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Microsoft Software

OOXML Won't Get Fast-Track ISO Standardization 165

realdodgeman writes "The International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) recently held an internal poll to determine the position that the United States should take on Microsoft's request for Office Open XML (OOXML) approval. With eight votes in favor, seven against, and one abstention, the group was one vote short of the nine votes required for approving OOXLM ISO standardization. This will mean a huge slowdown to the standardization to the OOXML format. 'Given the controversial nature, relative complexity, and significant importance of the standard, the results of INCIT's vote is unsurprising. An INCITS technical committee also voted against fast-track OOXML approval last month prior to the executive board's vote. Further deliberation is clearly needed as well as further refinement of the format. It seems as though many of the organizations participating in the approval process are generally supportive of the standard itself, but are unwilling to voice unconditional support until their concerns are resolved. OOXML may be down, but it's certainly not out.'"
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OOXML Won't Get Fast-Track ISO Standardization

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  • OOXML (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @12:53AM (#20200657) Journal
    Its by Microsoft, they cant even make their various versions of office forwards and backwards compatible and people expect them to put a standard out that will hold to the same?

    Also why doesnt Open Office.org sue Microsoft for trademark infringement or something for their obviously deceptively labeled standard that is being proposed?
    • Of course they won't. They'll partially implement it, then extend it so that their version doesn't work with everyone else's.

      Just like they do with standards not written by them.
      • They'll partially implement it, then extend it so that their version doesn't work with everyone else's.

        No, you've got that backwards: they already have implemented it, because instead of actually designing a standard, all they did was document MS Office's current functionality. By the same token, everybody else will only be able to partially implement it, because to do so fully would be equivalent to making a perfect, bug-for-bug reimplementation of MS Office.

    • Also why doesnt Open Office.org sue Microsoft for trademark infringement or something ...
      Well, firstly it's Office Open XML, not Open Office XML.

      Secondly I seem to recall that the reason the open office suite is called OpenOffice.org (or OO.o), and not just OpenOffice, is because someone else (MS?) already owned the OpenOffice name / trademark...

    • Re:OOXML (Score:4, Informative)

      by tsa ( 15680 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @03:47AM (#20201369) Homepage
      Yeah I just read here [pcworld.com] that Apple's iWork '08 supports OOXML very well, while MS is still struggling with their OOXML implementation in Office for the Mac. I can hardly believe that story; why would it be more difficult to implement OOXML on the Mac than on Windows? Does OOXML depend on some built-in properties of the Windows OS? If that is the case it will never be an open standard.
      • Re:OOXML (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @05:12AM (#20201737) Homepage
        Too bad iWork isn't open source. I really would like to see how they implemented the "AutoSpaceLikeWork95" feature. I would also like to know if the implemented all the spreadsheet functions incorrectly as they were documented in the standard.
        • by tsa ( 15680 )
          Haha that would be really funny. The AutospaceLikeWindows95 function I don't understand. Why is it even in OOXML? Isn't one well-documented autospace function enough?
      • Re:OOXML (Score:4, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday August 12, 2007 @06:04AM (#20201895) Journal
        Yeah I just read here that Apple's iWork '08 supports OOXML very well, while MS is still struggling with their OOXML implementation in Office for the Mac.

        That's not what the PCWorld article says at all.

        iWork '08 is claimed to be able to open but not write OOXML. In practice, it doesn't appear to do even that well. http://www.bioneural.net/2007/08/11/iwork-08-and-s upport-for-open-xml/ [bioneural.net]

        • by tsa ( 15680 )
          I said handle, not read and write. And the point of the article is, Apple supports MS's own OOXML earlier than MS do themselves.
      • As I understand it, your assumption is close. Many properties are defined as behaviors in existing Microsoft software without an explicit description of the behavior without dependencies. So they are defined as "...as in Word 2007..." or some such.
      • I found the vote very interesting and suspect "eight votes in favor, seven against, and one abstention".

        Can M$ lobbyist, nepotism, payola ... be involved in such a nice neat split decision?

