Rhetoric Rises as Office Open XML Vote Approaches
The war of words between Microsoft,
and others with an interest in document formats has reached a boiling point
ahead of the crucial vote later this month on whether or not Microsoft's Office
Open XML format should be approved as an
The format failed to achieve the two-thirds vote needed for approval
as an international standard by the International Organization for
Standardization in September.
That was followed by a ballot resolution meeting in
this February, designed to find consensus on modifications to the document in
light of the comments made by the national bodies that voted.
The question now is whether those modifications have persuaded enough
of the national bodies to support the publication of the specification as a
Microsoft fired off the first volley, with Chris Capossela, senior vice
president for Microsoft Office, releasing an open letter March 16 in which he said the Open XML standard
under consideration by the
ISO/IEC has been
significantly improved as a result of global feedback and consideration.
He also appears to assume that the specification is headed for approval later this month, saying, "We've
listened to the global community and learned a lot, and we are committed to
supporting the Open XML specification that is approved by
in our products."
That led to a sharp retort March 19 from Ed Brill, an
business unit executive and worldwide sales leader for Lotus Notes, who accused
Microsoft of trying to appear "the good guys" in its efforts to take a "heavily
modified version of the Office 2007 document formats and get it rubber-stamped
as an international standard."
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Brill also took issue with Caposella's claim in the open letter that Novell,
IBM, Sun and others have
already adopted, or announced adoption of, Open XML in their products on a
variety of platforms-including Linux, Windows, the Mac operating system, the Palm
operating system, Java and .Net.
"This hits at one of the core issues of the Office Open XML saga that I have
been highlighting for months. Microsoft claims that the Office 2007 document
formats equals Ecma Open XML and therefore that
announced support for Office 2007 document formats in a few products equals
support for the format.
IBM doesn't support
Ecma Open XML. But whoever expects Microsoft to be clear communicators?"
he said in a blog post.
Earlier in the week, Bob Sutor,
vice president of standards and open source, also made it quite clear that the
is completely opposed to having Office Open XML become an
IBM is opposed to this specification
becoming a JTC1 [
ISO/IEC] standard because
it was developed in a non-open manner, is ridiculously large, is technically
inferior, and emerged from the Ballot Resolution Meeting with most things not
explicitly resolved and more questions than ever before. So just in case you
were wondering, now you know," he said in a blog post.
Five Months Is Too Short
For his part, Rob Weir, a performance architect at
that if the five-month review represented a complete review of the proposed
specification's text, by those with relevant subject matter expertise, then
would have some confidence that all, or at least most, defects were detected,
reported and repaired.
"But I don't know anyone who really thinks the five-month review was
sufficient for a technical review of 6,045 pages. Further, we know that
Microsoft worked actively to suppress the reporting of defects by the national bodies,"
he said in a blog post.
Andy Updegrove, a partner with
law firm Gesmer Updegrove and editor of the ConsortiumInfo standards blog, summarized how many people
feel about the whole process. The daily events "have become part
of the same fractal pattern that has replicated itself over and over since
September of 2005, when
adopted ODF, putting document standards on many powerful companies' strategic
maps," he said.
"Since then, that pattern has spread dramatically, engulfing more companies,
affecting more National Bodies in more countries, and invoking more campaigning
on both sides. It's all very depressing, as well as predictable," he
said in a recent blog post. "And it won't be over until it's
over on March 29. Except, of course, it won't be over then, either.
The battle then at hand will simply be the next battle, as the forces withdraw
briefly from the field of this last one while the votes are counted."
That is clearly evident in the public comments being made by the different
parties about the recent Ballot Resolution Process in
Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of corporate standards, said the meeting
was "an unqualified success," while Tim Bray, the director of
Web technologies at Sun Microsystems, said on his personal blog that "this was horrible, egregious, process
ISO should hang their heads in
shame for allowing it to happen."
IBM's Brill called the whole matter "the
six-month tragedy that is the
for Office Open XML," and said it should be redone.
"I can only hope, based on everything that has been documented, that it doesn't
end with an endorsement of this work. A lot of clearly smart people have
invested a lot of time, money and effort, but that doesn't make it best, good
or even right if the decision is driven by calendar and politics. This whole
thing should be a do-over," he said.