Ubuntu's Shuttleworth blames ISO for OOXML's win

Ubuntu's Shuttleworth blames ISO for OOXML's win

Summary: Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said the approval of Microsoft's Office Open XML is a “sad” day for ISO and the computing public.“I think it de-values the confidence people have in the standards setting process,” Shuttleworth said in an interview just hours after the news was leaked.


Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said the approval of Microsoft's Office Open XML is a “sad” day for ISO and the computing public.

“I think it de-values the confidence people have in the standards setting process,” Shuttleworth said in an interview just hours after the news was leaked. The International Standards Organization (ISO) did not carry out its responsibility, he claimed.

“It’s sad that the ISO was not willing to admit that its process was failing horribly,” he said, noting that Microsoft intensely lobbied many countries that traditionally have not participated in ISO and stacked technical committees with Microsoft employees, solution providers and resellers sympathetic to OOXML. “When you have a process built on trust and when that trust is abused, [ISO] should halt the process." Shuttleworth

“[ISO] is an engineering old boys club and these things are boring so you have to have a lot of passion … then suddenly you have an investment of a lot of money and lobbying and you get artificial results,” he said about the vote. “The process is not set up to deal with intensive corporate lobbying and so you end up with something being a standard that’s not clear.”

More than 3000 questions about the specification remain unanswered and OOXML is so enormously complex and ambiguous that it can be implemented in a variety of ways, Shuttleworth contends. That negates the very purpose of a standard, he added.

Office Open XML does not belong alongside ISO standards such as HTML, PDF and ODF, Shuttleworth maintains.

“The things that make for a very good standard are clarity and consensus, and the genuine belief that multiple organizations can implement the standard,” he added, noting that much of OOXML is a compilation of old Office “quirks and inconsistencies “ dumped into an XML format that different Microsoft developers implemented differently for different versions of Word and Excel.“They have a tasty dump of all of that declared as a standard,” Shuttleworth claimed.

Like Red Hat and Novell, Ubuntu’s Debian-based Linux desktop distribution uses the open source, OpenDocument Format compliant OpenOffice office suite that competes against Microsoft Office.

Will Ubuntu implement IS DIS 29500 now that it is a standard? “We’re not going to invest in trying to implement a standard that is poorly defined,” Shuttleworth said, maintaining that the specification can be altered and added to as Redmond wishes – regardless of its rivals’ product cycles.

“If we get close to implementing it, Microsoft would move the goal post," he projects. "Microsoft doesn’t think it’s bound by the standard.”

I wouldn’t want the job if people told me to implement it as a standard," he added

The ISO approval gives Microsoft the ability to promote its OOXML products to governments and customers but no guarantee about future changes. “It puts us into a situation where we have multiple standards for document formats and no clear guidance as to how standards will evolve," he said.

Microsoft’s argument that the standard is complex because the software is complex is hogwash, Shuttleworth also maintains, because more complex software – such as e-mail and the web– have simple and clear standards all developers can implement: IMAP and HTML. “Rendering web pagea is rich, very detailed with fonts and different layouts and support for different devices. It’s an amazingly rich content format but we have a standard to drive it that is clean and clear by comparison with Office Open XML," he added.

In the end though, the same kind of lobbying and politicking that doomed Massachusetts’ effort to establish OpenDocument Format as a standard also tanked the global effort to unite behind ODF, Shuttleworth claimed. “All the work was done behind closed doors instead of in a public forum,” Shuttleworth lamented. “All of that is very unfortunate and doesn’t actually move the technology or industry ahead. We’ve always had Microsoft with private file formats.”

Shuttleworth does not believe, however, that the ISO win will slow Linux’s advance on the desktop and maintains that OpenOffice suites and ODF applications will gain steam. “It’s always been an uphill battle to use anything that’s not Microsoft Office,” he said. “The battle will be won on the merit. “

Topics: Enterprise Software, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, Open Source

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  • But of course he does

    That is all he ever does, complain about everybody else.
    • *CLEARLY*

      GL has NO IDEA what a great philanthropist Mark is. Spend a few minutes doing research and come back with something of value! Does GL actually understand the debate around OOXML?
      • His philanthrophy is a very good thing

        (though I wonder if those who express that would say the same about Gate's philanthrophy?)

        Back to the point. He has as much a vested interest (money) in having ODF as the sole standard as Microsoft does having their format considered a standard.

        Is it really about the process, or the fact that the ruling did not force Microsoft out of lucrative government contracts, with millions of support dollars up for grabs?

        Was Microsoft really the [i]only[/i] one playing bad in this?
        • Please tell me...

          How does he have a vested interest in ODF? Because he's for "open" standards or because he's a linux backer? How does he make money off the ODF/OOXML? He makes nothing from either, being as he's not the one creating/selling an office suite. He adds an office suite to his linux distribution(owned by someone else and distributed by someone else), but other than that, he makes nothing on it. Maybe he might get some support costs from supporting OOo on his dist. but that would be there with or without ODF/OOXML.

          Please, do me a favor and provide information how his "vested interest(money)" comes about. I would really love to know.
          • Well, that is easy

            [i]Maybe he might get some support costs from supporting OOo on his dist. but that would be there with or without ODF/OOXML.[/i]

            Only if OOXML was voted down, as that would classify Microsoft Office as "non-open" document standardm which would disqualify it from consideration in governments.

            That would leave the door open for Open Source products, something he supports and generates money from.

            Did not another article here state that Ubuntu
            is becoming the "generic" Linux?

            Sounds like he has a vested interest in having Microsoft left out of any place he can
            John Zern
          • Left out?