        I agree, M$-Tactics and Biz-Model, has always been based on maintaining no industry (or any type of) standard that may allow innovative competitor products to diminish M$ customer hostage base. The M$ Biz-Model should be considered monopolistic (to include software patents) tactics that are highly disruptive to software i
      • Does iWork support OpenDocument? If not, and it does support MS's proprietary XML, then I will both refuse to buy it myself and bad-mouth it to others on principle!

  • it is disgusting that it came out with: "With eight votes in favor". i think these 8 members of the board need re-evaluated. This is a sad reflection on how big business can mess-up wonderful things made by society.
    • by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
      You should expound your vitriol a bit earlier in the proicess :

      Take a look at the board :
      http://www.incits.org/ebmem.htm [incits.org]

      Here's some reporting on the last vote
      http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2007/07/ansi-denie s-oox.html [openmalaysiablog.com]
  • Personally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) * on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:02AM (#20200693)
    I don't think this standardization is being passed for the benefit of the consumers. Microsoft has had a firm grasp on business establishments with MS Office for quite a long time. There was competition, but nothing ever really came close to worry Microsoft. I find it not all that coincidental that now Microsoft has real competition (Google, Open Office, etc.) that they're trying to pass a standard. Microsoft is trying to reinstate a strong presence in the office. It hasn't really lost the one it has, but its teetering over the edge. Especially with all the relatively recent reports of various government offices going to open source, free software suites.
    • Re:Personally (Score:5, Interesting)

      by enjo13 ( 444114 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:14AM (#20200755) Homepage
      I've spent the last 5 years working in the office software space (mobile phones). From what our customers tell us, Microsoft's dominance of the office market is still incredibly strong. We've toyed with ODF support, but customer demand simply doesn't exist. At the end of the day our customers (many many millions) have expressed very little enthusiasm for anything but the Microsoft formats.

      In reality (at least as I see it) Microsoft has pushed their XML format not to maintain market share, but rather to give them a foothold in web services. They see their productivity suite as a broad authoring tool for not just documents, but all kinds of data. The closed formats where a major roadblock for them, because their customers could not use the data produced by the suite to actually do anything useful with it in a web 2.0 sense. A open, standardized format gives Microsoft the ability to pursue this "software as a service" model in a much more meaningful way.

      It's interesting, since there are several companies (most of which have been rolled up in one way or another now) that where doing exactly what Microsoft wants to be doing. They had reverse engineered the binary office file formats, and where using that knowledge to provide data processing for various companies wanting to use the suite as an authoring tool for their internal services. I think Microsoft looked at that (along with what Google and the like have been doing) and simply saw a really good opportunity to extend their near monopoly on productivity into an entirely new business. I really do believe it is nothing more evil than that.
      • Re:Personally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:37AM (#20200867) Journal
        I think Microsoft looked at that (along with what Google and the like have been doing) and simply saw a really good opportunity to extend their near monopoly on productivity into an entirely new business. I really do believe it is nothing more evil than that.

        Then why the unseemly haste, committee stacking, and other nefarious practices to get adopted as an ISO standard?

        Why the attacks on ODF adoption? If Microsoft had any intention of being interoperable, they'd have supported ODF from the start..

        • Then why the unseemly haste, committee stacking, and other nefarious practices to get adopted as an ISO standard?

          So they can convince governments, etc. that it really is a "standard", in order to defeat or at least put a monkey wrench into the adoption of ODF as a mandated standard that is currently being proposed by various government bodies.

          Why the attacks on ODF adoption? If Microsoft had any intention of being interoperable, they'd have supported ODF from the start..

          ODF can be (and is) easily sup

          • OOXML can be fully supported only by Microsoft, because for various items, the "standard" effectively just says it should work the way Office 95 etc. works without giving details.

            You parrot the party line well. Maybe you should actually READ the specification yourself. If you did, you'd realize that you're spreading misinformation. Or maybe you know that.

