Open XML – US Vote Progress Continues


I have spent the past 2 weeks looking at really big trees and getting my perspective reset as it applies to scale and time. Yet, as I come back to email and industry news, things are still moving along with Open XML. I have been in touch with a bunch of people over the past 24 hours and here are some thoughts on the US vote and the status of a few things in general.

US INCITS Vote

Even though there were early predictions of doom for Open XML from Andy Updegrove and Rob Weir (and others), the US vote is likely to be either a “Yes with comments” or “Abstain” – not a ”No” vote. While the parties opposed to ISO adoption of Open XML have gone quiet on the US vote in the blogosphere, I think it is worth taking a close look at this key vote. In order to clarify my opinion – here are the details as I understand them.

The INCITS Executive Board voted on July 19 to distribute a ballot on Open XML with “Yes with Comments” as the US position. This was not the final vote of the US National Body for submission to ISO, only one step in the procedure to get to the US position. Votes were submitted and reviewed in another meeting of the EB on Wed, August 15. The first round of voting had resulted in 8 “yes,” 7 “no,” and 1 “abstain” vote (the only three options on the motion before the EB). The individuals who voted “No” discussed the basis for their votes, and the meeting progressed as the group worked on resolving some of these issues. By the end of the meeting enough of those who originally cast a “No” vote indicated likely support for a second “Yes with Comments” ballot to begin on Thursday August 16. Thus, the ballot will move to the next phase as “Yes  with Comments” heading into a Resolution Meeting on August 29. At that meeting, if Open XML gets 10 supporting votes, the US position on Open XML will be “Yes with Comments.” If it does not get the 10 needed votes, the EB is being asked to consider “Abstain with Comments” as its fall-back position. At this point, it seems a “No with Comments” is off the table.

IBM’s Motivations

If it has been unclear as to why IBM is so interested in keeping Open XML from being an ISO standard, the recent release of IBM Notes and Domino 8 continue to underline the fact that IBM has development investment, product sales, and consulting practice interests in the success of ODF. (I find it interesting that in their press release for Notes 8 they talk about ODF but NOT ISO ODF – why then so much concern about ISO Open XML from them?)

OK, that is fine – they should be interested in the success of their products, but this interest also drives the desire to have ODF / Open XML and ISO/IEC standardization as a differentiator. Given this self-interest, the irony is not lost on me that they are generating numerous technical comments for Open XML and advocating to National Bodies that these issues warrant a “No” vote even as IBM and Sun are working hard at OASIS on ODF to fix its many technical issues. Should ODF 1.0 not have been approved as an ISO standard because it was submitted prematurely in order for the interested parties to get a market competitive differentiator? (Keep in mind, the Massachusetts ETRM policy does NOT specify the ISO spec for ODF – they specify the OASIS spec because the ISO version is no longer current.)

The Standard Works

Even more important than the clash of the titans I keep referring to with IBM and Microsoft is the number of Open XML implementations already being delivered to market. Open XML is being widely adopted on Linux, Mac, and other platforms for office productivity products:

  • OpenOffice Novell Edition
  • OpenOffice Linspire edition
  • open-source spreadsheet project Gnumeric
  • Xandros has announced its intent to implement Open XML on desktop Linux solutions
  • Neo-Office 2.1 (based on OpenOffice.org) for the Mac platform
  • Apple’s support in iWork ’08, as well as on the iPhone
  • Palm ‘Documents to Go’ from Dataviz   

A big question raised by the detractors of Open XML has been about only one vendor doing an implementation of the specification. There are HUNDREDS of organizations doing this already and the specification has been and Ecma standard for less than a year. The process of opening the doc format through the standards process is doing what it is supposed to do – the standard works.

Accusations Will Fly

The rhetoric is going to heat up as we move through the beginning of September. There will be wrangling over process, over technical changes, over business strategy, etc., etc. Keep in mind, the actual outcome of this standardization effort will not be known until after the formal ISO/IEC JTC 1 Ballot Resolution Meeting sometime in early 2008. Everyone with a vested interest in this – both pro and con – are working with all of the tools available to them. No matter what people argue about, though – at the heart of this remains the idea that making document formats more open is a good thing.

