Wouter’s updates on the ISO meetings

Wouter has been participating in the Dutch ISO standardization meetings where they are looking of Open XML. He has some interesting observations:

Talking about the OOXML standard

One thing that really struck me at the meeting was the open statement of the IBM representative of having been given a 'secret agena' for the meeting, I suspect some others to have received the same. The bad thing about this is that the debate no longer covers the merrits of Office Open XML, but instead is targetted by IBM to enlarge the market share of their own office productivity suite and accompanying language ODF. There have been some occurences that can be identified as at least worrying.

Legislation for open document standards

Personally I am taking part in the Dutch chapter of this process, enjoying great discussions about the merits of Office Open XML versus ODF. I am amazed at the level of critique being raised by IBM against Office Open XML, ranging from low-blow, to plainly incorrect.

There have already been numerous occasion during the meeting where someone raised a remark such as 'even documents saved from Word do not validate against the schemas' and I ask to explain a bit further because I haven't experienced the same, only to have a reply 'I'll get back to you'. Well that's just dandy!

I've seen similar things from other meetings and in the blogsphere. There are definitely some good technical points raised in some of the discussions, but a lot of the comments are just plain wrong. We've still got a ways to go before the ballots are initially cast (end of September I believe). Once the ballots are in, then we have a few months were we work through the comments that came in and see if we can fix the issues people raise. I'm not sure how many people are familiar with this process, but basically you'll see a number of countries who vote "no", but include some changes they'd like to see. If those changes are made, then they change their vote to "yes." So, this means we still have a ways to go (probably early next year), but we should end up with an even better spec once we're done.


Comments (7)
  1. A couple of interesting items prompt me to write a quick post about IBM. Jack Schofield, the Guardian

  2. hAl says:

    Not being a national body I would vote yes but still ask Ecma to make certain changes to the spec if possible. I would propose these changes be made to the spec:

    * Remove the bitmask items or deprecate them and add in valid XML replacements for those.

    * Put the VML spec to an annex or something but not in the main format parts.

    * Mayby add very limited support for ISO 8601 dates in spreadsheet and assure the ISO committee that you will deprecate the date1900 format in any new version of the spec in favor of the date1904 format so that no new spreadsheets are created that way in newer version of the spec.

    * Make the section 2.15 section with the deprecated compatibility items a lot smaller. It should be no more then a list of possible tags. Add in tha section information that conformance to the compatibility specs can exist as either informing the user of possible incompatiblity or repliating the compatibility behaviour. Put all decriptions of the compatibility behaviour in a seperate annex and, allthough I expect nobody will ever use them, add in the few descritions that were missing/inadaquate even though it is only to please critics and addd little value to the spec.


  3. Sean says:

    That’s discouraging. Is there some governing body at ISO where Wouter can take his concerns?

  4. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    I don’t know how to reconcile those two statements above : "IBM to enlarge the market share of their own office productivity suite", "critique being raised by IBM against Office Open XML, ranging from low-blow, to plainly incorrect."

    Can someone please educate me and tell what is the IBM productivity suite this guy is talking about?

    If by any chance he’s talking about OpenOffice, being an open source project with plenty of full-time employees from Sun and Novell, I have to question the basic facts.

    In short, when this guy is talking about plain incorrect facts, he’s probably looking himself in the mirror.

    I don’t give a shit about IBM, but statements cannot be rewritten by bribed MVPs and be taken as facts.

    I would like to hear from a really neutral party instead.

    Part of my wishes have been realized this week by the ISO CHAIR COMMITTEE releasing comments to the public. I recommend anyone to read them, it takes Microsoft for what they are, and certainly criticizes the crap they are trying to push. (in a nutshell, OOXML was never designed with XML in mind).

    Also, I would like to hear from people who really implement the specs. Unless I am wrong (please correct me), the bribed MVP above never implemented the specs he is talking about.

  5. jones206@hotmail.com says:


    "IBM Workplace Managed Client includes ODF-compliant productivity tools to create, share, and publish documents — including word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Learn about the importance of ODF."

  6. hAl says:

    [quote]Can someone please educate me and tell what is the IBM productivity suite this guy is talking about?[/quote]

    IBM is about to deploy "Notes 8"


    A quote from that computerworld article:

    [quote]Major new features include the ability to view and compose files in the Open Document Format for Office Applications directly within Notes.[/quote]

    It could cost IBM a fortune if ODF does not make it big as they gambled on it being a succes in their commercial products.

  7. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    Ok, I’ll check that one out.

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