            The elements that you mention, that reference existing implementations, are deprecated, and actively discouraged in the documentation from third party i
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
        I know two offices that have switched to Open Office (one Mac based one PC based).
        They still use Word format as the default but got free of the dreaded costly upgrade treadmill. The Mac office was particularly pleased with "Save To PDF".

        • The Mac office was particularly pleased with "Save To PDF".

          Any reason? All OS X native apps can print to PDF as it is anyway.
          • by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
            They're Mac users, I have no idea why they didn't know that.

            I use troff myself.
          • by Tacvek ( 948259 )
            While that may be true, I suspect that in general native support for PDF can be better. I don't know about Macs, but on other operating systems, one often finds that PDF output via the printer mechanism may be missing features that a direct PDF output would include. For example, the bookmarks (table of contents) and hyperlinks. I find on Windows for example, few developers would even thing to include bookmark and hyper-link information in the printer output, as printers generally don't support that. (I'm no
            • by wootest ( 694923 )

              Does the Print to PDF feature of OS X usually result in documents having proper internal bookmarking and hyperlinks?

              Not normally. Safari supports persisting some links over to PDF (if you were to PDF-ify apple.com, the "bottom four" blobs don't get links, but everything else does; I suspect this is a bug). Printing a TextEdit document with a link in it doesn't retain the link or the link style. And bookmarks/TOC generation isn't being done in any case.

              Serious PDF generation will require adjustment, but

          • Not all PDFs are created equal. For example, say you have a textual document that you want to be turned into a PDF. There are three distinct possibilities: a PDF containing the (ASCII, UTF, whatever) text characters and metadata describing where they are to be placed on the page, a big list of the lines and arcs that make up the decomposed font characters, or even a rasterization. Obviously, these results vary considerably in terms of both the amount of (machine-readable) semantic meaning retained, file siz

            • by Fred_A ( 10934 )
              When I really want to make a proper PDF, I find it easier to use Scribus (DTP) that's designed to make proper, fully standards compliant PDF files (any kind) with all the proper wobbly bits.

              If it's just an office style document, OOo's PDF creation library works fine for me.
      • by killjoe ( 766577 )
        Well if your customers don't care then let's abandon the whole thing.
      • I very rarely pick on grammar. In this case, however, it is warranted. Your posting is interesting and well written, EXCEPT for the word "where". It is extremely distracting, and is not a typo... since you misused it twice. The misuse undermines the quality (and credibility) of the posting.

        "Where" is an indication of the location of something. (Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?)
        "Were" is the past, imperfect, plural tense of "be" or "are". (We were going to eat here, but decided against it.)
        • "Where" is an indication of the location of something. (Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?) "Were" is the past, imperfect, plural tense of "be" or "are". (We were going to eat here, but decided against it.)
          For those who have problems remembering where/were and there/they're, just remember that the ones relating to location are prefix + here. Where indicates a location as does there. Were and they're do not.
    • Pieter Hintjens who launched the OOXML [noooxml.org] campaign blogs about the ISO process. [digitalmajority.org]

      The chairman of the Technical Committee in Cote d'Ivoire is Roger Kouadio, boss of Inova Formations, a Megatron business partner. Cote d'Ivoire becomes a 'P' member of ISO, with increased voting power. The chairman of the Swiss committee, Hans-Rudolf Thomann, explains to the participants that "if we reach a majority to vote against Megatron, we will vote for Megatron, if we reach consensus to vote against Megatron, we will abstain

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      As i have mentioned before, I would be more comfortable with the standard if it has a freely available cross platform reference application, as well as freely available reference code, at least for the parsing of the file.

      The obvious choice for the former is MS Works. Add a version for Linux and Mac, and give it away. If MS is serious about the standard, they should be willing to put some money into it. After all, unless MS is just becoming a games company, they need to invest in the common business si

  • That was too close! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rudisaurus ( 675580 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:06AM (#20200709)
    Given the speed with which Microsoft attempted to ram through their "standard" and the dubiousness of the tactics employed (see discussions over on Groklaw [groklaw.net]), that was far too close to take any comfort from.

