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Microsoft Software

If This Was a Month Ago, OOXML Would Be Over 230

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the games-of-corporate-chess dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "Public announcements of how Participating members of ISO have voted on OOXML are now rolling in one at a time, and the trend thus far is meaningfully weighted towards 'No with comments.' By my count, there are now four announced Yes votes, with comments, two abstentions, and seven public No with comments votes for OOXML in ISO/IEC JT1. Korea has reportedly voted no as well, and I expect at least Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom to announce 'No with comments' today or tomorrow. There will be more no votes on the roster when the final results are announced in a day or two. But even if the 11 votes I know of now were the only votes, the vote would now have failed — but for the 11 countries that upgraded their status from Observer to Participating member status in the last few weeks. Without those extra 11 'P' countries, it would only require 10 votes to block OOXML from immediate approval. If most or all of those additional 'P' members vote 'yes' as expected, it will confirm suspicions that Microsoft has promoted extra votes in favor of OOXML not only within National Bodies, but within ISO itself."
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If This Was a Month Ago, OOXML Would Be Over

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  • Help me out (Score:3, Funny)

    by heinousjay (683506) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:33PM (#20456907) Journal
    Do we want this voted down? I haven't kept up with the newsletter.
    • Re:Help me out (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eqisow (877574) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:35PM (#20456927) Homepage
      Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Hell yes!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:04PM (#20457183)
        I thought is was something like:

        Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, with comments.
        • by Xenographic (557057) on Monday September 03, 2007 @09:54PM (#20459133) Homepage Journal
          Source: [yahoo.com]

          "We had a situation where an employee sent a communication via e-mail that was inconsistent with our corporate policy," said Tom Robertson, general manager for interoperability and standards at Microsoft. "That communication had no impact on the final vote."

          [...]

          Besides Sweden, there are unconfirmed reports of last-minute appearances by Microsoft allies to vote in favor of Open XML in countries such as Norway, Colombia, Switzerland and Portugal.

          Robertson dismissed the criticism. Most standards bodies are filled with "an old guard" membership that needs rejuvenation, he said.


          I would like to note that those "unconfirmed" reports have been confirmed by many sources at this point, and that the list given is FAR too short. Something like 40+ countries have decided they want a voting ("P" level, rather than "O" level) membership in the ISO and this interest corresponds with Microsoft's "voter registration drive."

          Never mind such a drive being inconsistent with US anti-trust law. A few anti-trust settlements are merely a cost of doing business these days, and the Iowa settlement is an aberration. Most of them have settled for far less, like the Arizona settlement where they got to give away software that would not only cost them pennies on the dollar (actually, probably less than pennies) but would help further their lock-in in the educational market.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rishistar (662278)
          Short Answer: Yes

          Long Answer: Could someone from MS please get back to me with $50,000?
    • Re:Help me out (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:44PM (#20456999)
      OK, let me give you the overview. Once upon a time, there was Microsoft Word .doc files. This is a format that has changed over the years and is not a good format for long-term storage of files. So, government bodies wanted there to be a standard format. So, the OpenOffice (Linux's big free office suite) developers developed ODT [wikipedia.org], a format whose description is open and one that can be read without having to be reverse-engineered (at least in theory).

      Well, ODT became an ISO standard and government bodies have started requiring documents to be in this format. This, as you can imagine, does not make Microsoft happy. Microsoft publically claims that ODT is a limited format. However, many people suspect that Microsoft's opposition to ODT is that a widespread adoption of this format will make it so people don't feel forced to use Microsoft Word in order to communicate with business associates, since Word is a closed, proprietary format. So Microsoft invented OOXML, which is a, in theory Open Format that is basically a Word .doc file converted to XML.

      OOXML, to put it mildly, is an extremely messy format. The general consensus seems to be that, OOXML, as specified, is very complex and the spec is incomplete, making it impossible for third parties to make effective OOXML import/export filters.

      what Microsoft is trying to do now is make OOXML an ISO standard, so PHBs (pointy-haired bosses) can claim that OOXML is an open standard (really, it's not), and force people to continue using Word to make documents (since no other program is ever going to have an effective OOXML import/export filter). Microsoft, quite bluntly, is playing very dirty pool in order to make OOXML an ISO standard, and a lot of people are crying foul.

      So now, the current battle is to stop OOXML from becoming an ISO standard, so that Microsoft no longer has less of a monopoly on document exchange formats.

      Yes, Microsoft could actually help ODF catch on by making it a format that Word can read or write (such as what this converter [sourceforge.net] does for MS Office), but they don't seem to want to do that.
      • Re:Help me out (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:02PM (#20457161)
        "The general consensus seems to be that, OOXML, as specified, is very complex and the spec is incomplete"

        By which he means you find things like "do margins like Word 95" with (of course) the actual code that explains how margins are done in Word 95... missing. And with Word 95 itself being closed source... well, nobody but microsoft can implement OOXML fully without reverse engineering several microsoft products. Except microsoft of course, which has the souce code for said products. The document is also 6000 pages long, compared to 700 for ODF.

        "Microsoft, quite bluntly, is playing very dirty pool in order to make OOXML an ISO standard"

        By which he means "a microsoft employee admitted they were buying votes" as well as the doubling of voting members of not only the ISO but govermental bodies deciding votes for their country in the ISO and how nearly every one of these new members plans to vote YES to OOXML as a standard.

