Open XML In The ISO Process

I was travelling in Europe last week and meeting a variety of people regarding interoperability, Open XML/ODF, and intellectual property issues. It was an excellent trip and, as usual, learned a great deal about what people really care about on these issues.

An important clarification needs to be made about an interview I did with Matthew Aslett of the Computer Business Review Online. They ran with a headline that reads, “‘Legitimate concerns’ raised over Microsoft Office formats.” The point I was making in the interview was that the ISO process is designed to hear input on a given standard. I was expressing respect not only for the process, but for the fact that there were submissions that raised concerns.

Let me be absolutely clear that I do not believe there are any contradictions, or other factors, that merit the delay of Open XML becoming an ISO standard. I have respect for all opinions in this process. More importanly, I believe that the process should recognize input from all member bodies and take that input into consideration in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

The fact that concerns were raised by member bodies make them “legitimate” inputs, but it does not make the concerns themselves valid. The whole point of the coming 5-month balloting process is for the voting members to take all points of view into consideration prior to casting their final ballot.

Those in opposition to the adoption of the international Ecma Open XML standard by ISO are pointing to my comments as “proof” of what they believe. That is unfortunate as it does not represent what I think.

Comments (4)

  1. Sam Hiser says:


    I’m surprised to hear you were misconstrued. I had fantacized that you were sending up a Red Herring because you knew 6 months ago that ISO was going to rubber stamp the ECMA formats through fast-track. On that basis it was quite a clever bit of misdirection, but it seems I’ve over-estimated you.

    Saying you care about the process may be personally true of you, but it conflicts with the overarching behavior of your company, making the statement irrelevant even if well-meant.

  2. jasonmatusow says:

    Hi Sam –

    I am a bit concerned to hear you now apply the "rubber stamp" term to ISO as well. It would seem that any decision by a standards organization that is not within the context of advancing the standard you care about becomes a "rubber stamp." In other words, you are saying that ISO is a broken process. This is odd considering how much crowing has been going on about ODF being an ISO standard, and how that validates the standard. Microsoft has deep respect for ISO. I have deep respect for ISO. This does not mea that everything we do will be about standards, nor does it mean that all standards work we do will be about ISO. We are long-standing participants in industry standards bodies and have worked on a number of international standards as well. In fact, more than 150 separate working groups in any one year, never mind supporting literally thousands of standards in our products. Microsoft, like all vendors who are participating in standards do so with self-interest and loftier goals of moving the state of the art forward and/or enabling growth of the industry as a whole. To say anything different would be disingenuous.

    I think your comment on Brian Jones’ blog was uncalled for and as Stephen McGibbon pointed out – you fell into the trap of Godwin’s Law. Let’s all debate the issues, point out flaws in each other’s arguments – but how about some sense of decency in the process? Brian is a great guy, to liken him or Microsoft or anyone else for that matter to the Nazis is over the line.

    As for Open XML in the ISO process. Now is the time for debate. Let’s have it, let’s raise the level of debate to the issues that matter and discuss what customers want, what others in the industry are able to do with the richness offered by choice. I’m completely game for that.


  3. Sam Hiser says:

    I’ve been waiting for you to turn to the issues, Jason. It’s where we win the war.

    Here’s a lovely issue: your customers want to <a href="">get”>">get away from you</a>:

    Because you want to control their IT budgets. That’s an issue I think is important to a lot of your customers. Certainly to mine.

  4. Sam Hiser says:


    I’m game for a good chat about issues and what customers want. You’re being quite self-centered in asserting that you are the arbiter of what customers want. (Seems a common failing within the Microsoft Cult).

    They say they want interoperability (which I know they define as documents working across platforms, yours and others like Mac and Linux) and you and the Just-Add-Water Community at OpenXML Developer DOT ORG seem like a broken record diverting the discussion to the beauty of Custom Schemas (which we all understand to mean interoperability between Microsoft software and non-standard, customer-defined formats and data).

    The Here-We-Go-Round-the-Mulberry-Bush aspect is worth a good laugh.

    Let’s raise the tone of the debate. I’d love to; but mom told me you can’t have a conversation with pathological liars. How about some decency in your business model?