    The real questions now are:

    (a) how to ensure that the various standards organizations around the world really sit up and pay attention so that the obvious technical deficiencies and the crippling lack of open-ness in the proposal -- which were pointed out over and over again by individuals and companies opposed to the fast-tracking -- will be truly taken into account?

    (b) how to keep Microsoft from succeeding with their tactic of stacking attendance at national standards organizations meetings to carry the day for them?

    They almost succeeded the last time. If something doesn't change, they won't fail next time.
  • people have to digest this standard, the more they will come to realize that it is anything but. It is obviously designed to choke the competition in a pile of meaningless drivel. Most of things it "specifies" is that the result should be the name as Microsoft Word XXXX. Therefore, the majority of the specification is external to the specification. You could not implement the specification without referencing the behavior of each of the major revisions of Word. IMHO, a specification, such as this should sta
  • Par for the course (Score:3, Informative)

    by tobiasly ( 524456 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:14AM (#20200751) Homepage
    Way to sensationalize the title, Zonk. The organization which will form the official position of the US voted against approving the standard. That's quite a leap from saying "OOXML Won't Get Fast-Track ISO Standardization". Guess what the "I" in "ISO" stands for? (Although if MS can't even get the US to vote for them, it's hopefully doubtful that they'll get most other countries...)
  • What happened to all the funny little Microsoft partners that were voting last time? They didn't seem to show up on the list this time.
  • by Great_Geek ( 237841 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @01:34AM (#20200851)
    If you look carefully at their web-site (http://www.incits.org/ [incits.org]), INCITS is the "InterNational ...", not "Internation ..."; and it "is the primary U.S. focus of standardization" and has only one vote on the real internationl body.

    My canonical reference for these things is Andy Updegrove's blog (http://consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/ [consortiuminfo.org]).

  • Why does the Department of Homeland Security vote on computer document standards?

    Do they have some special expertise in the area or what?
    • by SnowZero ( 92219 )

      Why does the Department of Homeland Security vote on computer document standards? Do they have some special expertise in the area or what?
      Well, since they voted for approval, obviously they don't.

      I guess DOHS is just there to serve as a counter to the intelligent decisions made by NIST and the DoD.
  • Isn't MS' OOXML relatively complex when compared with ODF? I've read that MS' xml is filled with tags specific to their current and past versions of office formatting. Now ODF isn't loaded with that kind of cruft; its much more streamlined in it's tags. With this in mind, which xml format should be adopted as a starting-base - keeping in mind that whatever is chosen will be extended as time passes leading to even more complexity?
  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @02:11AM (#20200965)
    I don't mind this becoming a standard if it is truly "standard", which means that in the implementation documentation, EVERYTHING about it is disclosed, with no NDA, or proprietary "features". If that happens, I support OOXML for standardization. I (and many others) would welcome MS disclosing how it will work, as well as how all parts are suppose to work, which means explaining how to make something "work the way Office 97 cell format spacing" works and all other definitions in the standard which state it will the same way something else already works in previous Word and Excel versions. Tell us how to do everything and I will give MS full support for it being a recognized ISO standard.
    • I don't think anyone would be opposed to it becoming a standard if it was all the things that you mentioned. The problem everyone has with it is that it isn't any of those things. It's Microsoft trying to get a proprietary format labeled as a standard so that they can trick governments into sticking with their proprietary formats rather than switching to ODF.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      even if it were truly open it would be a hindrance because there already is one international standard (ODF). why a second one? microsoft can just implement that one.
      • "even if it were truly open it would be a hindrance because there already is one international standard (ODF). why a second one? microsoft can just implement that one."