Comments (39)

  1. Jason has news of what’s been happening in the US’ INCITS Executive Board which is very positive. ..

  2. hAl says:

    When looking at some of the comments accompanying the no vote I was very surprised about the level of knowledge on Office Open XML.

    Especially the 3 comments by the ministry of defense I found puzzling. Just like someone googled some junk from grokdoc.

    I found this somewhat surprising from an organisation like that.

    I would suggest that you and or your fellow Microsoft bloggers try give of some indication how comments will be handled by ecma (supported no doubt by Micrsoft) including comments by approval voters (who could afterall still change their vote on the BRM as well if their comments are ignored).

    Also I found on wikipedia the suggestion that in the ballot resolution meeting prior approval or disapproval ballot votes of national bodies not present in the meeting are not included which sounded vey strange to me but I can’t find information on that in the ISO directives. Could you enlighten us on that as well?

  3. jasonmatusow says:

    Hal –

    I will follow up on these two and get back to this thread (and maybe do a top-level posting on the first question).

    thx

    Jason

  4. jasonmatusow says:

    Hal – This is up at the Ecma International website: http://www.ecma-international.org/memento/TC45-M.htm

    Ecma TC-45 has made a public commitment to look at ALL comments (Yes with comments, No with comments, Abstain with comments) made in the balloting process. Here is the quote from the website:

    "The Ecma General Assembly approved the Final Draft as Standard ECMA-376 in December 2006 and Ecma submitted the standard to ISO/IEC JTC 1 for fast-track processing. The resulting ISO/IEC DIS 29500 is currently under ballot, closing September 2, 2007.

    TC45 has been continuously active since then, considering issues for clarification which were raised by its members, and will prepare the Ecma comments on the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 ballot at its next face-to-face meeting, on August 27-28, 2007, hosted by Novell in Toronto, Canada.

    After the ballot closes, TC45 will continue its very active involvment by supporting the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Editor which will be tasked to produce a proposed disposition of all comments received during the ballot period. TC45 plans to conduct thorough discussions of all comments submitted together with the ballots, using the wide technical expertise of its members to help develop the best possible proposals to answer National Body comments, including by confirming their proposed resolutions or proposing alternate solutions.

    TC45 looks forward to participating in the subsequent ISO/IEC DIS 29500 ballot resolution meeting, where members expect to resolve technical questions and move towards adoption of Open XML as an ISO/IEC International Standard."

  5. jasonmatusow says:

    Hal – here is the other answer.

    The Fast-Track BRM process is JTC 1 Directive Section 13.7-13.9 (written rules), but this is augmented by a body of practical experience from participants brought in as well. The BRM is not a second vote – rather it is an opportunity for the *aggregate list* of comments to be addressed which will be made available to the submitting body (Ecma International – TC-45) and all voting national bodies after the Sept. 2 ballot closure. Then, between Sept. and Feb. 2008 these are reviewed and a BRM meeting time/place will be set. It is expected that anyone voting No will be in attendance. After that meeting, based on their experience at that meeting, those national body has a 30 day window to modify their vote. This is customarily for No with comments votes rather than any other voters. It is my understanding that the national body has to be in attendance to have this opportunity – but again, it is expected they will be there.

    That help?

    Jason

  6. Doug Mahugh says:

    The September 2 vote on DIS 29500 is rapidly approaching, and Jason Matusow has posted a wrap-up of where

  7. Andre says:

    I mean, it’s a bug, fix it. What is going on here? You stuff Committees. Votes get recounted and recounted. Comments are recommended to get ignored. third world nations sent mails around the globe to other standard bodies. Get real. It is not the way it should be done.

    And you just blame others.

    "If it has been unclear as to why IBM is so interested in keeping Open XML from being an ISO standard, the recent release of IBM Notes and Domino 8 continue to underline the fact that IBM has development investment, product sales, and consulting practice interests in the success of ODF. (I find it interesting that in their press release for Notes 8 they talk about ODF but NOT ISO ODF – why then so much concern about ISO Open XML from them?)"

