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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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RE: enlighten me.
By jonathan8di on 6/12/2008 1:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
The OOXML standard breaks away from many pre-established standards and recommendations already in use. Also, the OOXML standard documentation is excessively convoluted (6546 pages!)

From Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ooxml ):

The ODF Alliance UK Action Group says that with OpenDocument there exists already an ISO-standard for Office files and that two competing standards are against the very concept of a standard.[89] Further, they argue that the Office Open XML file-format is heavily based on Microsoft's own Office applications and is thus not vendor-neutral, and that it has inconsistencies with existing ISO standards such as time and date formats and color codes.[89]

Specific criticism

-Use of DrawingML and the transitional-use-only VML instead of W3C recommendation SVG. VML did not become a W3C recommendation.

-Use of Office Math ML instead of W3C recommendation MathML.

-Office Open XML does not define a macro language, leaving this aspect to be application-defined.

-The standard is long, with the version submitted to ISO comprising 6546 pages. Google alleges that this length is unnecessary, saying that the OpenDocument specification is 867 pages in length and achieves the same goals. That coupled with the fast track standardization process, Google claims, reduces the review time per page ratio.

-A comparison of some specific items in the format specification documents of Office Open XML and OpenDocument formats is used to claim disharmony within the Office Open XML format.


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