04.16.08

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Why ISO and Microsoft Will Share a Bad Headache Until June

Posted in Antitrust, ECMA, Europe, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 5:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Under investigation, under great pressure, scrutiny

Our recent coverage of the situation at ISO was almost excessively critical [1, 2, 3], but we are by no means alone. Glyn Moody has just taken a look at the latest FAQ to judge it for himself and he was equally appalled by what he found. Among his observations:

This is amazing: since when did proprietary lock-in represent “additional functionality”? That’s a bit like saying handcuffs offer “additional functionality” to boring old handcuff-less freedom. Proprietary lock-in – even when dignified with the euphemistic moniker of “legacy documents” – is what open standards are supposed to avoid; touting it as an “extra” is a simple betrayal of the fundamental underlying idea.

[...]

In other words, ISO’s FAQ, designed to quell the storm, ends up confirming many of the very issues its critics have raised, and feeding it. Well, I suppose that’s a kind of progress.

How did ISO end up sidling with a single company that went face to face against an entire industry? ISO will probably blame ECMA and Microsoft will surely give credit to ECMA, but at the end of the day it is clear that this system of (mis)trust is utterly broken and it needs to be fixed very quickly, before other proprietary technologies like XPS are passed as 'standards' on the Fast Track.

Remember that XPS can be made reliant on modules of OOXML, which itself, as we already know, is rather horrific. Under the “it’s already an ISO standard” excuse, this sordid mess can be further complicated with dependencies that bring a whole chain that makes a proprietary stack. How long before Windows is made a standard a la POSIX? (the sarcasm of desperation should be noted here)

IBM, which is merely one among hundreds of ODF supporters, has just published the following article about OpenDocument Format for those who intend to read a primer.

The OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF) is an XML standard that lets you store and exchange office application documents, including word-processor, spreadsheet, and presentation files. Whether you try to perform special tasks on files saved from such applications or work on applications to process such files, you should become familiar with this important format. Learn about the two possible forms of OpenDocument files, as multipart packages and as single XML documents, and learn how to structure text and tabular information in OpenDocument.

There is something else which is worth highlighting today. In the Indian press, the following headline has just turned up: “Microsoft never opposed ODF”. Why not implement it then? Why duplicate? Why literally go against the entire industry? Why run a smear campaign against ODF? Why steal Document Freedom Day?

Here in this article you have Microsoft even admitting that OOXML is deficient.

It is almost impossible to resolve 100% of issues, as you are resolving some issues which you have identified like software codes, someone would come with 2-3 new issues.

And that is why standards go into maintenance, and maintenance is of two kinds – to fix any flaws that had been identified or may get identified or to add any new capabilities to the standard. If there are issues that could be resolved later on, then members take this to the standards body as it was out of the hands of the Microsoft. So, this vote kind of reflects that sentiment.

In other words, Microsoft shoved a buggy set of specifications, which Office will never have implemented by the way, down ISO’s threat. It’s left for ISO to choke on.

On the brighter side of things, the abuses for an ISO (and inside ISO) are being studies by the European Commission (EC) which is yet to report back. It has almost two months left, during which OOXML as an ISO standard can be retracted and ISO left very embarrassed, humiliated and even publicly shamed using the EC’s findings. In the mean time, having gathered initial evidence that Microsoft has not changed its ways, Europe will continue to evaluate its migration to GNU/Linux as well as a Microsoft embargo (at a a high level, namely government tier). There are several newer articles that cover these developments, including:

The Commission, which has not responded yet, is allowed a few weeks to reply.

A European MP has called for the EU to stop doing business with Microsoft until it complies with an order to open up to competition.

Recall that recent video which shows Neelie Kroes as she speaks about the price of fleeting [sic] the rules. This could be expensive for Microsoft. It is a matter of contracts and reputation, not just heavy fines. For reasons that we highlighted before, the United States is unlikely to intervene as it should.

“I’m sorry that we have to have a Washington presence. We thrived during our first 16 years without any of this. I never made a political visit to Washington and we had no people here. It wasn’t on our radar screen. We were just making great software.”

Bill Gates

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