    Self interest? Oh, a company follows its business interests. That’s evil. Now I understand: IBM just wants to make money…

    Maybe because the market does not want to pay the MS tax anymore? Because the MS great commitments to interoperability are not felt to be credible. Because these standard experts know – as you do – that Open XML is XML as it should not be done?

    It is not clear to me why Microsoft needs an ISO approval so desperately. Feel free to use your format, and give your developers your ecma specification and protect them with your OSP. The Committee members would be stupid to grant you approval for nothing in return.

    What has Microsoft to offer? It is a bit naive to present a crappy and buggy proposal, and then perform autistic format promotion.

    Is the paper "The case for OOXML" published now?

  8. jasonmatusow says:

    Andre –

    1) I have talked at length about the participation in these committees. I think you should look very carefully at the behavior of both pro and con sides here before casting aspersions. People with vested interests are participating – that is a good thing. Around the world committees have rules and are working hard to adhere to those rules. Some had rules changes made just to make it harder for this spec to be approved (IBM’s effective work to change the rules in Itally for example) will make it harder for all specifications going through this process. I have said it again and again, both sides are working hard to acheive their goals. We should all be very clear on that.

    2) On the self interest front – yep, that is how it works when private orgs participate in standards bodies. I write what I do about IBM because they wrap themselves in a flag of goodness and light for society when in effect, they are seeking to reduce their customers’ choices in favor of thier own interests. That is why I focus on their behavior. Microsoft clearly has an interest in this as well and I have never said anything different on that point. our customers, partners, and competitors all asked us to open up the document format….we did.

    3) Why do we want it to be an ISO/IEC standard – because our customers, partners, competitors, and governments have asked us to standardize the format (which has been accomplished), and in this case, taking it to the international standards level was the right thing to do. Not all standards go this route, but Ecma decided that considering the attention and focus on this, and the feedback received, this was the right move for Open XML.

    4) For most, the fact that something is standardized by ISO/IEC is not critical – rather they focus on the implementation, the documentation, the support, partners, price, performance, etc. etc. of the product. Also, technology moves more quickly than the standards bodies do. The MA ETRM policy doesn’t even specify the ISO/IEC spec for ODF – they focus on OASIS as it represents the more current work on that format.

    Thx for the comments.

    Jason

  9. Andrew Sayers says:

    My understanding of IBM’s position is that they believe choice in standards is bad (because standardisation and choice are mutually exclusive), so it’s entirely consistent for them to say that they’re fighting the good anti-choice fight if they believe that choice is bad.  I’m sure their actions as are self-interested, and I know you disagree about choice in standards, but it’s not fair to imply their public comments are made in bad faith.

    Also, when did IBM lobby for a change of rules in Italy?  Unless this is a very recent or very ancient development, this one has passed me by, so I’ll need to go and do some reading.

    – Andrew

  10. Rick Jelliffe says:

    On the issue of attending, it is usually possible to appoint a proxy to attend ISO meetings. So a national body that wants to vote "no with comments" but does not have budget for th BRM (which is probably going to take the best part of a week) could look into that option.  (It seems that teleconferencing is not an option.) But NBs should check with ISO about this.

  11. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew –

    I have not seen the same consistency you have for the choice discussion from IBM. In Minnesota this past summer as they were lobbying for the ODF preference legislation – they argued that PDF was ok because it served a different purpose.

    Yet, it is a document format. It is a document format for an application that is competing in the marketplace for office automation. Adobe would argue that the format represents the unique innovations of their products.

    I do not think that they are making arguments in bad faith – just in faith that meets their business needs. Microsoft’s motivations are to do what is best for its business as well. But, in this case – that happens to be based upon significant requests to go down this path. Customers have told us they want this choice. This is why I keep saying that everyone with vested interests are working hard to see their point of view succeed.

    Italy – the rules changes happend shortly before the balloting process began for Open XML.

    Thx –

    Jason

  12. jasonmatusow says:

    Rick – thanks for the clarification on the BRM process.

    Jason

  13. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    As usual I’d like to move on to a deeper point which I think underpins the issue we’re talking about here.

