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Red Hat 'disappointed but not surprised' by OOXML result

Open source vendor Red Hat has expressed its disapproval of the process by which Microsoft's Office Open XML was adopted as an ISO standard.Microsoft has faced allegations of 'stuffing the ballot boxes' to push through the document format, and could be under investigation by the EC for anti-competitive practices in ramming home OOXML.
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Written by Tom Espiner on

Open source vendor Red Hat has expressed its disapproval of the process by which Microsoft's Office Open XML was adopted as an ISO standard.

Microsoft has faced allegations of 'stuffing the ballot boxes' to push through the document format, and could be under investigation by the EC for anti-competitive practices in ramming home OOXML.

"Red Hat was disappointed but hardly surprised that the single-vendor, monopolist-promulgated standard, Office Open XML, made it though an unfortunately flawed fast-track ISO approval process," wrote the Red Hat legal team in a blog post. "We also note that there remains an ongoing investigation by the European competition authorities into the practices employed in the process."

"So, if you define interoperability as single vendor’s format to promote operation with that same vendor’s dominant product, you can declare victory," the post continued. "But Red Hat thinks governments and enterprises are not so easily confused. The Open Document Format, which has long been a multiparty-supported ISO standard, will continue to be a force in procurement decisions to be reckoned with. Government and Enterprises are tired of the lack of choice, lack of innovation, and premium rents from vendor lock-in. We doubt anyone will be confused by this outcome."

The Red Hat legal team has more faith in governments' IT procurement capabilities than I do, then.

Meanwhile, the Association of Competitive Technology (ACT), an organisation which lobbys government to limit antitrust actions, limit free and open source software uptake in government, and to support strong intellectual property rights in software, was jubilant. Some claim ACT is a front organisation for Microsoft, which is a member. However, ACT has other members including eBay, Oracle, and Verisign.

"ACT and thousands of software developers around the world support ISO approval of OOXML," wrote ACT president Jonathan Zuck. "ACT’s support is based on giving developers an open standard that both enables high fidelity archiving of billions of existing electronic documents, and supports the thousands of existing applications built on the Microsoft Office platform." Zuck obviously thinks that reports that OOXML is not interoperable with versions of Windows prior to Vista are overblown.

"The efforts of IBM, Sun, and their allies to polarize and politicize this technical standards process seem to have blown up in their faces," says Zuck, using language that obviously isn't meant to inflame the debate.

"Rather than learn from their mistakes IBM and friends are now trying to tarnish the reputation of ISO and its members," Zuck continues. How could Microsoft encouraging its members to join ISO committees to push through the OOXML specification possibly tarnish ISO's reputation? And could it be that governments will not be able to trust ISO/IEC DIS 29500, as OOXML is now known, as far as they could throw it?

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