09.25.08

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India Might Can ISO; IBM Opposition Backed by LF, Seeks Broader Crowd

Posted in Asia, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 8:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another day, another ISO headache

OOXML protests in India
From the Campaign for Document Freedom

ISO had a lot of fun pretending that everything is fine, but the following morning it had a really nasty hangover. What hath ISO wrought upon itself? By refusing to admit that Microsoft had gamed the process, ISO aligned itself with Microsoft’s abuses, which are well documented.

Over the past couple of days we wrote about independent opposition and action coming from India and IBM [1, 2]. There is some new information in Business Standard, which now states:

First, IBM is threatening to leave organisations that set standards for software interoperability over concerns that their processes are not always transparent (the ostensible references are to the ISO and Microsoft).

Second, according to sources close to the development, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) — which met in New Delhi on the 22nd of this month — is reviewing the ISO transparency issue while simultaneously exploring alternate standards which emerge from bodies like the W3C and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

That second portion of the text is particularly interesting. It is more substantiated than anything we’ve seen and given what the BIS went through (Microsoft abuse), it’s neither shocking nor extreme. For quite some time there has been the suggestion that India should sweep ISO aside, bypassing its recommendation. It seems to be getting there, hopefully.

In support of IBM’s protest, the Linux Foundation rises and calls for more such backlash. Via Andy Updegrove (of the Linux Foundation):

While IBM’s standards activities are formidible, IBM still controls only one vote within any single standards organization. As a result, it will be significant to see whether it is successful in inspiring other companies (and particularly those that were its allies in the ODF-OOXML competition, such as Google and Oracle) to make statements of active support for these same principles.

Bob Sutor has already mentioned this as well and below we append the press release. If the Linux Foundation was to grasp low-hanging fruit, it should seek a similar statement from Google, to whom standards are more relevant than to some companies like Red Hat, which sooner or later ought to come up with similar denouncements of ISO’s judgment, if not the entire process. Interesting times ahead. The European Commission is still investigating this fiasco.


Linux Foundation Statement on IBM IT Standards Policy

Yesterday, Linux Foundation member IBM announced its adoption of a new corporate policy that will govern its global participation in the standards development process. It also revealed a list of standards reform recommendations generated through a discussion among 70 standards experts from around the world, and called upon all stakeholders, from the open source community, to vendors, to government, to academia, to join in a dialogue that can both raise the bar for standards development as well as facilitate the implementation of open interoperability standards in open source software.

The IBM policy details a set of principles that are intended to regulate its participation in standards development, as well as a list of action items that will direct its efforts in seeking the reform of that process.
IBM’s goals in this pursuit will be to seek greater transparency, openness and inclusiveness in standards development, and also to facilitate the integration of that process with the development of open source software.

The Linux Foundation applauds this action, and supports IBM’s call for raising the bar in the standards development process. In particular, the Foundation, which uniquely supports both open source software and open standards, appreciates IBM’s leadership in recognizing the importance of promoting the advancement of these two essential technology tools in a coordinated way. Submarine patents, overly restrictive intellectual
property policies, and undue vendor influence are of equal concern to proponents of both open standards and open source software, and the best solutions will be those that address the needs of both disciplines.

Like IBM, the Foundation is working for similar goals. Accordingly, the Foundation calls upon others to support the principles laid out in the IBM announcement, and make common cause with this worthwhile effort.

True, IBM is a member of the Foundation – but that would also be true with regard to the vast majority of other IT standards group of any stature that have anything to do with software, hardware, wireless, open source,…well, you get the idea.  But I can personally vouch for the fact that the Linux Foundation statement was created without IBM’s knowledge, much less at its request.

“The problem is not that the IBM principles are, or should be, seen as controversial, but that they need to be publicly stated at all.”

What does lie behind the making of the Foundation’s statement is the fact that IBM is touching on a widely-felt sense of unhappiness with the status quo.  And while the new IBM policy may be more articulate and cohesive than what others may be thinking to themselves, it is giving voice to the type of self-evident best practices that ought, by rights, to be already directing all standards development efforts everywhere.  The problem is not that the IBM principles are, or should be, seen as controversial, but that they need to be publicly stated at all.

My hope is that the Linux Foundation’s statement will be but the first public statement of solidarity, recognizing that IBM has started a ball rolling here that that others should put their shoulders behind.  Hopefully there will be more such statements in the near future, and more voices added to the dialogue.  I’ll look forward to reporting on them here when they do.

 

“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

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2 Comments

  1. Jose_X said,

    September 25, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Gravatar

    It’s possible there may be legal liabilities being a major vendor and flipping the finger to a major and recognized standards organization; however, there were serious documented flaws with the ISO process for OOXML and with the protest procedure/rules. Many seem to think the problems might lie in the very rules themselves.

    I think if a lot of commercial and noncommercial players rally behind this challenge to ISO, there would be momentum for building a different more sound alternative (or giving higher regards to an existing org) and without legal problems.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 25, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Gravatar

    Jose,

    The rules were actually changed ‘on the fly’ by people who were employed by Microsoft (either in ECMA or in a Microsoft lobbying platform). It’s more complicated than you were led to believe because Microsoft and ECMA (later ISO) did a lot of ‘perfuming’ in the press.

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