    I’ve not been able to find anything as concise as a mission statement on the ISO’s website, but my instinct would be to make it something along the lines of "to find and publicising the right solution to problems faced by consumers";  the key point in that definition is that it implies a 1:1 mapping from problems to solutions (because either one solution is better than the other, or there’s no difference so you can just pick one arbitrarily).  I get the impression that you’d give them a mission statement more like "to document known solutions to problems so as to enable the free market to choose the best result"; the key point there is that the ISO should act like a referee, ensuring the game is played fairly without affecting the result.

    Although the above argument has very broad implications, it relates specifically to the discussion of IBM’s behaviour because I can only understand your above comment if your implicit premise is that the whole business of standardisation is just a way of helping the market along (rather than a way of deciding the winning solution).  I’m not making a criticism of that position, I’d just like to understand it.

    – Andrew

  14. Germany just announced that their vote for Open XML will be “YES with comments”. The INCITS Executive

  15. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    As usual I’d like to move on to a deeper point which I think underpins the issue we’re talking about here.

    I’ve not been able to find anything as concise as a mission statement on the ISO’s website, but my instinct would be to make it something along the lines of "to find and publicising the right solution to problems faced by consumers";  the key point in that definition is that it implies a 1:1 mapping from problems to solutions (because either one solution is better than the other, or there’s no difference so you can just pick one arbitrarily).  I get the impression that you’d give them a mission statement more like "to document known solutions to problems so as to enable the free market to choose the best result"; the key point there is that the ISO should act like a referee, ensuring the game is played fairly without affecting the result.

    Although the above argument has very broad implications, it relates specifically to the discussion of IBM’s behaviour because I can only understand your above comment if your implicit premise is that the whole business of standardisation is just a way of helping the market along (rather than a way of deciding the winning solution).  I’m not making a criticism of that position, I’d just like to understand it.

    – Andrew

  16. Germany just announced that their vote for Open XML will be “YES with comments”. The INCITS Executive

  17. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew –

    Standards are really specifications – written descriptions of technologies – not the technology themselves. The implementation is where the rubber meets the road for the consumer. I don’t know that I can think of a single standardized software specification where that one standard is the only part of  the final solution. Generally, the standard becomes one part of a much larger whole. The innnovations of that whole solution may touch on parts of a spec or all of it. I don’t think I agree with your proposed mission statement for ISO. Nor do I agree with your characterization of my postion – but I think you are asking the right questions.

    It is beneficial to have common ground for the sake of interoperability. (Keep in mind that I think interop is achieved through much more than just standards.) There is a long discussion to be had about the elements of solutions that may be identical to other solutions, as opposed to optional, as opposed to independent. The role of innovation, and the market forces/motivations of having unique value to offer all play a role.

    Software is also comletely unique in that it is infinitely maleable compared to specs that apply to the physical world (such as hardware or manufacturing equipment, etc., etc.)

    ISO, like any standards body, wants to work on specifications that have a high degree of relevance to the related industry of that specification. Few specs are invented whole cloth in the standards body. Most are contributed specifications. Thus you have such complex legal instruments around IPRs to keep contributors interested in participating while providing protections and incentives for implementers.

    I don’t know that I’m smart enough to give a mission statement to ISO – but I know that any work done on a spec there has much more value if it has broad adoption and implementation.

    Not sure if that was lucid…I’m sure you’ll let me know. 🙂

    Thanks

    Jason

  18. James says:

    "When looking at some of the comments accompanying the no vote I was very surprised about the level of knowledge on Office Open XML.

    Especially the 3 comments by the ministry of defense I found puzzling. Just like someone googled some junk from grokdoc. "

    who do you people think you are – I don’t know what groklaw is but just because you write a crappy os and you THINK you know what is best for us dumb users as far as computers go you have the right to make comments like this.

    this is number one reason why I don’t use your crappy os – the second reason is because you use one big binary blob for an os "the registry"  that is the worse idea in computer history.  

  19. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    Lucid probably, but definitely reaching the edge of what I can understand.  It’s taken me all day to get my head around this conversation, so I’ll try to split it up into bite-sized pieces.  Hopefully they’ll come together later on.