        First: Microsoft doesn't implement other people's standards for their bread and butter. They have the luxury of controlling the largest hoard of software engineers, product planners, marketers, testers, and customers in the desktop application market. Their motivation is to make money. Using their competition's file format as their primary fo
        • interesting. "using there competitor's file format as their primary format is akin to being defeated".

          the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) are obviously microsoft's competitors in your eyes.

          secondly: microsoft word isn't "flawlessly compatible with prior versions". try opening an early word document with some unusual formatting in office 2007.

          thirdly: if microsoft would fully document the format, i wouldn't complain as muc
        • Microsoft doesn't implement other people's standards for their bread and butter.

          I'll quote here from "Microsoft Windows 2000 TCP/IP Implementation details" [microsoft.com] because it's an important and convenient example:

          Windows Sockets specifies a programming interface based on the familiar socket interface from the University of California at Berkeley.

          This is only one example out of a great many. Microsoft implements (embraces), extends, and to the extent possible extinguishes other people's standards for their bread

    • No, that's just one of the basic requirements for a standard. The others are, among others, readability, coverage (no doors left open), implementability, industry support, compatability with pre-existing standards. If possible, a standard should only rely on previous standards and not on proprietary standards and/or not-yet-finalized standards. Having some support for experts in the specific field that a standard is targeting would also be a good thing. There is probably a document out there that specifies
  • > OOXML Won't Get Fast-Track ISO Standardization

    If Rupert Murdoch can buy The Wall Street Journal, why can't Microsoft buy ISO?

    PS. Bill, US$680K plus options a year and I'm yours! I've even got a plan to bring that pesky Slashdot into line. ;-)
    • by killjoe ( 766577 )
      They tried pretty hard. In the end they will end up buying it, this is just a small stumbling block. They will spend more money, bribe more people, corrupt more organizations and shove their format down everybodies throat.
  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Sunday August 12, 2007 @03:24AM (#20201281) Homepage
    This decision was only for the U.S. and it's not over there. Look carefully at the comments [itic.org] by those who voted, and you'll see there is room for changes. Look at Lexmark's comment...

    It's very important to understand that the OOXML fight is not over. Microsoft are doing a fantastic job of explaining to committees why this format deserves to be an international standard, and of ensuring no-one gets onto the committees who can raise this dreamy proposition.

    We are looking at a lot of votes between now and end-August, across the world, and it's still not too late to submit comments to - for example - the Australian Standards Authority, which will almost certainly vote YES to OOXML.

    On NoOOXML.org [noooxml.org] the FFII is coordinating the fight. If you've not signed the petition, please do so.
  • Given the controversial nature, relative complexity, and significant importance of the standard, the results of INCIT's vote is unsurprising

    Of the 15 that voted, it got 53% of the vote, only needed one more (which could have been achieved as there was one abstention) to be given ISO standardisation - and this is "unsurprising"?

    What this says to me is that the people doing the voting do not understand the issues at hand. If they did, then there should have been no-where near that number of votes for this

  • In a late breaking development,Microsoft announced the creation of a new Open International Committee for Information Technology. Microsoft spokesman affirmed the commitment of Microsoft for providing choice for its customers. Mr Toungei N Cheek said, "We have always promoted the idea of choice for the customers. They should be able to choose between multiple standards. But we realized we were all supporting the standards issued by a single international agency. We decided we need choice there too. So the c
  • Even if or when it becomes a standard I don't think Microsoft themselves could fully support it in the long term. Part of the reason many of us programmers re-invent even our own wheel is our old wheels get real mucked up over time with patches enhancements and exceptions, etc, periodically it is time to re-think and re-tool the concept to better integrate the whole idea.

    From reading about MS's OOXML they are long overdue for a reinvention of the wheel (and thinking about it, whats to stop them? I can se
  • ODF vs. OOXML (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 3247 ( 161794 )
    If you compare OOXML to ODF, neither one actually wins. Both have their drawbacks and advantages:
    • Open Document Format lacks some features expected from modern office applications. As a result, many applications use their own extensions. These, of course, make the files incompatible: While other applications can read the document, some of the formatting is simply lost. Office Open XML has a complete feature set. It's actually based on a full word processing application, not on the lowest common denominator
    • by bucky0 ( 229117 )
      I don't think there can be such thing as a "perfect" document format. Clearly, both OOXML and ODF will have their limitations. However, "combining" the two implementations would be functionally difficult and doesn't address the underlying issue most people have with OOXML. I'll quote wikipedia and quote for emphasis:

      The Office Open XML format was initially made available under a free and perpetual license.[21] for "any of (OOXMLs) essential patent claims in Ecma 376". This patent coverage does not extend to non-essential items, or unrequired-items that are defined in OOXML.