        Also, the name "Office Open XML" is suspiciously similar to a *real* open-source product, Open Office.
        • Re:Help me out (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ushering05401 (1086795) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:26PM (#20457341) Journal
          If I were in MS strategy I would buy the new 'P' members and have them vote 'No with comments,' ensuring the comments were easily addressed and trivial. This would add validity to the next vote when all of the pocketed participants vote Yes as their comments had been addressed.

          I have a hard time believing that MS would stack the deck so blatantly, but have no doubt that they would do so in a more covert manner. Long story short, don't be surprised if a number of the new voting members vote no initially.

          Regards.
          • Re:Help me out (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylan&dylanbrams,com> on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:50PM (#20457561) Homepage Journal
            This probably isn't driven by MS strategy. More marketing's realm, one would think.

            Add to it that Office has been Microsoft's bread and butter for a decade now, and all truly threatening competition was pretty much quashed when Word Perfect fell. Now you have a situation where there has only been one extremely strong player in the business document production arena since before 'Internet' was a household word. There's a pile of money riding on this - not really in the US, where PC software is pretty sewn up - but overseas. A good rational look at the situation, and do you REALLY think the entire US government is going to go to OpenOffice? Yeah, no. But if OOXML is a standard it gives M$ sales a slight chance at selling developing countries' governments while their technical base is less knowledgeable about OSS.

            Microsoft doesn't really HAVE to care about the US anymore; inertia will keep them in business here for the foreseeable future, like it has IBM despite some horrific failure. It's expansion markets (which, amusingly enough, probably won't listen to an American company as well as they would have before Mr. Gates got his way and a Republican shattered our reputation in the world) that M$ needs for stock prices to go up.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by aim2future (773846)

            I have a hard time believing that MS would stack the deck so blatantly, but have no doubt that they would do so in a more covert manner. Long story short, don't be surprised if a number of the new voting members vote no initially.

            They are marketing people, they don't understand more fine tuned issues like the technical or political ones. Technical issues they usually ignore, or only deal with them far enough to lock you in, to make the least possible interoperability. About political issues we see how

        • by zahl2 (821572)
          Can't Open Office sue for trademark infringement? I think they ought to. And if someone is collecting money for such a suit, I'd like to know who so I can contribute.
          • They don't actually have the trademark to Open Office. This is why they are called OpenOffice.org . With them doing that little workaround, suing Microsoft for using Office Open XML would certainly look stupid.

            Not to mention there would be no point in suing them like this anyway.
      • First, I believe Microsoft actually sponsored some work on the converter you link to. They aren't actually against a converter, they're just against one which works as simply and easily as saving OOXML docs.

        In fact, I should say, they aren't so much against a converter as actually supporting the format, the way they do, say, RTF. You can, from the same Save dialog that lets you choose .doc or .docx, choose to save as .rtf. In office suites other than Microsoft's, you can often change the default format.

        A "c
        • If Microsoft wants OOXML to be a "standard" they should provide source code to read/render a file.

          I don't see why the standards bodies haven't insisted on this from the beginning.

          • by cnettel (836611)
            Where is the official reference source for SQL? C? C++? PDF (ok, different standards status there)?
            • by Joce640k (829181)
              > Where is the official reference source for SQL? C? C++?

              You'd have to be quite weird to think of C and C++ as file formats.

              I can tell you where the official reference sources for JPG, PNG, etc. are.

          • by darkonc (47285)

            If Microsoft wants OOXML to be a "standard" they should provide source code to read/render a file.
            I don't see why the standards bodies haven't insisted on this from the beginning.

            You don't want source code -- especially if it's not well documented and well-written.
            What you really want is a well-designed and a well documented format, so that just about any team can write a reader in the language of their choice.

            Unfortunately, the OOXML standard is neither well designed nor well documented. The way that it's currently defined, doing an open source OOXML reader (especially one which included the features which MS touts as most important) would be both (unnecessarily) technicall

        • Yes, last I heard Microsoft said they would support a converter. However what seems odd is that the converter is on SourceForge as opposed to download.microsoft.com, or some other place. Doesn't Microsoft have their own SourceForge like open source portal? I heard there was practically nothing on it, and they couldn't really get it off the ground.
      • So, the OpenOffice (Linux's big free office suite) developers developed ODT, a format whose description is open and one that can be read without having to be reverse-engineered (at least in theory)

        That "in theory" part is important. Examine ODT documents actually produced by OpenOffice, and you'll find a ton of application-specific elements that are not covered in the standard, that you have to understand in order to accurately represent the documents.

        • Examine ODT documents actually produced by OpenOffice, and you'll find a ton of application-specific elements that are not covered in the standard, that you have to understand in order to accurately represent the documents.

          First time I've seen that claim.

          Can you show an example?

        • by cloricus (691063)
          I have heard this before and I am yet to see an example.

          Furthermore, when I last heard it I was rather unhappy with OOo so I went and had a look for any undocumented implementations and while only a quick look everything appeared to be above board. So unless you, or some one else, can show other wise I'm going to assume you are attempting to spread FUD.
      • by emurphy42 (631808)

        The general consensus seems to be that, OOXML, as specified, is very complex and the spec is incomplete,
        In particular, that it includes things like "tag X should cause the program to process Y the same way that WordPerfect 5.1 did", without actually explaining what that way was.
      • Re:Help me out (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Alsee (515537) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @12:04PM (#20466079) Homepage
        OOXML, to put it mildly, is an extremely messy format.