    * First, some things we agree on *

    I agree that standards are only part of a bigger picture – much as a law has no value unless it’s enforced, a standard has no value unless it’s implemented.  I can think of a few standards where this doesn’t apply, but they usually get released by the IETF on April 1st 😉

    I think that we can agree it’s laudable that Microsoft chose to document Office Open XML in a far more detailed and open way than previous formats.  Even if you’d never even gone to ECMA with it, this would have been a positive step.

    I think I see your point about malleability of software compared to hardware.  My favourite example is to compare VCRs with DVRs, as they were both designed to do the same job, and were each invented either side of the digital revolution.  VCRs are about balancing a set of electromechanical parts such that they happen to pass a magnet over a strip of material at exactly the time your favourite show is controlling the magnet, whereas DVRs just write to a disk while Doctor Who’s on.  It’s not that VCRs couldn’t have all the features that TiVo has, it’s just that the developers were so worn out by the time they’d finished tricking the machinery into doing something, they were in no mood to talk about the choice of fonts during program selection.

    * Role of the ISO *

    It seems like you’re saying that ISO’s relationship to specification-writers should involve them offering to trade an increase in common ground for dilution of IP rights.  That would translate in business terms to giving parties a smaller slice of a bigger pie – in the case of Office Open XML, Microsoft might lose a bit of the word processing market, but see that counteracted by a growth in office automation.

    Even if that’s not an accurate description of your view, am I at least right in thinking that you view the ISO as primarily a tool of the free market, and as only being about abstract technical issues as a means to that end?

    * Nature of the market the Microsoft Office inhabits *

    A big part of this process for me is questioning the fundamental assumptions that I’d always taken for granted.  One of those assumptions is that the office market is fairly static – that we basically knew what a word processor or a spreadsheet should look like when Office 95 was released, and everything since then has just been fiddling around the edges.

    Hearing you talk about office automation makes me think we’re still a long way from knowing what the ultimate uses of office products will be.  It seems like you believe that now is therefore not the time to be second-guessing the market about these things; that we should instead be treating it rather like a black box – present a set of different options and see which one it likes best.  Is that a fair assessment?

    – Andrew

  20. Andrew Sayers says:

    As an addendum to my previous comment, does the following accurately reflect your opinion: "the ISO’s job is comparable to food hygiene agencies – to verify that a product is safe to consume.  Arguing that the ISO should require office workers to unify around one format or other is as like arguing that the government should require meat-eaters to unify around beef".

    – Andrew

  21. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew – I’d like to share a beer with you sometime (I may have expressed that already). There are parts I agree with, and disagree with.

    Because it is late:

    1) I don’t know that I agree on the IP thought for ISO – clearly a company like Qualcomm would disagree completely with it. Microsoft has been very liberal with IP in the standards arena throughout our history as we rarely (extremely) seek royalties from standards. Our business is about selling binaries – not charging for IP. IP licensing is something we are doing more of today than in the past – but it is approximatley 1/10th of what we pay out annually in IP licenses to other companies. The Microsoft OSP – http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp – is something worth looking at if you have not.

    2) I don’t know that I would characterize ISO as a tool of the free market. Implementations of ISO standards certainly compete in the free market – but standards bodies, particularly international standards bodies, have a complex relationship to the marketplace. It is not out of the scope of reason to say that some governments see international standards bodies as an adjunct to regulatory oversight powers. I would say that industry consortia would be more of a free market example of standards…again, complex stuff.

    3) Office automation is just getting off the ground. Software is in its early childhood at best. Web services, ubiquitous connectivity, massive proccessing power, miniaturization, mobilization….how many factors do you think will have an effect on how we produce and use docs/spreadsheets/presentations/desktop publishing tools? The format is the discussion of the day – but the real power, competition, and investment is in the apps. THAT is what is at stake here.

    Jason

  22. Andrew Sayers says:

    Let me know next time you’re in London (or Cambridge I guess, if you ever visit the MSR lab there), and I’ll try to make it down – I can’t promise beer, but I’d love to chat.

