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"The more you tighten your grip the more star systems will slip through your fingers"

Microsoft's hopes of controlling the open document world were nearing fruition after the International Standards Organization finally certified its OOXML standard at the start of April.  The ISO had already ratified ODF, the competitive open-source format from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) used heavily in Linux, but Microsoft faced a lengthy struggle to try to get its own format recognized.  Without certification it would be tough to push the format as a legitimate open document option.

Microsoft had good reason to want to control the world of open documents.  As users switch platforms and software more and more, and use an increasing amount of open source solutions, the need for a non-software specific format has surfaced.  Microsoft hoped that by making its own proprietary open-file format the preferred standard it could seize control of this budding field.

However, to Microsoft's anger, the process has now been held up by complaints.  Following rumors that Microsoft pushed the vote through and used underhanded tactics to suppress dissent, Brazil, India, South Africa, and Venezuela lent such claims credence by filing complaints against the ratification.

The ratification cannot go forward until these complaints are heard, and they must be voiced before the end of June.  The final decision of how to react to them will be handed to two management committees.  India in particular was quite vocal in its opposition.  An open letter, written by a member of the technical standardization committee in India, states that Microsoft's long and ambiguous proposed specification left it unclear what was being implemented.  He says this means that Microsoft can implement the new format however it wants, ruining the whole reason for ISO -- to promote openness.

He also accuses Microsoft of running a careful concerted smear campaign that undercut the Indian concerns.  He states:

Microsoft started filing complaints to various Indian authorities in early March 2008, claiming bias on part of several members of the committee because of their presumed membership of a group called ‘ODF Alliance India’. My Institution and its representatives are part of the group which has been falsely implicated in these complaints. Worse, the complaints have painted these organizations and their representatives, including the Indian delegation which attended the BRM, as acting against the Indian National interests. This is the most derogatory accusation to any Indian, amounting, personally for me at least, to intolerable blasphemy.

In the letter he alleges that Microsoft pressured the Indian national government to change its stance, and likely did so with other national governments as well.  He states that Microsoft behaved in a way "amounting to interfering with the governance process of a sovereign country."  He concludes, "I would like to assure all colleagues and other readers that my intentions are purely to respond to the grave provocation caused by the actions of Microsoft."

Meanwhile ODF creators OASIS tried to steal a bit of the spotlight calling for an "implementation, interoperability, and conformity" technical committee to continue ODF's openness and quality.  The entity plans on trying to bring ISO or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) into the project.  Surprisingly Microsoft has expressed interest in joining the committee, igniting many conspiracy theories on the internet.

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Embrace, Extend and Extinguish?
By Trisagion on 6/11/2008 9:55:14 AM , Rating: 1
They are trying it again, aren't they? They did it with Java and now the new battle ground is the 'open' document format.

I feel that any open format should be developed by an independent body that does not have any vested interests. Not by any company that supplies products based on the format.

Look at Adobe and their 'open' PDF format....

By mikefarinha on 6/11/2008 11:05:00 AM , Rating: 4
I feel that any open format should be developed by an independent body that does not have any vested interests.

Maybe we should have the W3C in charge... When was XHTML 2.0 coming out again???

RE: Embrace, Extend and Extinguish?
By TomZ on 6/11/2008 12:04:01 PM , Rating: 4
They did it with Java and now the new battle ground is the 'open' document format.

Oh yes, and it worked so well for them with Java, clearly they will want to try to use that strategy again and again. NOT.
Look at Adobe and their 'open' PDF format....

Funny, from what I can tell, there are tons of apps that can read and write PDFs.

I think you have a warped perspective on the industry. Your observations are just plain wrong.

RE: Embrace, Extend and Extinguish?
By mino on 6/11/2008 12:59:44 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, It worked very well.

The have managed to slow down Java adoption until and breakthrough technology has become just one of the bunch.

I.e. until they could develop something competitive.

OOXML is an attempt to keep itself in the government computers where the ISO is increasingly becoming a checkbox kind feature.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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