        Mildly indeed. Aside from it being a 6000 page steaming pile of shite, it is loaded with all sorts of wonderful nuggets such as *REQUIRING* applications to deliberately report the wrong day of the week for certain dates. To quote the lovely specification:

        " shall treat 1900 as though it was a leap year... A consequence of this is that for dates between January 1 and February 28, WEEKDAY shall return a value for the day immediately prior to the correct day"

        So if a certain date was a Monday, Microsoft's specification requires that software must deliberately and incorrectly tell you it was a Sunday.

        Why would Microsoft put insane requirements like deliberate date errors into an international standard? Simple. Once upon a time sold some software that didn't know how the fuck(*) to calculate leap years, and OOXML really isn't intended as any sort of legitimate interoperable international standard. OOML is really just a fancy way of saying "use Microsoft's software". Sending OOXML through the standards process is really just a way of slapping a BOGUS "open standard" label onto Microsoft monopoly lock in software and formats. Microsoft does not want politicians and corporate managers to be lured away by the actual International Standard and actual Open Format - the already existing ODF Open Document Format.

        (*) footnote: Yes, it crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't gratuitously drop "fuck" in there. I thought about changing it. I tried to change it. Really I did. But come on! It's a major software vendor producing a major business application.... and they can't get leap years right? W...T...F!

        -
    • Re:Help me out (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:51PM (#20457069)
      Yes, the collective hive-mind of /. does care and in the latest newsletter there was the quote "we want this voted down!".

      You see, a few years ago governments all around the world started realizing that when they send ".doc" files to the public they're asking people to go spend money with a particular company to read that file. Governments shouldn't say "People with FIRESTONE tyres get to stay on the road!" ...or.. "People with Microsoft Office can talk to the government!". So there's been a raising of consciousness around how file formats cost countries tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

      What Governments should do is say "People whose cars pass certain tests can stay on the road!" or "People with an Office Suite that uses a published standard can talk to us!". That way it encourages competition, "innovation", and cut-throat pricing.

      Microsoft could tell where the wind was blowing, and they began trying to get the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to rubber-stamp their 6000 page proposed standard... a standard called OOXML. An Open Standard sounded like a great idea but the question was: Had Microsoft really told everyone their secret mix of herbs and spices? Well, no, because as it turned out many things in OOXML were left undefined and the only vendor capable of implementing OOXML was Microsoft.

      (and even they're having problems [blogspot.com] ... let alone the problems other vendors have [holloway.co.nz])

      Now although ISO haven't announced anything it looks like it's going to go "No" for Microsoft.

      This doesn't affect what software individuals or the private sector choose, but people who should use standards (government and government vendors) do care about this decision. Actually, individuals and the private sector probably should care because more competition in the office suite market may lower the cost of Microsoft Office.

      A country's "no" can turn into a "yes" when an issue is addressed at the ballot resolution meeting (I think) so the more "no"s the better because otherwise a single country could just swing it in favour of OOXML. The more "no"s the larger the safety net, so it'll be interesting to see what the final vote is.

      So I'd expect that in the coming days there'll be a lot of analysis of whether the actual comments in the "No, with comments" from each country are fundamental problems or superficial quirks. Can any particular country be swung to vote yes easily?

      Still, it's a great start. The noooxml crowd are predicting 18 "no"s.
      • by cloricus (691063)
        And what if that isn't the result?

        I don't know about any one else here but if OOXML passed ISO in its current state I would loose all confidence in the ISO process and organisation.
  • by AJWM (19027) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:36PM (#20456941) Homepage
    There's pretty good vote tracking going on here [blogspot.com], and as of a little while ago they're calling the vote failed: too many "no" votes to get the 2/3 majority needed to pass.

    That doesn't mean it's over: there's a resolution process over the next few months, culminating in a vote in February, to address the comments submitted with "no, with comments" votes. If the comments are resolved to the voter's satisfaction, the "no" vote can be changed to a "yes".

    Expect Microsoft to pull out all the stops to get countries to change there votes even without the comments being resolved. You thought there were dirty tricks before? You ain't seen nothing yet.

    Or perhaps they'll just fix the standard. Ha ha ha ha...er, sorry.
    • by Shados (741919) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:43PM (#20456993)
      Without being able to know exactly what happens internally at Microsoft, the feeling I get is that someone actually got the good idea and enough power at MS to try and get MS to make something that would actually be standard, and it got approved. Architects, developers and co went ahead and started something that would have had the stuff to be approved by ISO. However, time ran short, and some bozo project manager and such at the top rushed the people to get something out of the door.

      Those people then complained "But boss! Its not ready yet!", and said project manager (or whatever) said "Well, you can't have everything in life, thats how we're gonna present it. Your job is on the line, is it ready enough or not?", "Well sir...I.....guess...maybe....". And it was pushed to ISO. Most people who ever worked for a large company probably had to deal with a similar situation at least once.

      Now that its getting rejected, maybe said person at the top will see more clearly and actually let em fix it. So this version isn't good enough, but after some fixes and cleanups, and removing the legacy crap, it might be ok in the end.
      • by AJWM (19027)
        That would be wonderful if true. It might even be so, but almost three decades of observing Microsoft leaves me skeptical.

