The various members of INCITS here in the US have been busy the last two weeks, with the technical committee meeting on July 13 and then the executive board meeting last week. Many blogs have also been busy spinning these activities, with varying degrees of success.
Spinning the technical committee
V1, the INCITS technical committee, had a meeting on July 13 at which we tried unsuccessfully to reach consensus on a recommended US position, which would have then been passed on to the INCITS executive board for their meeting last week. This was just the first of several steps in trying to establish a US position, and the ultimate decision on that matter rests with the executive board.
Nonetheless, Rob Weir decided to write a blog post entitled “OOXML Fails to Gain Approval in US,” which he posted at the beginning of last week. I found the title of Rob’s post interesting because the US position is yet to be determined by the executive board, and also because IBM’s position of “No with comments” failed in V1 by a much larger margin than any other position we considered that day. But some in the press picked up on that post and ran with it, resulting in headlines like these early last week:
- Computerworld: V1 committee gives thumbs down to Open XML doc spec
- Wired: Standards Org Deals a Blow Against Microsoft’s OOXML Format
- ResellerNews: Open XML doc spec rejected
After some clarification of what actually happened in V1 (including posts on my blog and Jason Matusow’s blog), the tone of the press coverage calmed down a bit later in the week, and since then we’ve seen more balanced coverage in articles like these:
- InfoWorld: Open XML recovers from setback to ISO approval
- InternetNews.com: Office Open XML Standards Push Not Dead Yet
- eWeek opinion: Setting a New Standard
Spinning the executive board
Meanwhile the INCITS executive board was meeting last week in San Jose. If V1 had submitted a recommendation, the EB would have considered it, but instead they had to start from scratch in attempting to formulate a US position. After some deliberation they decided to vote on “Approval with comments” as a possible US position, as I reported late last week.
I guess it was only a matter of time until somebody tried to spin that outcome as well. In a blog post early yesterday morning, Andy Updegrove (a lawyer for OASIS who is often quoted by IBM) gave his analysis and commentary on what had transpired in V1.
The first thing that struck me about Updegrove’s post was the way he characterized INCITS as merely doing the bidding of Microsoft. He said that Microsoft is “escalating consideration of its formats to the Executive Board of INCITS.” Considering that last week’s meeting has been scheduled for a long time, with consideration of the Ecma submission DIS 29500 on the agenda all along, the suggestion that INCITS was merely reacting to a “Microsoft escalation” is an odd way to describe the meeting.
Updegrove goes on to say this (emphasis mine):
“… there will likely be statements made and interviews given by various parties (most or all of whom will have a stake in the outcome) throughout this time period, each giving their particular spin on events as they transpire. For this reason, I conducted an extensive interview over the weekend with an individual that is a member of both the V1 Technical Committee as well as the INCITS Executive Board in order to learn the steps that have been agreed upon to finalize the US position, so that we may all make the best sense of what we read and hear between now and the conclusion of the comment period.”
Then, without directly quoting his source, Updegrove provides several paragraphs of details about the INCITS EB meeting. INCITS says details of board discussions are not public, so I’d normally not comment on the details of Updegrove’s version of events, but there are couple of factual inaccuracies that I’d like to clear up.
For example, Updegrove claims that “[Microsoft’s] motion was defeated,” but in actual fact the Microsoft motion was not defeated. Rather, the motion was amended to include all the US comments, a subsequent amendment to change the motion to “Abstain” was defeated, and the amended motion was passed.
Updegrove also claims that “If the vote fails to receive the required majority, it has been agreed that a second written ballot will be issued, this time for “No Approval, with Comments.” This is not true — no decision was made on what a subsequent ballot would look like, whether Abstain or Disapprove.
A few hours after Updegrove’s post appeared, INCITS issued a press release including this statement by Jennifer Garner, Director of Standards Programs: “In accordance with INCITS policies, details of board discussions are not public.”
Updegrove updated his post almost immediately to include the INCITS press release, with that quote from Ms. Garner inserted above his long discussion of the details of the executive board meeting.