Saturday, March 03, 2007

OOXML @ ISO: "When is a standard not a standard?"

Free Software Magazine has an excellent point-by-point response (Edward Macnaghten's blog) to the ECMA's response to the contradictions (ISO standards term roughly for 'objections') of JTC1 members (twenty: a record) to the submisssion of OOXML (I'm out of breath!). For anyone wondering whether the objections were real and substantial (and whether the 6000 page standard was a disaster or not), this is an excellent examination of the points of contention with a good understanding of past (good) standards and the impact of standards on the real world.

A couple of the objections point-out tags such as:
  • footnoteLayoutLikeWW8 (Emulate Word 6.x/95/97 Footnote Placement)
  • useWord2002TableStyleRules (Emulate Word 2002 Table Style Rules)

Macnaghten also highlights some of the spin that is being spun by the submitter OOXML, Microsoft: the claim that the resistance to OOXML is actually a "proxy for product competition in the marketplace" and that the objections are merely political. By claiming the process has been politicized by its market competitors, MS seeks to claim the high ground.

Macnaghten concludes:
"I do not believe Microsoft are really interested in open standards, but just paying lip service to them. The history of the OOXML and ODF "discussions" supports this theory. OOXML is not as open as it's name applies: it ignores existing standards and it only fully caters for Microsoft Office programs making it near impossible for a competing product to use. By Microsoft's own admission it is simply an "XMLization" of existing closed .doc, .xls and .ppt formats. It should not be adopted by ISO, and certainly not "fast tracked".

ODF is genuinely open. There is no reason why Microsoft cannot use it. Adoption of ODF will benefit everyone who is not trying to maintain a near monopoly in the Office Production Suite domain."

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