        The spec certainly needs a lot of cleanup to be truly useful as an ISO standard, and MS Office will need corresponding changes to comply with it (assuming it complies with what's there now, about which there's some debate given problems with e.g. Apple's implementation). But yeah, it'd nice to see a sensible ISO document standard that MS Office and other vendors' / open source applicat
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by skoaldipper (752281)

          That would be wonderful if true. It might even be so, but almost three decades of observing Microsoft leaves me skeptical.
          When your dad says, "Quick, come here, son. I just jammed my hand. Pull my finger." After 30 years of pranks, can we not at least oblige the old man, just this one time, that he might be telling the truth? I say, yes. Trust him. Pull that finger. Just brace yourself for any repercussions.
      • by wellingj (1030460) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:10PM (#20457229)
        Not that I have a lot of experience with standards (my group's leader at work has written a new ISO standard and it's going through the process right now), but that is NOT the way the company I work at handles standards. Of course the company I work at has a longer history that MS and mostly deals with machinery safety standards, which you can not mess around with. But all the same an ISO standard is an ISO standard, you should respect the process and make a good standard, and respect your peers in the industry when they bring up issues. I don't think MS has the respect for ISO's authority at all, and until they do, I don't think ISO should pay one wit of attention to them. Same goes for OSI (that's strange... did any one realize the are different sides of the same coin... so to speak) and MS's shared-source licenses.

        A simple analogy: I teacher does not teach to a student who thinks they have nothing to learn. Nor does a good teacher allow said student to interrupt class. That student should be on their own if they don't want to participate in a constructive way. Alone in a corner. Cleaning the erasers.
        That's my take on it. Of course someone will prove my analogy wrong, but it's more fun that way... fire away!
        • by Shados (741919) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:39PM (#20457463)
          I agree, its not how a company should handle things. However Microsoft is part of two "groups" of businesses that don't think the way a company like yours do. #1: Software Companies. A very good way of handling software development (not that everyone agrees, but it DOES work, in many, MANY scenarios) is "Fail early, fail often". Since in most areas (not stuff like medical and such...), it isn't going to kill anyone, it is more efficient to push software out and find kinks as you go. Its not even always out of disrespect for your customers, because it is a good way to get solid software faster even when its just internally! (so there's no customers to screw over).

          An inexperienced (with standards, which would make sense considering MS) MS project manager probably tried to apply this rational, while everyone around him tried to stop him, but on that day, he was in charge, and he screwed it up for everyone. Probably a group of project manager even.

          The second group MS belongs to, is the "money-first" business kind. Where all these standards and ethics are pretty much just a way to make money. This where MS is on the "evil" side rather than just on the "dumb" side like the first group. They'll learn the hard way.

          Anyway, not the best analogy in the world, but point is, the kind of businesses that handle more "real" things (like yours) tend to think very very differently from software/business companies, who (usually) work more with abstract concepts, and where usually no one gets killed. And a huge machine like Microsoft can't change in 1 day. Even if Steve Balmer was a -saint-, it would still not be possible to steer that ship in one shot. So expect MS to fuck up a lot in the next couple of years.

          If in 20+ years they're still alive, they'll probably be quite different from what we've seen in the last couple of decades. The market is showing that their ways won't work much longer, and they'll end as the next Novell if they aren't careful. So like you said, ISO shouldn't give them any respect, until MS learns, which comes down to what I said. If at first you don't succeed, try again.

          I'm sure when the company you work for just started working with standards and such (which they probably did at some point... as they probably were too small at first for that), they made mistakes. Its not because Microsoft is big that its any smarter. Especially since Microsoft's side is mostly split up in tiny pieces, and its one of those tiny portions that messed up on OOXML.
          • by kebes (861706)
            Your analysis of Microsoft's actions can be summarized as "never ascribe to malice what can be sufficiently explained through incompetence."

            Fair enough. None of us can know the exact motivations for why they pushed out a faulty standard. However, what we can do is predict Microsoft's future behavior in this case, by using their past actions as a guideline. Without being overly cynical, allow me to predict that Microsoft will not rectify the deficiencies in their standard. The reason is simple: it is not rea
            • by Shados (741919)
              I know it can't be extended to standards, don't worrie, I completly agree with you. Its just that having worked for corporation of very large size, one can never discount that, even in a incredibly important and critical project, the wrong project manager was appointed, and something retarded was done.

              I'm pretty damn sure that the people who were writing the specs were BEGGING their boss not to make them push the standard in the shape it was, but that moron did it anyway :) You can go through some blogs of
              • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday September 03, 2007 @10:39PM (#20459485) Homepage
                The problem with that of course is M$ seeming willingness to corrupt the ISO standard process to get it approved. It makes it appear that M$ is in fact corrupt to the core, all the lies, false advertising, defective products, political lobbying, are just M$'s basic nature. They have a complete disregard for the cost and harm they create and are only concerned with their own profits and ego.

                The whole thing should simply be tossed out as it is clear that M$ never intended to and never will produce a workable open standard, for them it is just a cynically corrupt exercise in marketing. Governments should really be taking a long hard look at this type of behaviour and regardless of the temporary inconvenience exclude them from government contracts for at least 10 years.

          • by wellingj (1030460)
            "The market is showing that their ways won't work much longer, and they'll end as the next Novell if they aren't careful."

            Wouldn't this be about the best thing we could hope for? I mean if MS went to a BSD base and then did backward support of all the crusty Windows stuff on it (much the same way Novell does backwards support through Linux), wouldn't that be a step in the right direction of becoming open through legitimate (and agreeable to them) means?
      • by daeg (828071)
        It isn't just tiny errors in the spec, there are sweeping and fundamental problems with it. It's as if the spec is designed such that, surprise of surprise, the only certifiably complete tool that supports OOXML is the latest, most expensive version of Microsoft Word (Windows Vista only). Once approved, it could easily force many governments into purchasing upgrades they do not need simply because their laws (which are in the overall best interest of its citizens) state they have to follow industry specs.