    I’m starting to understand now why the ISO doesn’t have a mission statement – there are so many conflicting approaches dragging it around that any such attempt would be instant poison for the organisation.

    That said, I think I’m starting to get a grip on the issues involved.  I’ve recently asked Brian Jones about whether revisions to Office Open XML will try to find general solutions rather than specific ones.  It seemed more appropriate to ask him as it’s a development process question rather than a standards question, but I suspect his answer will trigger the creation of a set of opinions I’ll end up inflicting on you 😉

    This post is mainly an explanation for why I’ve gone quiet, but there is one question I have: you’ve said before that you felt multiple standards weren’t appropriate in safety – could you expand on that a little?  I don’t think you’re saying that safety standards should follow a completely different set of rules to other standards, so I’d be interested to know what factors you’re weighing up differently in that context.

    – Andrew

  23. jasonmatusow says:

    Generally speaking, safety standards are considered a different class than interop standards. Best to only have one standard for red/yellow/green on traffic lights. Whereas inteorp is possible to be acheived many ways. Standards are just one piece of the puzzle and effective data interchange (for example) may not require parity of standards vs. other mechanisms such as translation.

    Jason

  24. Andrew Sayers says:

    So you’re saying that the underlying purpose of a safety standard is to reduce risk, and since safety standards are usually about drilling very simple messages into people’s heads, it’s important to avoid a proliferation of messages?

    And by contrast, you’d say that the purpose of an interoperability standard is to lay the ground for interoperation between different products, by making sufficient information available through a permissive legal framework?

    – Andrew

  25. James says:

    "Everyone with a vested interest in this – both pro and con – are working with all of the tools available to them"

    tell me jason – I am just a dumb user that has a vested interest into not buying your products.  what tools do I have that even compare to your company’s that I can use. please let me know because I would love to use.

    ODF is the standard and truly open unlike your so called open xml standard.

    two standards does expand my choices  – it limits them.  one standard puts everyone on an even playing field and that is what your company truly wants to avoid because then you would have to actually compete and we all know who would win when the actual product is compared and not forced on us dumb users.

  26. Andrew Sayers says:

    James,

    If your aim is to promote the use of ODF over Office Open XML, some of the tools available to you are spending your money wisely, using rational debate, and contributing to open source projects.

    Unless you’re very rich, spending your money wisely will only have a tiny effect on the world.  On the other hand, many individuals with good arguments or good code have had a big effect, so you might want to concentrate on those.

    In both cases, it’s very important that you concentrate on identifying and tackling the issues that matter to people who currently disagree with you.  There are already plenty of people out there on blogs and mailing lists that can explain their own ideas in great detail, but people that disagree with you generally do so for a reason, and you’ll only change their minds by looking at their reasons.

    In a recent blog post, Brian Jones linked to an IDC report which claims that IT managers generally agree with you that two standards are worse than one, while line-of-business managers think that it’s a good thing to have both standards.  If you can find out why LOB managers think what they do, you might be able to contribute code to OpenOffice or arguments to public discourse that will have the effect you want.

     The report is at http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/documents/IDC%20Document%20Adoptions%20White%20Paper.pdf

    – Andrew

  27. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew  – big issue, small comments section on a blog. It is not as simple as both you are I are laying out. There is a role to be played in interop standards for commonality and uniform implementation. There is also room for optional elements, extentions to standards, etc. etc. I don’t hold to the idea that in software we are constrained to least common denominator development. Interop is important, but so are cost, performance, features, reliability, security, scaleability, etc. etc. etc. And – all of that is mixed into a solution that is trying to acheive marketplace success so the basic ideas of uniqueness and competition come into play.

    James –

    The truly great thing about a competitive marketplace is that if you don’t want to use Microsoft products….you don’t have to. In fact, if you don’t like our stuff I would encourage you to find something that you do like. You may end up using OpenOffice in the future but writing to an Open XML file….crazy things like that might happen. My guess though is that you ultimately will care little about the format, but much more about the application. You want your apps to be innovative and to meet your needs. The point about choice in formats is that if you believe that all formats should be locked down to just ODF – you are creating an innovation dead zone for apps development. Should Adobe abandon its format? How about all vertical apps ISVs who have either proprietary or legacy document formats that are used in their solutions? Should their choice of future development direction be limited to just ODF? In my world view, that is a bad solution.

