07.15.08

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ISO and Microsoft: Lesson in Teamwork?

Posted in Africa, America, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 3:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!”

–Microsoft’s Doug Mahugh about OOXML in Malaysia

Ever since ISO had collapsed and left room for Microsoft to do its mischiefs, ISO’s behaviour has been as suspicious as Microsoft’s. At the moment, Groklaw is putting up the texts of the appeals, which make an appalling sight at the ISO process. Here’s just one example.

NB/MB COmment VE-0002 – BRM Question Number 142 – Covered in BRM? No – Appropriately addressed? NO. The use of BLOBs (Binary Large Objects) is maintained, without specifying mechanisms for retrieving/displaying them and also leaving the implementation up to the developer without any specification.

That’s geek for “No one can use OOXML at the moment but Microsoft, because only it knows how to retrieve/display the proprietary parts.” Is it a standard if only one proprietary company can implement it fully, because only they have the key to all the doors, so to speak? Isn’t equal access and full specification kind of the point of a standard?

Speaking of keys to doors, nothing is said there about serious security implications. And wait, there’s more.

Among the articles about what ISO refuses to confirm, there’s this.

“We respect the expertise of ISO’s and IEC’s staff with regard to their procedures and processes, and we hope that the appeals will be resolved soon,” a company spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mailed statement.

Is that the same ISO whose rules were changed by a Microsoft lobbyist? Whose “expertise” does Microsoft “respect”, as it puts it in this statement? Is it really ISO’s?

How much of this process has already been gamed? How many people has Microsoft reportedly ‘tinkered’ with by now? We already know that Microsoft had some American diplomats, the French president and the Mexican president involved. That’s nothing to sneeze at. ISO’s leadership is small potatoes compared to leaders of countries that size.

Another post about South Africa’s appeal raises some important points. It can be summarised thusly:

South Africa also believes that the process from beginning to end “has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC” which in turn has also harmed the reputations of all member bodies. That is the saddest part, to me. ISO always had a fine reputation, and it has so many excellent people involved in standards work who have toiled for years tirelessly and competently. But it’s a new day.

Some people still have some faith in ISO, but ISO will never be the same. Microsoft touched it.

ISO for sale
Photo from the public domain

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