        It
        • by Shados (741919)
          Im sure there's part of that (though OOXML works perfectly fine under non-Vista, hehe), but having read a bit of it, what I see is that its not complete. It was rushed. The specs were copy pasted from internal documentation to save time (thus the "As of Office [insert obsolete version here]) garbage.

          Having worked on a lot of similar projects, it really look like its 1 part evil, 2 part simply rushed and unfinished.
      • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Monday September 03, 2007 @08:45PM (#20458621) Homepage Journal
        From what I can tell, it started with Massachusetts's decision to limit their next office product purcase to products which support "Open" and "XML-based" Document protocols. At that time, Open Document Format (which was based on the Open Office XML document format) was the only open document format available. This meant that Microsoft would either have to bow to using a format defined and controlled by somebody else, or somehow make their own closed format into something acceptable by Microsoft.

        They went about this by following two tracks:

        • On one track, they made life unbearable for the CIO at Massachusetts -- and also his successor, who also understood the issues at hand ... until they finally ended up with a CIO who would swallow.
        • On the other track they suddenly decided to submit their XMLish document format to ECMA to make it an 'open' standard. ... but huge chunks of the 'XML-standard' were actually embeded binary chunks who's documentation consisted of "Uhm, reverse engineer Office-97 to figure this out, OK?". Even with these huge chunks effectively MIA, their 'standard' still consisted of over 6000 pages -- in part, because OOXML eschews international standards in favour of entrenching 20 years of MS bugs (like thinking that 1900 was a leap year, and encoding language types in wonky ways)

          More problmatically, Microsoft made supporting some of these odities 'optional', which means that

          1. You could end up with a nominally OOXML implementation which didn't support these chunks,
          2. Implementations of these chunks wouldn't be protected by Microsoft's patent grants for the ECMA standard,
          3. Microsoft could (and did) then promote these undocumented and unprotected features as 'critical aspects' of OOXML -- that any competitors who wanted to produce a competing OOXML implementation have a hard time (both technically and legally) implementing.
        In short, OOXML allows microsoft to claim (to technically illiterate political cheque-signers) that Office 2007 uses an Open, XML-based document format -- but do it in a way that pretty much ensures them that nobody that's not a Microsoft lap-dog will be able to legally create an implementation that can actually read most Office 2007 documents. (or -- at the very least -- it will take them years to put something legal together, by which time Ofice 2007 will have squeezed Open Office out of the market).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MagicM (85041)

          MS bugs (like thinking that 1900 was a leap year

          I hate to defend Microsoft, but this one is starting to bother me. As stated on this page [microsoft.com], 1900 being treated as a leap year isn't a bug introduced by Microsoft. Rather, it's a feature added to be backwards compatible with a bug in Lotus 1-2-3.

          Yes, there are still plenty of things that Microsoft did/does wrong, but at least watch out where you point the finger with this one.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:54PM (#20457085) Homepage
      Most of the comments will never be resolved. Microsoft has no intention of re-writing their format specification. There has been much discussion about what is "wrong" with their format and many of the comments spell them out clearly. Some comments have to do with some things that are fixable, but those that are described as part of the Win32 or Office software behavior will not be defined in a way that is both accurate and unlinked to Win32 or Office. Their links to Windows and Office is what will help keep their monopoly rolling. (That, and patent encumbered 'standards' that only Microsoft can implement.)

      And to offer a clue to other products that parallel this situation, one only needs to investigate MSIE's broken implementation of CSS. Invariably, web designers have to create their pages around MSIE's broken CSS implementation if they want the majority of viewers to see their page correctly. The public's perception of anything else is that the web site is broken or poorly designed in some way. This broken majority keeps development for MSIE active.

      I'm hopeful that the 2/3 majority issue is already defeated. I'm also hopeful that every other participating body has also heard about Microsoft's goof in trying to buy the "yes" vote by stuffing the votes. (And there is NO way that happened at the direction of a mere 'underling.' Someone with real decision-making power and responsibility must have directed the "program." This sort of activity may easily be considered lobbying... but I consider a lot of 'lobbying' activity rather subversive to a democratic process as well.)
      • by jafoc (1151405) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:09PM (#20457211) Homepage
        I'm also hopeful that every other participating body has also heard about Microsoft's goof in trying to buy the "yes" vote by stuffing the votes. (And there is NO way that happened at the direction of a mere 'underling.' Someone with real decision-making power and responsibility must have directed the "program." This sort of activity may easily be considered lobbying... but I consider a lot of 'lobbying' activity rather subversive to a democratic process as well.)

        Here [justia.com] is a U.S. supreme court decision holding that committee stuffing in standardization organizations is fundamentally different from lobbying.

        From the decision: "Petitioner, and others concerned about the safety or competitive threat of polyvinyl chloride conduit, can, with full antitrust immunity, engage in concerted efforts to influence those governments through direct lobbying, publicity campaigns, and other traditional avenues of political expression. To the extent state and local governments are more difficult to persuade through these other avenues, that no doubt reflects their preference for and confidence in the nonpartisan consensus process that petitioner has undermined. Petitioner remains free to take advantage of the forum provided by the standard-setting process by presenting and vigorously arguing accurate scientific evidence before a nonpartisan private standard-setting body.[Footnote 13] And petitioner can avoid the strictures of the private standard-setting process by attempting to influence legislatures through other forums. What petitioner may not do (without exposing itself to possible antitrust liability for direct injuries) is bias the process by, as in this case, stacking the private standard-setting body with decisionmakers sharing their economic interest in restraining competition."

        • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 03, 2007 @08:36PM (#20458547) Homepage
          Pursuant to this precedent, can Microsoft be hauled back into court for violating their anti-trust restrictions following their conviction if their clear violation happened outside of the U.S.? It is the same company though operating in another jurisdiction.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by darkonc (47285)
            That's an interesting question. If they've tried to stuff the US standards bodies, then you don't have to look at actions outside the US, and the legal landscape gets a bit simpler.

            However, it could be argued that these are (foreign) subisidiaries of Microsoft acting to help Microsoft (US) maintain their monopoly in the US. As such, because they are minions of a US corporation acting to protect a US monopoly, it might be appropriate to US antitrust action. (I am not a lawyer -- much less a judge).

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:54PM (#20457087)

      If the comments are resolved to the voter's satisfaction, the "no" vote can be changed to a "yes".
      Can comments be of the form "I would need more money in order to vote 'yes'"?
      • Not quite, but... (Score:2, Informative)

        by jafoc (1151405)
        Can comments be of the form "I would need more money in order to vote 'yes'"?

        Actually that particular form of corruption is not allowed by the rules [jtc1sc34.org] (the comments have to be "technical reasons").

        However there are other possible ways of corruption that are not disallowed by the rules. For example, in Switzerland, the relevant committee was chaired by H. R. Thomann [thomannconsulting.ch], a consultant who earns money by representing business interests in standardization organizations. The rules of the Swiss standards organiza

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bigpat (158134)

      That doesn't mean it's over: there's a resolution process over the next few months, culminating in a vote in February, to address the comments submitted with "no, with comments" votes. If the comments are resolved to the voter's satisfaction, the "no" vote can be changed to a "yes".

      Which really would work to microsoft's benefit since they have already implemented MS OOXML according to their own standard so to go back and change a few things to make member countries happier would make the standard even more incompatible with what they have already implemented in MS Office. And as others have pointed out, a major flaw in the Microsoft license is that they have given people free license to implement OOXML according to the standard, but not according to what they have actually implement

    • There's pretty good vote tracking going on here, and as of a little while ago they're calling the vote failed: too many "no" votes to get the 2/3 majority needed to pass.

      It seems a bit outrageous to me that a corrupt organization can bribe a number of bullshit nothing countries into voting their way and potentially ram through a piece of junk like MSOXML. The biggest outrage to me is that bullshit nothing countries can get the same voting weight as the major industrialized countries (assuming that this is

  • Nevermind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:38PM (#20456953) Homepage Journal
    Utterly ignoring the actual standard being discussed, I have to say that my respect for and general goodwill toward the ISO process has been fairly well shaken. Its a shame really because standardisation (if not of spelling) is one of those things that has driven innovation and allowed our society to progress enormously. Having now seen the process involved in deciding on a new standard, and more importantly how it can or may be manipulated is frankly disturbing.

    Well I guess its a good thing to have your faith in something shaken, doubly if it means that from here on in the respect and admiration that I had for international standards bodies must now be earned. (Not that my opinion will matter, but I am sure other more influential voices have also taken note.)
    • my respect for and general goodwill toward the ISO process has been fairly well shaken. ... respect and admiration that I had for international standards bodies must now be earned.

      That would be an unqualified win for M$ [slashdot.org], but we can do better than that by fixing the process. The corrections that have taken place in Sweeden, Norway and Hungary have started the process. The completion of that process is censoring OOXML, the tactics used and M$ itself. They have acted with malice and should be banned from

    • by JonathanR (852748)
      Any democratic/consensus decision making process can be subverted when the commercial stakes are high. I wouldn't be surprised if this situation is without precedent. There is no other standard ever proposed or developed that has so much commercial interest riding on it.

      I'd be interested if anyone can come up with another example where subverting the standards process was in the interests of a corporation of similar size and global reach.

      If this standard proposal fails, then the fall-back option will prob
      • by JonathanR (852748)
        ODF is already an ISO standard [iso.org]. My bad.
    • I've always felt that big companies love complex standards precisely because they are so difficult. They always seem to be designed lock out small competitors and allow the incumbents to control the market more effectively. OOXML is kind of like that, except that it seems primarily to lock the world into a standard that, almost by definition, only Microsoft can implement.

      It seems to me that when companies need to cooperate, they find a way to do it by creating their own standards independent of standards
  • by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:39PM (#20456955)
    Seriously, what's the point of "yes, with comments"? I mean, if the standard is endorsed, what are the odds that the comments will be addressed? It's a completely toothless vote, and it might as well be a straight-up "Yes" vote. Whoever sold those countries the idea that "Yes, with comments" is different from "Yes" sold them a bill of goods.
    • by overshoot (39700) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:57PM (#20457113)

      Seriously, what's the point of "yes, with comments"?
      In a normal standards process, "Yes, with comments" is very valuable. Remember, in a normal standards process everyone is basically on the same team. "Yes, with comments" means that the spec under consideration is "good enough," but that it could be improved by (for instance) clearer wording of a section.

      Again, I can't overemphasize that this kind of hardball, take-no-prisoners approach is very much the exception and that ISO (and the national bodies) simply aren't prepared to deal with it. Have a look at the comments of, for instance, the Hungarian government for a taste of how "enlightening" this has all been.

