Well, that’s it. The BRM is over.

We are starting to get some reports about what happened and what sort of outcome is to be expected.

Let’s start with Brian Jones of Microsoft. Here’s his take on what when on.

Well, the BRM is over and I can only describe the week as a lot of technical work and a lot of great people I was lucky enough to meet and exchange ideas with. The objective of the BRM was to work with all of the National Body delegations in the room and improve the specification on a technical level — and that we did. There were many technical changes the delegates made to really get consensus on some of the more challenging issues, but all of these passed overwhelmingly once they were updated. The process really worked (it was very cool).

The meeting closed with clapping and cheering, folks were really happy about the improved proposals for the specification and it was a very positive experience for me personally.

Sounds like a good result doesn’t it? And Here’s another Microsoft chappy obviously having a good time in Geneva… Not sure about how much work he’s been doing although his masseuse looks nice!

So, one might assume from the above that all is well in the land of ISO and ECMA and the future is bright for the OOXML specification.

But wait, lets see what some other people thought about it:

Andy Updegrove has collated a number of sources of information together and has a quite confusing analysis of what the results will actually mean. It certainly doesn’t sound like Brian’s comment above:

… but all of these passed overwhelmingly once they were updated. The process really worked (it was very cool).

Here’s Andy’s post and here’s an extract:

There are two ways in which you may hear the results of the BRM summarised by those that issue statements and press releases in the days to come. Perhaps inevitably, they are diametrically opposed, as has so often happened in the ODF – OOXML saga to date. Those results are as follows:

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM, validating OOXML

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions OOXML were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the “Fast Track” process

Interesting. I suggest you read the whole piece to find out why the second of the two results is closer to the mark.

We also have some comments from members of the Malaysian delegation here where their headline states:

“BRM in Geneva is over: big failure for OOXML”

They go on to say:

As you might have guessed, the five day meeting failed to properly address the huge amount of comments and proposed dispositions, and a rushed vote on Friday tried to lump together all unresolved issues in a package where the ECMA dispositions were to be voted on without any discussion. Needless to say, that failed miserably. Only ten national delegations voted, and only 4 P-members were for approval. 4 P-members disapproved, a whopping 15 abstained, and 2 even refused to register a vote in protest.

Although as one would expect they conclude that:

If you count all voting delegates, including those who are not P members, the vote was 6 approvals, 4 disapprovals, 18 abstentions and 4 refusals to vote. Expect this to be announced by Microsoft as a “3 to 2 majority for OOXML approval” in the next few hours. The reality is of course that this is a huge setback for Microsoft. The tricks they have been trying have backfired, and it is now more clear than ever before that OOXML is an immature specification which was totally inappropriate for the fast track procedure.

Hmmm, this doesn’t sound like the report from Brian Jones at the beginning does it?

I’d like to finish with some words from Tim Bray, who was a member of the Canadian delegation. On his blog post he is clearly not enthralled by the experienced:

The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit. I’m not an ISO expert, but whatever their “Fast Track” process was designed for, it sure wasn’t this. You just can’t revise six thousand pages of deeply complex specification-ware in the time that was provided for the process. That’s true whether you’re talking about the months between the vote and when the Responses were available, the weeks between the Responses’ arrival and the BRM, or the hours in the BRM room.

And in scathing language, Tim goes on:

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.

Toxic Leech. I like that! That’s a great expression.

There is some excellent advice from Tim too about what the NBs might like to do with regards to their final decision:

The national bodies that voted on the first round have thirty days to decide if they want to change their vote. I totally don’t believe that ECMA/Microsoft is going to be able to pull together a revised draft of this Frankenstein’s monster in that timeframe. That seems like a pretty serious process issue to me, too.

In practise this means that the heavy politics starts Monday morning. National bodies that are smart will make their decision between 8:30 and 9:00 AM on March 3rd and immediately go on long vacations in Tasmania or Nunavut.

So, who would you tend to believe? A convicted monopolist that has just been fined $1.4bn for ignoring the EU’s judgement of 2004. A business which has been found to be paying NGO’s in India to write to their Government to support OOXML, and providing them with the form letters too!

Or, the rest of the world? I know where my hat rests. Do you? Think about it next time you need to buy some software. Really, Really, Think About It…

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