confessed that they can’t get Office 2007 to support the version of Open XML that ISO just approved. That’s right. Microsoft can’t even support its own standard.”

  4. Needs Sunlight said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Gravatar

    The yammering MSFT boosters make about encapsulating all the baggage of the old MS Office file formats is both factually incorrect and a red herring.

    First, as has been gone over what must be literally thousands of times by now, the format fails to document legacy MS formats.

    Second, a fact which is conveniently ignored, is that the *only* information needed to read and work with the legacy formats is the specification itself. Release those and all that about the MS formats goes away.

    Look what problems even MSFTers have when dealing with the dozen or so of problem MS Office file formats. Look what grew from the WWW’s simple ability to render files independent of location and platform. It follows that getting rid of the first problem and gaining the second ability would lead to some benefits, to make an understatement of it.

    The web keeps going:
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080915-www-creator-berners-lee-launches-ambitious-web-foundation.html

    What’s holding back a universal office format, aside from a few idealogues?

    ODF is for the future:
    http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=3247
    http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=3233

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Gravatar

    First, as has been gone over what must be literally thousands of times by now, the format fails to document legacy MS formats.

    That’s why they disclosed this information separately. This obviates the need for a second format (OOXML).

  6. Needs Sunlight said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: As of that posting
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/19/office-binary-formats-specifications-trap/

    it was unclear the licensing. Once upon a time, some of those specifications were available. Then they were withdrawn. Now they appear available again — unless there are nasty strings attached.

    So are they poison or not?

    MS has dropped support for old formats, so businesses are running OpenOffice along side MS Office. Interestingly, OpenOffice has MS Office beat on the old formats, even without the documentation, and hands-down beats MS Office on ODF support. Past and future.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Gravatar

    Some say they let the specs (binary) loose as part of that last push for the rubber stamp. Hiser and others predicated this would happen last year because it was one of those principal points of OOXML criticism. The move from Microsoft sort of shot down critics at (almost) the last minute.

    Regarding licences, see:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/28/patent-pill-is-in-openness-pledge/

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s funny now that I look at that last URL.

    Peter Galli was hired by Microsoft recently. Watch what headline he chose and the person he spoke to.

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