      • Did anybody other then Microsoft have any input on this "standard"?

        So what's the point of "yes, with comments"? It's not like Microsoft is going to make a single change to it.
        • Did anybody other then Microsoft have any input on this "standard"?
          There really was a committee in ECMA which did the editorial work for Microsoft, but it had a very clear charter to document Microsoft's MSO2K7 file formats. No changes allowed.
      • You're right, I should have specified that I was talking only about this situation (the MS OOXML farce). I can obviously understand "Yes, with comments" in a normal setting. But in this setting, if the national bodies think those comments will addressed, they're dreaming. MS has no intention of radically altering the spec, because they're already using it in the wild. There are already thousands of .docx and .xlsx files out there, and MS can't abandon compatibility for them, but listening to most of the
        • But in this setting, if the national bodies think those comments will addressed, they're dreaming.

          If they're dreaming, it's of tropical paradises bought with Microsoft "donations".

          The bodies voting "Yes, with comments" are the ones who sold out.

        • There are already thousands of .docx and .xlsx files out there, and MS can't abandon compatibility for them

          The hell they can't. .docx and .xlsx already break compatibility with .doc, which has broken compatibility with itself several times now.

          All they have to do is stick a version string on it and release a patch for any MS Office supporting OOXML. If they've done it right so far (doubtful), opening a file with a newer version of the standard would pop up a dialog prompting the user to upgrade, or at lea

    • by Erris (531066) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:07PM (#20457201) Homepage Journal

      Seriously, what's the point of "yes, with comments"? I mean, if the standard is endorsed, what are the odds that the comments will be addressed?

      It means the standard is workable but could be improved the way you noticed. Outside of Redmond, people engage in constructive criticism and mean mostly mean well.

      The adversarial tone above is the worst damage that M$ has done to ISO. Standards are agreements meant to reduce duplication of work and friction between people, not a way to lock people into buying your crap. Real standards, like ODF are created by groups representing many interested parties. They are complete and easily implemented by others, and exceptions are always documented. OOXML, on the other hand, is incomplete, contradictory, patent protected and will remain single vendor. It's presentation was an affront. The gamesmenship was worse. If it that kind behavior is tollerated and encouraged, there will be no standards for anything. But this attack has been coming for ten years. [catb.org] As they put it themselves,

      OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market.

      M$'s true intentions and use of standards is everything standards are supposed to avoid. This fact has been drug up in court several times.

      ISO should punish those who took bribe as well as those who offered them. M$ should be banned from participation for a good long time or they will succeed in their destruction of real standards.

  • ESR and OOXML (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mmurphy000 (556983) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:45PM (#20457013)

    Eric S. Raymond (ESR) commented on Microsoft's OOXML tactics as they relate to their proposed open source licenses in a OSI blog entry [opensource.org].

    I agree pretty much with his position. If the playing field were anything near to level, I would have no issue in evaluating Microsoft's license submissions purely on their merits, just like any other license. However, I have difficulty in reconciling Microsoft wanting to be treated fairly by OSI with Microsoft's tactics in their attempts to ram OOXML through ISO. If Microsoft can game the ISO approval process, shouldn't it be fair for us to game the OSI approval process?

    • To not punish this kind of behavior would be to treat M$ more than fairly and everyone else less than fairly. M$ needs to be fined and banned from participation for a few years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wgmari (215656)

      This is now getting off of topic, as I don't believe that OOXML has anything to do with their submissions to the OSI.

      While it is easy to want to discriminate against Microsoft for their (many) questionable practices, the only way that we can hold our ideals is to be the better party. Let us not hurl insults (especially personal) at the "other side", let us not "game the process".

      If the license is good, then it should be accepted. If Microsoft's practices with the ISO are bad, then let us denounce them.

    • And the really sad thing is that, from what I hear, even if judged solely on the merits, and completely ignoring MS' monopoly position, OOXML is still a horrifying piece of shit. Its unimplementable, since it specifies things like 'Do it like (a certain version of a certain MS product) does it' and never actually defines what that is. And thats just *one* problem with it.
  • Surely you're not suggesting that Microsoft would throw its money around in order to obtain special treatment.
  • by jafoc (1151405) on Monday September 03, 2007 @05:53PM (#20457081) Homepage
    Most of the public (and non-public) discussions seem to miss the main point: From Microsoft's business perspective, pursuing the ISO/IEC strandardization process for OOXML isn't at all about OOXML, but rather it is about trying to kill ODF.

    As pointed out in this U.S. supreme court decision [justia.com], "Agreement on a product standard is, after all, implicitly an agreement not to manufacture, distribute, or purchase certain types of products." In the case of OOXML, the agreement is primarily about not manufacturing, distributing or puchasing products relying on the truly open document format standard ODF.

    Really it is only acceptable for the standardization of OOXML to proceed if OOXML is first revised to make it "map ODF", see this article [siug.ch] for a precise definition and detailed argument.

  • We all know that Microsoft corrupts and destroys standards from the outside in. Java comes to mind, as well as the maliciously-compliant dhcp client in Vista. But this would be new (at least to me) - an attempt to corrupt a standards body from the inside out.