    Anyway, enjoy the apps you are choosing to use.

    Jason

  28. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    This conversation has been really useful for me – I don’t feel like I’m any closer to knowing what makes a good standard, but I’m starting to understand what the question means, and why it’s so hard to answer.  The process of creating a standard is a transaction between a variety of parties with different interests, all of whom are looking for a way to further their own ends.  Since the parties involved are different for every standard, every standard will have a different value equation.

    It seems like this discussion has gone as far as the comments section of a blog can go in terms of looking at the ISO’s input and processes, so I’d like to ask about its output.

    What measurable effects on the world does, or should, ISO certification have?  One obvious answer in the case of Office Open XML is that governments will be more willing to use it for legal reasons.  Another is that the specification will be stronger thanks to the increased peer review.  What are the other common or important effects of ISO certification?

    – Andrew

  29. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew – right, a "good" standard is a highly relative measure. If you want an interesting example, look at SNIA – the Storage Network Industry Association. The issues around the specs bring about an entirely different set of issues that pit the idea of specs vs. implementations even further. There is a HUGE question still to be answered about the role of open source software and standards. Conformity, modification, IP rights, contributions, etc. at become very interesting questions. In that case a chunck of an existing commercial product was open sourced, and then the implementation itself was referred to as the standard in order to make a product competition play.

    Your second set of questions about the output is worth a top-level post. I will hold off and get to that.

    Jason

  30. James says:

    "The point about choice in formats is that if you believe that all formats should be locked down to just ODF – you are creating an innovation dead zone for apps development. Should Adobe abandon its format?"

    Uh?  who said anything about anyone abandoning their format?  why don’t you compare apples to apples.  

    I don’t see adobe nudging their "Gold" partners to vote for a flawed and mathematically incorrect standard.  Just to put a open standard stamp on their product as a selling point.

    ODF is everything but a app "dead zone"  their are tons of innovation going on with ODF.  I think you you owe your customers the support they deserve and your company should support ODF natively with your products instead of half-working translators.

    I do enjoy the product I chose to use.  The problem is when your products are forced on me by other people and I am forced to use them because of your back room software assurance deals.  

    Why should I have to send my resume in doc format just because some company made a back room deal with your company and they are forced to use your product which forces everyone they deal with to use your product just so they can see the information and how it is suppose to look in a document.   Heck you earlier doc formats aren’t even compatible with your new products.

    Talk about application lock-in.

    This is what a single standard is about – and that is not

    an app "dead zone" – I call that an app "alive zone" where competition flourishes and the consumer chooses products not standards.  

  31. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    I take it you’re referring to the Disk Data Format (http://www.snia.org/standards/home/SNIA-DDFv1.2.pdf), and that the source code in question was released under what I read as a broadly LGPL-like license (http://www.snia.org/smi/developers/open_source/).  I agree that it brings up a whole host of questions, and suggests a whole host of possibilities for how to make better standards – going back to something we discussed before, these are issues that could never have existed in physical standards, because you can’t make a standard for VHS tapes by submitting a cassette to the ISO.

    James,

    When a smart person appears to say something dumb, it’s usually just a miscommunication.  Your earlier argument is that there should only be one document format (ODF).  Jason’s question is that since PDF is also a document format, do you advocate deprecating it in favour of ODF?  It sounds like you don’t, so what rule are you following that says that Office Open XML conflicts with ODF but PDF doesn’t?

    – Andrew

  32. Dan Kegel says:

    Given the methods applied by Microsoft to force this

    standard through, (e.g. the scandal in Sweden), I think

    the only way Microsoft can make OOXML a truly

    respected standard is to take down the pressure on its

    partners down three notches, fire (not reprimand)

    anybody who appears to have attempted to improperly

    influence the standards bodies,  voluntarily take OOXML

    off the fast track, and actually spend the year or two extra time it

    takes to deal with all the comments.  

