back to article Microsoft makes final heroic grab for OOXML votes

Microsoft has made one last crack at getting its Office Open XML (OOXML) approved as an international standard by reiterating that it won’t sue over future versions of its file format. But it wasn't enough to reassure one UK MP, who has tabled a question in the house on the British Standards Institute's stance on OOXML. The …

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Heated battle

"It’s been a heated battle for many months now, with ODF advocates on the one side berating Microsoft’s apparent newfound openness"

AIUI the ODF advocates object to the specification being shit, not Microsoft being more "open".

John

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good article

I thought that was a well written article!

Thanks for keeping me up to date on the status of this issue, even though I do not work on projects that are involved in ODF or OOXML development

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Linux

Sorry

We will keep it open.

Fool me once shame on you.

Fool me twice shame on me.

With regards to MS fool me 1000 times, just let me die.

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Untrustworthy

"reiterating that it won’t sue over future versions of its file format"

Sorry, but unless they put that in a *legally-binding* document, reviewed by lawyers representing the people it applies to, and signed off by both sides, I won't rely on that statement to guarantee anything, and neither should anyone else. Microsoft are quite good at using contract loopholes to screw over their "partners".

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Coat

Hmmm

Groklaw has quite a lot of stuff about the final round of voting - there are lots of odd things going on, like voting periods being extended, voting shifted to email and the assumption that not sending an email back counts as a "Yes".

Frankly the whole OOXML things is mired in sleaze - Microsoft tried their usual blackmail and threats and brown envelopes stuffed with used paper money. OK they might be able to buy the vote and get the pile of crap that OOXML is forced through as a standard but who in the right mind would use it - its full of Microsoft specific formatting, fudges with dates and some very worrying cludges when it comes to storing floating point numbers.

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Gates Horns

Ever heard the espression:

The great thing about standards is th there are so many to choose from?

We already have ODF. Why the hell do we need another 'standard'?

The only country that this could conceivably be to the benefit of is the US of A, and even that is a long shot.

This must be stopped!

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Alert

If only...

If only they'd learn... the problem with OOXML isn't that people are worried about lawsuits, it's that they will make it a de facto standard in the same way as they leveraged IE. The binary element stops anyone other than Microsoft from leading the game and makes their products unfairly competitive. The exact opposite of ODF, which is fully documented, and anyone (even MS) can implement it to the same standard as any competitor.

If this somehow becomes a standard, it will become a joke, the same way as IE6-era web design was a joke with regard to standard, precisely for the same reasons.

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Gates Horns

@Hmmm AC

Wait a minute, did you forget this is The Register? You sound like you actually read the spec and are arguing based on merits rather than religion or prejudice! How dare you! :-O

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Microsoft bought the vote

This is what I understand from previous reading on the subject.

Microsoft gave donations to Microsoft Certified small companies to sign up to vote. Some countries have canceled their vote when they discovered Microsoft had bought the vote.

The spec is so complex that only Microsoft products will conform to it. OK so some companies could code to the spec better but then that would be like Opera Verses Internet Explorer. Your program would have to work like MS Office rather than to OOXML spec.

I expect MS will have to add ODF to MS Office whilst everyone else ignores OOXML making it an orphan.

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Let it REALLY be the last time ...

"one last crack at getting its Office Open XML (OOXML) approved"

IT IS NOT in any way, shape or form FIT to be a STANDARD.

This vote desperately needs to be THROWN OUT and never tried again.

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Flame

Does it really matter in the end?

Regardless of the ISO vote, OOXML will become the defacto standard for document formatting in the near future. Period. Either OOXML will become a "separate but equal" standard ratified by the ISO and implemented - albeit with commercial license shackles attached - by any party that wants to interact with document formats, or it will become the same "standard" that Microsoft Office document formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.) have become today.

The ONLY thing that OOXML as a standard does is allow Microsoft to bid on some government contracts in the short term. In the long run, Microsoft will eventually prevail on these contracts, as, over time, more and more government offices discover that they can't exchange documents created in ODF with Office reliably, and, for legal reasons, they MUST adopt the formats and tools of their constituents in order to avoid liability.