      As there was concern that free and open source software (FOSS) could not use the format under the proposed license,[22] Microsoft provided a covenant not to sue[23]. The covenant received a mixed reception, with some like Groklaw identifying problems[24] and others (such as Lawrence Rosen) endorsing it.[25]

      Microsoft also added the Office Open XML format to their Microsoft Open Specification Promise in which Microsoft irrevocably promises not to assert any Microsoft Necessary Claims against you for making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or distributing any implementation to the extent it conforms to a Covered Specification ("Covered Implementation"). The Office Open XML 1.0 - Ecma 376 and its predecessor Office 2003 XML format are among the covered specifications.[26]

      The Office Open XML format therefore can be used under the Covenant not to Sue or the Open Specification Promise, providing only items required in OOXML are implemented.

      So, we have a format where microsoft promises to not sue over patent use, only if other implementations only implement required items. So, any 'optional' parts of the spec are off-limits to com

      • As opposed to Sun's covenant not to sue in which they only agree not to sue you if you are implementing ODF 1.0 or a later version in wich Sun actively participates? In other words, if sun drops out after ODF 1.2, then they could sue anyone for implementing version 1.3 or later?

        • by bucky0 ( 229117 )
          Firstly, that's incorrect, I'll quote below (emphasis mine)

          Sun OpenDocument Patent Statement, submitted by Sun Microsystems, Inc., September 29, 2005

          Sun irrevocably covenants that, subject solely to the reciprocity requirement described below, it will not seek to enforce any of its enforceable U.S. or foreign patents against any implementation of the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0 Specification, or of any subsequent version thereof("OpenDocument Implementation") in which development Sun participates to the point of incurring an obligation, as defined by the rules of OASIS, to grant (or commit to grant) patent licenses or make equivalent non-assertion covenants. Notwithstanding the commitment above, Sun's covenant shall not apply and Sun makes no assurance, covenant or commitment not to assert or enforce any or all of its patent rights against any individual, corporation or other entity that asserts, threatens or seeks at any time to enforce its own or another party's U.S. or foreign patents or patent rights against any OpenDocument Implementation.

          This statement is not an assurance either (i) that any of Sun's issued patents cover an OpenDocument Implementation or are enforceable, or (ii) that an OpenDocument Implementation would not infringe patents or other intellectual property rights of any third party.

          No other rights except those expressly stated in this Patent Statement shall be deemed granted, waived, or received by implication, or estoppel, or otherwise.

          Similarly, nothing in this statement is intended to relieve Sun of its obligations, if any, under the applicable rules of OASIS.

          (source [coverpages.org])

          • You forgot the part that comes after "in which development Sun participates..."

            How, precisely, did you miss that? Especially after I stated it explicitly?
            • by bucky0 ( 229117 )
              Maybe we parsed the sentences differently. I parse "and any subsequent revision thereof" as meaning just that. It's legalese and written all contorted, but the second clause that you point out "in which development Sun participates" doesn't override that.

              IANAL, but it seems like the reasoning goes like this: While sun is developing ODF, they agree that any of their IP in the spec is, in perpetuity, under their covenant not to sue.

              When sun stops developing ODF, the other clause is to just cover their ass. It
  • it allows for binary large objects (BLOBS) of undefined format so doesn't actually solve the problem at all.
    Its not hard to guess that Microsoft will just go on using their old closed proprietary formats, just as a BLOB encapsulated in a thin OOXML wrapper.
    OOXML used this way would be a quick solution to give a fake legal veneer of openness rather than a real attempt at an actually open format.

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