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Microsoft wins document format standards battle

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Microsoft Corp has won a battle to have a key document format adopted as a global standard, improving its chances of winning government contracts and dealing a blow to supporters of a rival format.

The OpenDoc Society, which had argued Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) format was unripe for ratification by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), published the results showing Microsoft's win on its Web site.

Microsoft welcomed the decision, which was leaked on Tuesday ahead of an official ISO statement expected on Wednesday, saying it created a "level playing field" for OOXML to compete with other standards.

Supporters of rival Open Document Format (ODF), which is already an ISO standard and widely used, said multiple formats defeated the purpose of having standards and that the result would help Microsoft tighten its grip on computer users.

Tom Robertson, Microsoft's head of interoperability and standards, said: "Open XML joins the ranks of PDF, HTML and ODF among the ranks of document formats. I think it makes it easier for governments to offer users choice."

"The control over the specification now moves into the hands of the global community. This is going to be one of the most, if not the most important document format around the world for years to come," he added in a phone interview.

James Love, director of Knowledge Economy International, which campaigns for fairer access to knowledge, told Reuters: "We are disappointed."

"Microsoft's control over document formats has destroyed competition on the desktop, and the fight over OOXML is really a fight over the future of competition and innovation."

Microsoft, shepherded through a fast-track ISO approval process by European standards organization Ecma, lost a first ISO vote in September. Under the process, a second vote was allowed after a so-called ballot resolution meeting last month.

In the second voting period that closed on March 29, Microsoft won the approval of 86 percent of voting national bodies and 75 percent of those known as P-members. A two-thirds majority of the P-members was required.

Among those voting in favor of OOXML were the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan, according to the OpenDoc Society list. Opponents included China, India and Russia.

The process tested ISO to its limits as national bodies waded through the 6,000 pages of code that define OOXML, then dealt with more than a thousand points of order at the ballot resolution meeting, which was designed to help reach consensus.

ODF has just 860 pages of code, one of the reasons that many experts argue that translation between the two is too incomplete to allow true interoperability -- a concept that Microsoft has recently publicly embraced.

Michiel Leenaars, who is on the OpenDoc Society board and chaired the Dutch committee in the first stage of the ISO process, said OOXML was not ready to be an international standard and that the 15-month ISO process had been too fast.

"It was mission impossible," he told Reuters by phone. "The process wasn't meant for this type of thing."

Source: Reuters

Link: Lunarsoft Frontpage

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I am not surprised. I knew that Microsoft would do anything in their power to get it ratified and wouldn't hesitate to foul-play.

Michiel Leenaars is right, fast-track weren't meant for 6000+ pages documents (largest in ISO history), it was meant for short standards around ~150 pages.

ISO lost their creditability...

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Hmm, not sure I understand what this all means...

What is it that you don't understand?

ISO is a standard organization. Standards are sent to ISO for approval.

It is good for a standard to be ISO-approved, because then governments and companies are more likely to use that standard.

ODF (OpenDocument Format) was approved by ISO as a standard for document exchange.

It was backed by big industry players such as IBM, Sun, Apple, etc.

It's a good, open format with a specification of around 650 pages. There exist multiple implementations of it, OpenOffice.org, AbiWord, IBM Lotus, Google Docs, etc and many others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument_software

Microsoft does not own it, so they don't like it. They don't want an open interoperable standard format. They don't want OpenOffice.org to have the reference implementation. They don't want people to use OpenOffice.org, because Windows and Office are their cash cows.

So they OOXML (Office Open XML), a huge specification of around 6000 pages. Almost impossible to implement. The specification does not cover how to implement many needed things, so its not really an open standard even if it poses like one. It calls legacy undocumented functions.

ISO have a fast-track process that they use to quickly pass short standards, stuff thats around 150 pages.

OOXML is 6000 pages, and the largest standard ever in the history of ISO and they tried to fast-track it.

Here in Microsoft leaked confidential documents;

* http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071023002351958

You can see how they are stacking panels, getting pro-Microsoft people who pose as independent to act as moderators, how ISV's are just pawns for them, and how they will try to sabotage alliances.

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I see. I saw ISO and thought of the file etension, lol. So MS created OOXML,whcih basically isn;t what they're pretending it to be? I just don't get the whole specification thing.

No, this is not the .ISO file format we're talking about. We're talking about International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

To them you can send a specification which documents the standard (in this case a document file format) and explains how it works, and what it does, and how it works. People should be able to use that specification in order to make their own implementation of the standard.

Now the standards sent to ISO are supposed to be open, so that companies are able to implement support for the standard. OOXML leaves out important information and relies on legacy Microsoft Office API calls, which kinda makes it not possible for others to create an implementation of it. Plus its covered by patents. OOXML have many flaws, and only few of them have been addressed, the majority haven't. OOXML isn't suitable to adopted as an ISO standard.


The whole process has been full of corruption. For example, in Sweden there were dozens of Microsoft Gold partners who in and voted in the last minute. Microsoft had contacted them and told them to vote in favor for OOXML and promised them advertising, etc. Good way to bribe.

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Man, that sucks. Anyway to get rid of OOXML?

Norway did asked that their vote be suspended due to voting irregularities, but it doesn't matter anyways, since it passed now.

Well, its an ISO standard now, and Microsoft have big influence so it will get adopted a lot.

The EU have made Microsoft pay record fines for their anti-competitiveness in their anti-trust lawsuit.

In March 2004, the EU ordered Microsoft to pay €497 million (US$613 million), the largest fine ever handed out by the EU at the time.

On July 12, 2006, the EU fined Microsoft for an additional 280.5 million euros, 1.5 million euros per day from December 16, 2005 to June 20, 2006.

In February 2008, the EU fined Microsoft €899 million ($1.337 billion) for failure to comply with the 2004 antitrust ruling.

Hopefully EU will look into this and go harder on Microsoft.

What you can do is to avoid Microsoft Office and OOXML (.docx) files, and instead use real standards such as ODF (OpenDocument Format) and PDF.

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Well. I didn't realise. As I said before, OOo3 will be the only suite I will sue when its released.

Just to recap, OOXML isn't really open, and is still considered the standard?

I already use OOo, and are looking forward to upgrade to version 3.0 when it comes...

Yes, OOXML was accepted as an ISO standard.

If you ask Microsoft, they will probably tell you it is open, but from what I have heard, it really isn't.

The specification is ridiculously large, relies on undocumented legacy calls/functions, lacks clarity and information needed to implement stuff, and is very vague so an implementation of it would be different than the reference implementation.

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