THIS is the elephant that's been standing in the room that everyone has been pretending isn't there. I do hope that the inevitability of OOXML is acknowledged by the ISO and Microsoft, and this standard business gets settled once and for all.

(BTW - I am an OpenOffice user and have been for years. The only MS product I own is on my phone - and I'm getting rid of that ASAP. Having vitriolic hatred of Microsoft doesn't change the facts, however: OOXML will win the "document wars" just as surely as Internet Explorer won the "browser wars". I will not use OOXML, but in that commitment I acknowledge that I will only be able to exchange the barest minimum of format with anyone else - and, possibly, lose opportunities to earn a living in the process. That is my choice, and I accept the consequences without objection.

All the fan boys and legal beagles are absolutely right in their assertion "You don't have to USE the product if you don't want to". Unlike most people out there, I understand and accept the terms of THAT EULA - and its consequences.)

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Unhappy

If OOXML becomes a standard...

...then I will have lost my faith in ISO and the standards process is simply a scam. If companies with big pockets can stuff any ballot then what good are standards? Standards should be chosen on their technical merits, and ODF was chosen with good reason, not by pressuring developing nations or luring them with financial rewards.

I'm deeply disappointed in the national standards bodies of the participating nations as it seems none of them have seriously looked at the OOXML specs or considered the broader picture. It seems they've only looked at 'national interests' and I fail to understand what Microsoft is offering them if they vote for OOXML. Surely they must understand, those so-called experts, that this entire donkey-circus is merely about a vendor trying to keep its near-monopoly position?

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ISO

As some other wag put it:

ISO = I Sold Out

That they've allowed this farce to continue this long says to me that they have no interest whatsoever in the actual technical merits of a proposed standard. All I can assume is that money has changed hands, because if ISO is willing to let its reputation be dragged in the mud like this, I hope they got a lot of money for it.

Oh, and even if Microsoft fails THIS vote, all it's saying is that they'll have to use the "regular" standards track. THAT'S the big lie that Microsoft has been handing out to everyone. All they're voting on is whether it should use the fast track, something it is evidently not ready for. But that's never stopped money from speaking louder than technical merit. So if they fail this vote, they'll still have a crack at it using the regular track. I'm guessing they don't think they have a chance, and I dare say they'd be right.

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IEC/ISO Procedure

Who do you think sits on these committees, deciding the exact wording of all these standards ?

Who pays these guys/gals to fly around the world and attend posh lunches after every meeting ?

Answer - big companies, with big budgets and vested interest.

This is nothing new.

You and me (plebs) get no real voice in this - we can't be involved at all - I've tried and I can't afford it.

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This annoys me.

Really annoying because most people do not want it, yet those in power do what they want, not what people want.

No OOXML. It is a proprietary standard and only exists to preserve Microsoft's monopoly, there is no other reason.

Wake up!

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Gates Horns

Never just cave in.

The might and power as corrupted as Microsoft is may yet find a path into the ISO which is not set up to combat this kind of perverse power. Yes, the specification is pure vendor lock in by design. ooxml is after all designed to give more control to Microsoft and to undercut the fledging yet superior odf ISO specification (international standard ISO/IEC 26300:2006) that is currently THE opportunity to finally halt the corruption that is Microsoft at the global level of document control and ownership by control proxy.

It is not in vain to try and stop ooxml from invading the world and continuing Microsoft's dreams of total control of all digital content. But even if it is not completely stopped, they can be slowed down by denying them fast track wins that were bought with outrageous and disgusting behavior.

It will require Microsoft to actually prove its "standard" with a long and actual development scheme that must stand muster. Or it may not make it if it must prove itself. At this point the fast track path is a marketing invasion over a standards body that is living in the past were truth and values stood for something. They don't have the guts to stand up against the vendors and governments who were paid off to accept the Microsoft money mercenaries.

