Details emerge of 'shocking' OOXML meeting

Details emerge of 'shocking' OOXML meeting

Summary: At last month's OOXML ballot resolution meeting, 81 percent of the technical issues around the format were apparently resolved without being properly addressed

TOPICS: Tech Industry

As Microsoft's bid to have its Office Open XML specification made an ISO standard approaches the final deadline of midnight on Saturday, more details have emerged of last month's meeting in Geneva which attempted to resolve technical issues.

In the run-up to the dealine, some national standards bodies have changed their stance. Denmark has made a last-minute switch to approve Office Open XML (OOXML), while the British Standards Institution (BSI) has been advised by a technical committee to change its vote to "yes". The BSI today refused to say whether it will follow that advice, promising a statement on Monday; the vast majority of standards bodies will keep silent until after the deadline passes.

The silence around last month's ballot resolution meeting has been broken, however, with details supplied by a Brazilian delegate providing a "shocking tale", according to IT law site Groklaw's detailed post. The site links to the original meeting notes, and also suggests that South Korea's vote has changed from "no" to "yes".

Delegates to the meeting, held in Geneva, were presented with a decision like the one facing the central character of the movie Sophie's Choice, in which a woman has to decide which of her children will die, according to Brazilian delegate Jomar Silva.

After working painstakingly through a tiny minority of the issues which national standards bodies had raised with the OOXML specification, the vast majority of issues were lumped together and the delegates given four options: either accept them all, reject them all, hand them over unresolved to ISO's Information Technology Task Force (ITTF), or else go for a "batch-approval" vote. Silva called the last option "the least ridiculous", although it apparently ended up resolving 81 percent of the comments at a stroke.

It has also emerged from the list of attendees that, of around 120 people at the meeting, 17 of the national delegates were employees of Microsoft, as were two of the representatives of the fast-track standards body Ecma, while others, such as those representing Clever Age, are Microsoft affiliates, according to Groklaw. By contrast, IBM had nine delegates, Sun had two and Oracle had one.

With full details of the meeting only just emerging, standards makers around the world are evaluating whether it actually resolved their issues effectively. The Danish standards body, for instance, has said it is satisfied with the batch-approval of its comments. Others may not be sure yet but they have only got until midnight on Saturday to decide.

"The bottom line is that, in my view, this race will be too close to call until the final announcement is made on Monday or the vote reaches the public informally through one of the [national bodies], who will be given private access to the results once they are tabulated," said standards lawyer Andy Updegrove on his Standards Blog on Thursday.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • 'shocking' OOXML meeting

    When you stack the deck and deal from the bottom you can win every hand. You can bet the bank there will be two standards, for the present. Eventually Micro$oft will be the only standard.
  • Regrettably ....

    I agree.

    What a mess!
    The Former Moley
  • Microsoft does not want a standard, they want the word "open".

    Microsoft will never stick to any standard as forcing regular uppdates is the way they make money and the way they try to save their monopoly.
    On the positive side, of course, is that they again reveal what they are.

    The best way to deal with a disese like Microsoft is to stop using them.
    The sad thing is that ISO is making such a joke of itself.
  • Does that mean we should do nothing?

    The sad thing about attitudes like this is that it does make further market domination so much easier for Microsoft. To say that because standards battles have been lost in the past and perhaps with OOXML, lost here, such battles will always be lost. As a result, Microsoft will always win and so, what is the point does smack of defeatism.
    Come on, even Microsoft, like any good hunter, must enjoy the thrill of the chase!
    Personally, I believe this current fight is in the balance. From here on in it will be down to which authorities have the steeliest nerve. Open standards are good. Vendor-dominated standards are bad (usually).
    Colin Barker
  • Not the end

    Oh it's a mess alright. It's a very public and embarrassing mess that is making a monkey of the standards process. As for whether BillCorp comes out of this with a gain, that is far less certain. Outcome one is of course that the vote is no and OOXML slips into obscurity. Yaay woop woop. If however, as looks more increasingly likely, the vote is a fully bought and paid for yes, where do we stand?

    Office will of course have some way of using OOXML. Will it also properly implement ODF? Will the folks that are already using ODF then implement OOXML? One of the main strands of protest is that implementing OOXML is all but impossible unless you are a package called Microsoft . So this leaves us with one file format that can bridge the gap between the various different document editors.

    From there on we have two paths. Either the current momentum continues to push Open Office et al further and further into the light, a la Firefox. In which case the fact that there is only one properly interoperable file format, ODF, will take big lumps out of Microsoft's dominance and accelerate the progress of non Microsoft Office tools. The other path is that the current trend for biodiversity reverses and MS Office moves back towards 100% dominance, in which case the fact the ODF is in practice MS only, will be a huge boon for them.

    I watch this space with interest.
    Andrew Meredith
  • I guess there is also the chance of...

    Death by committee for OOXML.

    After all, it's huge and hugely broken at the moment. I'm also fairly sure that ISO can't really restrict input/updates to OOXML to be from only Microsoft.

    Given that scenario I'm what is the bet that (for good and not so good reasons) OOXML will be held up/mangled/fixed for too long for it to become useful to anyone.
  • If OOXML is approved ....

    Perhaps it does not actually matter whether OOXML is a dog's breakfast or not, or even whether M$ can implement it or not, they will not have any obligation to implement ODF and similarly they will not adopt ODF. Neither can anyone else seriously develop/incorporate OOXML.

    Case closed. Ergo, M$ can continue as they have for many years.

    Of course, the object of securing a stable document standard for the future will not be delivered, and Microsoft will have generated an ongoing market for it's services.

    You have to admire M$'s guile.
    The Former Moley
  • It's not all doom and gloom

    Note that many ISO standards have never been used, or have just been ignored, or have been beaten to death with committee work on them.

    That being said, I think there's oodles of money to be made for people willing to buy up rights to or reverse engineer older document standards and developing hooks so they could be updated to ODF. After all, I thought part of the gig with OOXML was supposed to be its capability (which seems on reflection to be absent) to read accurately old formats and render them accurately.