    Of course, Microsoft can barrel ahead as it’s been doing,

    admitting no wrongdoing, and probably will.

    Not only will that result in a flawed standard, but the hard

    feelings it engenders will help produce a whole

    new crop of religious extremists bitterly opposed to everything

    Microsoftian.  

    Your choice, guys.  What’ll it be?

  33. James says:

    "When a smart person appears to say something dumb, it’s usually just a miscommunication.  Your earlier argument is that there should only be one document format (ODF)."

    yes you are right.  Is pdf an ISO standard? Don’t really see a conflict.

  34. Andrew Sayers says:

    James,

    Your question is really for Jason, although I suspect he’s quite busy at the minute, so it’ll probably be a while before he replies.  I’m answering here strictly as a facilitator, not making any claims about the veracity of any argument.

    According to Wikipedia, "proper subsets of PDF have been, or are being, standardized under ISO" – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf#Subsets has more details.

    PDF, ODF and Office Open XML are all file formats for storing documents.  They all specify ways of displaying text.  Ordinary programmers are intended to be able to write programs that create and consume them.  When I write a letter, I can save it in any one of them.  Therefore, the rule "there should only be one document format (ODF)" implies that neither PDF nor Office Open XML should be a standard document format.

    If you believe that PDF should be an ISO format (which you may or may not), then the above interpretation of your argument leads to a contradiction.  I might be wrong about this, but my guess is that you’re using the term "document format" to mean something different to the above, which would explain why Jason sees a contradiction and you don’t.

    – Andrew

  35. jasonmatusow says:

    Hi guys – this is getting to be a long thread. 🙂

    PDF/A was made into an ISO standard. This is the archival format. PDF, the full format, is now working towards the same goal. There is a distiniction to be made in that PDF is not an XML-based format. But, it is absolutely a document format. ODF and Open XML are XML-based. So is UOF, the Chinese national XML document format, and they are looking to have that become an international standard as well. I just made this comment on a different thread on one of my newer postings – the real focus should be on the innovation in the app space and not the adherence to the single format concept. These formats all represent the feature sets of the apps that use them. As a consumer, I want apps that are innovative and doing great stuff. The thing that matters most to me about the formats is the ability to use translation when needed, and to deal with issues like long-term archival with elegance. This is why XML-based formats are so interesting.

    Thx

    Jason

  36. Andrew Sayers says:

    Jason,

    I’m holding off on standards questions until you’ve had a chance to put a top-level post together, but reading your response made me think of something.

    Are you envisaging a world where each organisation picks one office package, which might differ from other organisations?  Are you therefore thinking that translation between formats will be something that happens to a file at most once a day, and at most half a dozen times during its lifetime?

    I ask because translation between two formats will never be perfect (or else they’d be the same format), and the importance of minor issues in translation like speed or loss of information depends greatly on how common a task translation is.

    – Andrew

  37. James says:

    ""According to Wikipedia, "proper subsets of PDF have been, or are being, standardized under ISO" – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pdf#Subsets has more details."

    Andrew,"

    If you listen to your own arguments you will actually see what I am trying to say.

    Okay parts of PDF is an ISO standard – do we have a competing PDF ISO standard?   XML and PDF are two different items.  

    This is the problem when microsoft argues their points.  They always shift reality a little bit to make look like they are reasonable and get people to think like they  do.  They are really pretty good at it and have pretty much all their customers fooled.

    Why doesn’t microsoft come up with a competing PDF standard?   We should all be working on improving ODF instead of a different competing standard.  

    But in a way I am glad microsoft is doing what they are doing.  It will give my company a chance to really save money and stick with a true ISO standard.  

  38. Andrew Sayers says:

    James,

    So you’re saying that there should only be one XML-based document format, and that non-XML formats are in a different category?

    Microsoft actually are trying to standardise a format that competes with PDF (the XML Paper Specification – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML_Paper_Specification).  Would you say that the ISO should be comparing it to ODF and Office Open XML (becuase it’s an XML-based format for displaying documents), to PDF (because they’re direct competitors), neither, or both?

    – Andrew