England was not wrong to stand up against the German war Machine in world war two... England won in spite of having "no chance"... The unexpected can have a real possibility, but only if the courageous stand in the way of "unstoppable" forces.

ODF is a real open standard, and it is important to the future of print and digital data.

OOXML is a pure con job designed to give total document control to Microsoft.

The world has a real opportunity here to save hundreds of billions of (name your money) and give readability of the documents forever ( kind of like printed text )

ODF is like the printing press... you can see what it is doing.

OOXML is not. And if Microsoft were to just vanish one day... were would your documents be? In binary goober code no one but the Microsoft blessed can read.

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So what?

They won't ever need to sue anybody anyway because nobody will ever be able to implement OOXML even if they wanted to.

This "standard" is nothing but a sham - not even Microsoft is going to use it.

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@ Brett Brennan

""

Does it really matter in the end?

All the fan boys and legal beagles are absolutely right in their assertion "You don't have to USE the product if you don't want to". Unlike most people out there, I understand and accept the terms of THAT EULA - and its consequences.)

""

"You WILL HAVE TO use the product if you DON"T WANT TO"

That is whole purpose of Microsoft "STANDARDS". Congratulations on finding a comfortable hole where that is not so, but for MOST of the business world the "ONLY" reason they upgrade is because a large customer or government agency they deal with has upgraded and the HAVE to follow to continue to communicate.

BTW, do you have directions for your vacation spot away from REALTIY?

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Boffin

@Brett - you're wrong on several counts:

"...more and more government offices discover that they can't exchange documents created in ODF with Office reliably, and, for legal reasons, they MUST adopt the formats and tools of their constituents in order to avoid liability."

Completely wrong - Governments should adopt formats and tools that their constituents can inexpensively and easily read and utilise.

This automatically means that the only standards a Government can possibly consider (assuming a democracy) are ones that are supported by a multitude of suppliers.

PDF is a start as there are a few things like the Foxit reader, but ODF (which is already an ISO standard) is now the ONLY standard that any democratic Government should be considering.

Unfortunately the current Labour Government of the UK is several years behind the Peruvian government in such democracy-enabling considerations.

I think we should *all* be writing to our MPs asking that ALL government documentation be published utilising an existing ISO standard with no commercial strings attached, for which free and freely-available fully-functional readers and authoring tools already exist.

Any supplier who cannot provide such software should be removed from the list of authorised suppliers until such time as they comply with this requirement.

Which would be ODF, unless Microsoft release the Office Suite for free.

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Gates Horns

Lest we forget

What's to stop M$ producing OOXML r2 with an EULA tighter than a duck's a*se which, like M$ Office, won't be backward compatible.

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Happy

@ Richard

"Completely wrong - Governments should adopt formats and tools that their constituents can inexpensively and easily read and utilise."

Ah, you mean plain text files. Assuming anyone can agree on a standard for line endings!

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Happy

@Richard

"I think we should *all* be writing to our MPs asking that ALL government documentation be published utilising an existing ISO standard with no commercial strings attached, for which free and freely-available fully-functional readers and authoring tools already exist." ...

If you're planning to use Open Office for this task, then saving as Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc) will considerably enhance your chances of getting a reply.

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Ed

OOXML will die within a few years

Microsoft changes their document format with every major revision of Office. Even if Microsoft wins the current struggle, they will make critical changes to the file format the next time they upgrade Office - enough that upgrading is required to stay compatible with the people who upgraded. At the current rate of major Office revisions, that sounds like 5-8 years - assuming, of course, that no major shake-ups happen.

The only formats which will continue to be reliable for the long term are TXT and ODF - and ODF is only going to be reliable for the long term because the group that maintains it is going to be ensuring that future revisions are compatible with older revisions. That is, the older documents, for the most part, will simply lack functionality allowed by the new revisions of the format.

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Oh damn it! I stepped in some ISO.

If they allow this, then ISO will become synonymous with dog poo as far as most sane IT people go.

From what I've been reading, the only people who are on the side of MS are those who have been paid by MS.

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