    Luckily, it seems to be more difficult to trick engineering standards groups.
    • What sort of "standard" was Java at the time MS created J++. There wasn't even the toothless JCP at that time. The Java "standard" was entirely controlled by Sun.
  • by v1 (525388) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:02PM (#20457159) Homepage Journal
    we really need a "shameless" tag, but with microsoft I think that already goes without saying. They're not hiding in the shadows on this, they're grinning like a skunk eating manure.
    • They're not hiding in the shadows on this, they're grinning like a skunk eating manure.

      I think you have to admire Microsoft for the nakedness of its corruption in all of this. Microsoft didn't try to slink around; it was over-the-top and in-your-face at every step of the way. I wouldn't be surprised if either MSOXML gets rammed through right now on some technicality by bribing some ISO official or it executes another fast-track play and is even more over-the-top next time.

  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:24PM (#20457333)
    Microsoft is lobbying hard to get OOXML adopted as an industry standard, to prevent Open Office's ODF from becoming de facto THE accepted standard for document preparation, transmission and storage. I'm sure that all of the votaries who answered "No, with comments" are currently hearing from M$ reps just how, er, lucrative a "Yes" vote could be.

    Yes, maybe I'm being paranoid. Being paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you!

  • Would it be too much to ask for a summary, rather than merely copying & pasting the linked article? Maybe mention what ODF and OOXML are, why we might NOT want the ISO to accept OOXML as a standard, things like that?
    • Summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by allthingscode (642676) on Monday September 03, 2007 @08:33PM (#20458515)
      ODF - A document format originally based on the Open Office file format. It spent four years going through the ISO process, being revised to comply with other ISO standards, and was released as a standard in 2006. The entire specification is a couple hundred pages long. Since then, an number of states in the US, and countries, have decided that all official documents must be saved in a standard format.

      OOXML - Microsoft's format based on their Office Suite. It is about 6000 pages long.

      A couple of my favorite reasons for not allowing OOXML to become a standard include:
      1. 1900 is defined as a leap year because that's what MSOffice does.
      2. The specification includes numerous definitions of tags like autoSpaceLikeWord95, which is defined as:

      This element specifies that applications shall emulate the behavior of a previously existing word processing application (Microsoft Word 95) when determining the spacing between full-width East Asian characters in a document's content.
      [Guidance: To faithfully replicate this behavior, applications must imitate the behavior of that application, which involves many possible behaviors and cannot be faithfully placed into narrative for this Office Open XML Standard. If applications wish to match this behavior, they must utilize and duplicate the output of those applications. It is recommended that applications not intentionally replicate this behavior as it was deprecated due to issues with its output, and is maintained only for compatibility with existing documents from that application. end guidance]

      The "Standard" contains an erroneous date calculation, and won't tell you how to properly do something defined in the standard.

      Recent stuff:
      It seems that companies that never before bothered to show up for standards votes are magically showing up on the day of the OOXML vote, paying their dues, and voting. And we're not talking about a few. Suddenly, votes that would normally have ten to twenty companies show up all of the sudden have 20 new businesses. Also, there have been reports of companies that support Microsoft getting access to Microsoft technology they wouldn't otherwise have access to. Also, countries are supporting OOXML that never bothered with these votes.

      BTW, have you been living under a rock? This story shows up almost as often as the BSD/GPL tussle.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by KarmaMB84 (743001)
        The date thing is from a Lotus 1-2-3 bug that they've chosen to emulate for backwards compatibility reasons. It would be nice they'd just made it an option for converted documents.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday September 03, 2007 @06:49PM (#20457549)
    The real problem about it all is that the managers, who will or will not heed that "standard" don't even know how it came into existance. They don't care about open source or vendor lock in (hell, they love the lock in, they already have a minuscle grasp on Windows, they would do whatever necessary to avoid change, and if all that's required is doing nothing...). They don't care about implementation (that's gonna be YOUR job after all, they just waggle their fingers and cast a "make it so" spell on you).

    They care about standardisation. You will not convince your boss with a lack of interoperability, but you will get him with telling him that in that new "standard", some of his fancy and oh-so-important feature-junk he tends to pepper his documents with won't work anymore.

    If you want your boss to object to OOXML, find out what clipart trash won't work anymore. That's how you get him on your side.
  • So the future is looking bleak for OCXML (Office *Closed* XML) but what's with the claim about last month? This issue wasn't over a month ago so why the cryptic headline?

    • by Vexorian (959249)
      I am guessing, but perhaps because of the changes that happened last month? Sweeden? New countries added? etc, etc...
  • by More Trouble (211162) on Monday September 03, 2007 @08:11PM (#20458283)
    This is no different than how MS subverted the IETF process in the early '90s. And not really fundamentally different than how MS subverted web standards to undermine Netscape.
  • by gnetwerker (526997) on Monday September 03, 2007 @09:34PM (#20458967) Journal
    New York Times article here [nytimes.com] (reg req'd, etc).

    BERLIN, Sept. 3 -- Amid intense lobbying, Microsoft is expected to squeak out a victory this week to have its open document format, Office Open XML, recognized as an international standard, people tracking the vote said Monday. ... "After what basically has amounted to unprecedented lobbying, I think that Microsoft's standard is going to get the necessary amount of support," said Pieter Hintjens, president of Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a Brussels group that led the opposition.
    Rage, rage, at the dying of the light.
  • Current Scoreboard (Score:3, Informative)

    by hweimer (709734) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @01:18AM (#20460681) Homepage
    By my count, there are now four announced Yes votes, with comments, two abstentions, and seven public No with comments votes for OOXML in ISO/IEC JT1.

    There have been reports on far more votes. See this blog post [blogspot.com] for the current standings.

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