A REALLY BIG day for OOXML [Updated (or is it deprecated?)]

Today the 14th January 2008 is actually quite a BIG day. Two things have happened that are not directly related but may well, ultimately, have a very positive cumulative effect for us all.

The first thing is ECMA must present, to the voting bodies (NBs) of ISO that will decide the fate of DIS29500, their deliberations and suggested alterations on the 3522 comments which were given during the fast track review period last year.

Update: It has come to my attention that ECMA has issued the dispositions for all 3522 comments. As they are password protected and not for public consumption I couldn’t possibly have seen them but from what I can gather, large parts of the OOXML specification have been moved into a deprecated annex. How long before Office 2007 supports what is effectively a new DIS29500 remains to be seen. If of course, Microshaft decide to bother that is.

That the proposed specification should never have been fast-tracked (it was not ready, full of errors and inconsistencies and worse), or that Microsoft tried to bribe and corrupt their way through the ISO processes to ensure that it passed (and it still failed because it was so bad), is now neither here nor there.

There is to be a meeting in Geneva next month called a BRM (Ballot Resolution Meeting) where members will participate in the review of ECMA’s suggestions for amendments and changes to DIS29500. After the meeting (which only lasts 5 days) the members will have 30 days to decide if they should change their September vote.

One can only begin to imagine what will be going on in the countries that have been Microsoft’s puppet before and those which have so far resisted the borg’s influence. There are already stories of high skulduggery appearing.

The blogosphere is already starting to hot up again for this topic. Here’s a few good links to get you in the mood for what is to come.

Rob Weir (An Antic Disposition),
No OOXML
Groklaw
Open Forum Europe

The second event to have occurred today which may well have a bearing is the EU’s decision to start two more investigations into Microsoft’s anti-competitive practises and more specifically:

The European Commission has decided to initiate two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft Corp concerning two separate categories of alleged infringements of EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82). The first case where proceedings have been opened is in the field of interoperability in relation to a complaint by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). The second area where proceedings have been opened is in the field of tying of separate software products following inter alia a complaint by Opera.

The Interoperability investigation is explained thus:

In the complaint by ECIS, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework. The Commission’s examination will therefore focus on all these areas, including the question whether Microsoft’s new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors’ products.

So they want to find out if their new file format (OOXML) is actually implementable by anyone else or is just a smokescreen to make them appear to be playing ball. As usual Groklaw does some in-depth analysis of these issues (where you will always get a good read).

Oh Goody. This will keep us all busy for a while…

And who knows, the EU and the ISO might just both get it right :-)

“Commiserations to my successor” – OOXML Strikes Again!

In what is an astonishingly outspoken report, Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 has given us insight into the total mess that Microsoft/ECMA have caused during their scandalous, underhand and unremitting attempts to get – what is a very poorly written specification – approved as an ISO standard.

This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

These people, who do such important work in developing and specifying globally useful standards – that ultimately benefit all of us – are usually very circumspect with their choice of language in any public communication.

For Martin to write:

The second half of 2007 has been an extremely trying time for WG1. I am more than a little glad my 3 year term is up, and must commiserate with my successor on taking over an almost impossible task.

and even more:

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.

is really quite amazing.

Being the sceptic I am, I did wonder about the longevity of this article at its original location. So, for historical record, here it is.

I really can’t believe that Microsoft can be allowed to get away with this any longer.

Is it starting to go “Pete Tong” for Microsoft?

With only a couple of days to go before the international standards bodies have to declare their votes in the Ecma-376 standardisation process, the blogosphere is really hotting up with all sorts of news and scandal:

  • According to this, Sweden has declared it’s vote illegal and will now abstain due to “voting irregularities”. (Yeah, right…)
  • New Zealand and India have both said “NO”,
  • France should be saying “non” (but it might end up abstaining) after a bit of a fracas,
  • In Hungary, the Standards Institution is to reconsider its vote,
  • The Brazillians have said no,
  • The Swedish debarcle may impact the Danish vote too,
  • Hot off the blog – Norway says NO,

It is all getting quite exciting really – better than an episode of “Heros”, but I suspect that Microsoft my well end up with enough votes to scrape through by the rather unusual changes occurring to the status of many small and normally benign countries’ standards bodies…

I’d love to know what the BSi are going to do???

More later I’m sure ;-)

Update 01/09/07 – I just found this short analysis of the OOXML v ODF debate from The Brain Wrecked Tech and thought it to be very clear, concise, lucid and worth linking too.

Alex Brown – Convenor of the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML

Microsoft continues to do its level best to drag the ISO process for the OOXML ‘standard’ through the dirt. Their latest astonishing move was to drag 20 partners into the Swedish voting process at the last minute. These Microsoft partners didn’t contribute or take part in the debate about approval of the spec, they just turned up and paid to vote for Microsoft. I am amazed they found this many people who didn’t have the ethical standards to know that what they were doing was wrong.

With a variety of votes from the national bodies it seems there will be no consensus so the next step is a Ballot Resolution Meeting. This will happen in Geneva and will be chaired by Alex Brown of the UK, who happens to have a blog. He is on the blogroll now, and I predict we will be hearing a lot more about him and from him in the next few months. So far he seems to dislike the NoOOXML campaigning but I think he would also dislike the way Microsoft are gaming the system. The process is important and I am sure he will see it is followed in spirit and letter, his writing is balanced and neutral (so I don’t like everything) and I think he will do a great job for ISO in this important role.

Somebody in the ISO must care?

You will be familiar by now about the ongoing saga of Ecma-376. No? Read some of my earlier posts and google for blogs about OOXML or Ecma-376 or ODF and such like.

Ecma-376 is a legitimised published specification of Microsoft’s OOXML (Office Open XML) document format that was introduced with their Office 2007 application suite. They have requested (paid?) Ecma to represent the specification through the national and international standards’ bodies for fast track approval, despite it being over 6000 pages in length!) as an International Standard.

There have been many hundreds of technical criticisms made, and flaws with the specification identified that make it hard to see how it could ever become such a standard. In mine and others’ blogging about this, there have been many questions raised about the way in which national standards bodies are being “manouvered” into voting in a positive, or just benign, manner when the technical issues raised would have usually caused the vote to be a resounding no.

Tonight I found this excellent summary of the rather suspicious and unusual voting patterns that have taken place and been recorded so far. It really stinks…..

The other place of regularly updated record on this subject is at noooxml.org.

As I have said before, please don’t buy any more M$ products. Don’t even pirate their stuff. You will lose control of YOUR data, unless you sign an irrevocable, never-ending exclusive license – a bit like doing a deal with the devil…. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

More M$ dirt rising to the surface?

Some more stuff is coming in on the NoOOXML site that should make you think really carefully about using any more microsoft products…

  • Rumours of M$ BRIBING the New Zealand Government and their standards committee,
  • Making FALSE claims on behalf of the Spanish Andalusia Government the day before their committee goes to vote
  • Dodgy goings on in Azerbaijan??? (New entry added 24/07)

Really, how much more dirt do you need? Just go and download Ubuntu, Thunderbird and OpenOffice (You’ve already got Firefox haven’t you?) and break free…

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