            Why would MS be left out? ODF is an *OPEN STANDARD*! MS would be welcome to produce an implementation.
          • "classify Microsoft Office as "non-open" document standard"

            Why would it be necessary, and how could that be, since anyone with one eye and half sense ALREADY KNOWS that anything Microsoft produces is "non-open", documents, standards, OS, Office, or otherwise?

            Name one thing Microsoft has or does that IS NOT PRESENTLY proprietary, secretive, patent protected, and well guarded by their Activation, WGA, DRM, EULA's, Spyware, and Rootkits?

            Why would it be necessary to "classify" them as such?
            Ole Man
      • Apples and oranges. Philanthropy <> good code

        If philanthropy were the yardstick, it'd be difficult for Shuttleworth to compete with the Gateses, who have just laid over a hundred million dollars on a program to fight famine in Africa (the intelligence of handing it to Kofi Annan to disburse is an entirely different matter, since his first announcement on receiving the grant was to announce that GM crops would not be considered in this new project... ).

        Let's leave the apples/oranges comparisons alone and confine ourselves to the technical merit of OOXML, shall we?

        It all comes down to the principle of "let the buyer beware." The customer is presumed capable of reading specifications documents and choosing betweeen different standards on their technical merits.

        Ok, so MS was able to get an ISO standard "blessing" their process. Big deal. This simply means now that if certain European customers bound by procurement rules limiting them to ISO-approved software choose to buy into the OOXML model, they may. No one's leveling a pistol at anyone's head and saying "Buy Microsoft or else!" It's more a matter of giving customers the option to do so.

        I can see why Shuttleworth is angry - Ubuntu was the beneficiary of a limited market until OOXML got ISO standard status. Now he's not. He may have excellent technical reasons to support his stand, but at the end of the day, his ox was gored, his rice bowl was broken, he has to share a market with Gates and Ballmer. Let's not pretend his reasons are entirely altruistic.
        • Non-GM food a problem?

          Seems to have gotten creatures a long way, but now Penelope and Rupert want to modify the very thing that created us for their own profit?

      • RE: Ubuntu's Shuttleworth blames ISO for OOXML's win

        Rendering web pagea is rich, very detailed with fonts and different layouts and support for different devices. Its an amazingly rich content format but we have a standard to drive it that is clean and clear by comparison with Office Open XML.<a href="http://ipadbagblog.com/"><font color="LightGrey"> k</font></a>
  • All very good points he is making. A sad day, but, not sure we have heard

    the end of it yet. There are bound to be appeals, and the EU is already investigating the dirty behind the scenes tricks.
  • There is enough room at the table for everyone.

    This constant bickering about MS from OSS has got to go. They must focus on their own ecosystem and bring the best solutions forward. He is mad because the "Standard" (which is short lived anyway) didn't hangup MS. I believe that all systems should be able to submit bids and let any entity use them. So much for excluding MS with a standard.
    • Not about OSS v Microsoft

      Shuttleworth's complaint isn't about OSS v Microsoft. It's about a horribly distorted standardization process in ISO.

      Standards have always been political (though not all standards are politicized), but there's no way on God's green Earth that OOXML should have been fast tracked. You can't fast track a 6000 page proposal that's never gone through the process before (and don't bring up ECMA, it's been nothing more than a rubberstamp for years). And there's REALLY no way it should have been approved with so many unresolved issues. What's happened is a travesty and Microsoft and its allies should be ashamed of the destruction they have wrought.

      Personally, I don't give a rat's behind if OOXML becomes a standard - I care very much that the process for creating international standards has probably been damaged forever. The ISO has lost much credibility - perhaps that was part of Microsoft's plan all along.
      • Standards don't mean anything.

        Those standards were developed by MS's competition anyway. They were always politicized. A standards body is like the UN. All the folks will vote no on a proposal that will benefit someone else but not them since the members are competition to each other.
        • But, funny that 90% of the people use MS Office, but, ODF sailed through

          OSI with a UNANIMOUS vote. And, it was only with hundreds of millions in lobbying, dirty tricks, and behind closed door politics, that OOXML passed on the second round.
          • After 100s of millions, dirty tricks and lobbying, ...

            ...done by both sides. If you think this was one sided you are deluded!
          • Gotta play the game

            Fight fire with fire. We tried with gasoline, and that didn't work out so well, see Fire Marshall Bill for more information.
          • Aside from the usual

            [i]After 100s of millions, dirty tricks and lobbying, done by both sides. If you think this was one sided you are deluded![/i]

            Aside from the usual "I know everyone is dishonest because they can't be any better than me" sort of reasoning, do you have more than speculation to support this?

            Note that there is documentary evidence, including admissions by Microsoft themselves, of their maneuvering. The stories of Bill Gates lobbying heads of state to decide from the top down are, as far as I'm aware, unconfirmed but much of the lower-level stuff is out in the open.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Er, weren't you watching...

            ... all the lobbying that IBM were doing last time around? They really piled it on. After all. they get to make money with ODF because the standards is rather loose so you need CONSULTANTS to help you get it working correctly. "Hi, I'm from IBM Global Services and I can fix this for you, for a fee"

            This time, I think some of the real-world make-it-work-today IT guys managed to get heard over the religious bellowing.

            If someone comes up with a better standard, we should have that too. We need choice before we get competition.

            And if Ubuntu think that web pages are such great document formats, why didn't they object to ODF because HTML etc are ALREADY international standards.

            And if Apple can make OpenXML work on the iPhone, it can't be SO hard to implement enough to be useful.
          • You mean those votes were MS's competition.

            Standards Bodies are full of back stabbers and dirty tricks also. All the little players will gang up on the larger members to thwart their ideas because they compete outside the standards meeting. Nobody is a good guy in my book.