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back to article Has ISO already rejected anti-OOXML appeals?

The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) is refusing to discuss a leaked paper that suggests it has already rejected appeals against the ratification of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as an international standard. A leaked Joint Technical Committee No.1 (JTC1) paper (Groklaw has a pdf) recommends …

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Look everyone

Stop complaining about OOXML

*trouser £20*

It's a perfectly acceptable and well-defined format for document representation

*trouser £20*

Those countries that have complained against the ISO process are just causing unwarranted delays and are blighting Microsoft's good name

*trouser £20*

We can trust Microsoft to deal with document format obsolesence as they have always served us well and looked after our electronic archiving best interests these last 20 years or so

*trouser £50*

ODF is clearly inadequate in the face of the rich content and power offered by OOXML

*trouser £20*

I've just recently discovered that OpenOffice is very poor at word processing and will be replacing it with MS Office 2007 immediately

*trouser £20*

No, Office 2003, 2002, 2000 or 97 don't have the richness I need, only 2007 can fulfill my requirements

*trouser £150*

In fact whilst I'm at it I might as well get prepared for the goodness that is Windows 7 by upgrading to Windows Vista, my productivity will leap 70%

*trouser £300*

And now I must go to the pub, via the way of the bank of course, I'm feeling a little heavy in the wallet department.

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IT Angle

Meanwhile... >

ISO chooses to ignore the standard already elected by the great majority of the world?

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Gates Horns

ISO squanders what little credibility they have left

Next week we'll probably hear about an Italian vacation the ISO heads took, donated by some kindly anonymous souls. All booked through Expedia of course.

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Don't implement

If you the software manufacturer don't like the "standard", simply don't implement it and stick to Open Document Format which is already a standard that people apparently accept. If enough manufacturers don't implement it, then it's not really a standard is it? Even if the ISO put down their bankroll long enough to pick up their rubber stamp. If lots of consumers continue to buy your software, then you were right. If lots of consumers protest and threaten to switch back to Microsoft, then you were wrong, accept that the "standard" really is a standard, and implement it.

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ISO Standards

Always keen to evaluate standards, I recently purchased a set of ISO standard wine glasses (see ISO 3591:1977 Sensory analysis -- Apparatus -- Wine-tasting glass).

I can report that while the functionality could be considered inferior to that available from non-standard glasses on the market, particularly w.r.t. bowl size, weight and aesthetics, the standard is obviously simple and cheap to implement, 'cos I got a set of six for £13.49.

Contrast with OOXML or whatever they're calling it now, which is by all accounts thousands of pages of unimplementable, IPR-ridden, binary dependent nonsense.

I think ISO should stick to things they understand, like wine glasses.

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Re: Don't implement

Aye, rather like telling BMG "Don't make CD's" as the answer to CD piracy.

It'll work, but all it will take is MS punting a few godiva's to a politician and MSOOXML becomes the ratified standard. And, if MS are the only one with the sticker on it (mind you, you don't expect it to actually *follow* the MSOOXML standard, do you?), it's the only one to get purchased.

Which is rather what MS want to happen.

Better is to not have MSOOXML as a standard passed through the fast track process.

Just like BMG should try reducing CD costs and increase artist payouts to get the public on their side and decide not to pirate.

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Unhappy

@Dale

Rather simplistic I'm afraid.

I think the argument is not so much over the standard as open access to assets in the (not-so-)far future. You can't really expect the vast market of consumers to be aware/concerned/knowledgeable enough to fully appreciate these concerns. In fact you might expect them to believe that this is exactly the kind of thing that the standards body will be looking out for them on.

I don't think the protest is because this is Microsoft's standard it is rather that is is so badly documented and the way in which it has been 'fiver in the concierge's pocket' led to its table.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Dale

The whole reason why MS were pissing themselves to get OOXML adopted as a standard in the first place had nothing to do with developments from other software providers and everything to do with governmental organisations requiring that documents be saved in ISO-agreed standard formats (and quite possibly, supplied to them in those formats as well). If Office didn't support an ISO-agreed standard format then it wouldn't be possible for Office to be used in any government office in an increasing number of countries, which is not an insignificant number of licences to be losing revenue from. They had two choices - either support ODF in Office (which had already been ratified as a standard) or push through OOXML. Given that this is MS we're talking about, giving primacy to a competitor file format is not something that would have ever happened. Hence the shoddy way they have coerced ISO to accept OOXML as a standard even though it is no where near being ready as one due to woefully insufficient documentation of the APIs etc required to implement it.

However, now that it has been ratified (just about), it means that governments will no longer move away from Office. Victory scored for MS.

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Unhappy

@Dale -- Don't implement

The point is that having it as an ISO standard will allow MS to confuse the pointy haired types that don't understand the issues. The result will be that in a few years time today's documents will not be readable -- MS Word 2028 will not read the formats being generated by MS Word today, or OOXML. This will be a disaster for those organisations that need to keep documents for many years (eg: mortgages, land deeds, ...).

This has been recognised by some countries and organisations - they have adopted ODF because we will still be able to read it in hundreds of years time. The pointy haired types will believe that the same will be true of OOXML, they will believe that .docx is a sort of OOXML and also OK. They will be wrong. Our children will suffer for the blindness of the ISO JTC1.

Today should be a day of international mourning.

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@Dale

Dale,

Your post fails the but-for test.

It is a fact, that while the rule-of-law applies, any organisation with more than a certain amount of the market (70% in Europe, I think, different figure in US, I think) has to behave in a certain way in order to avoid illegally distorting the market.

Further, despite the concern expressed by some over Europe's insistence on RAND-free open standards, there is a public policy issue to address, illustrated by Acts of Parliament (Statutes) being recorded on goatskin parchment using special ink so they are still readable in umpty-ump years time. (Quite important).

I am underwhelmed by the claim of special innovation in file formats because in a digital world I want to own my information and I want governments (banks, pension companies...) to be able to access information for as long as necessary, without being in thrall to any commercial entity (which is not a plea for "freetard").

If Microsoft were to converge OOXML with ODF in a manner which enabled RAND free file formats, there wouldn't be an issue. Microsoft could be free to charge whatever they wanted for MS Office. Its superiority could be demonstrated by consumers choosing to buy it rather than a cheaper simpler product.

Their productivity claims made for the product could be realised by those that do all that complicated office stuff where those gains are realisable.

Others could stick to using more basic products.

The economy would benefit as money wouldn't be misdirected to IT arising from a single better-than-needed product being bought in all circumstances.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Dale 2

...and while I'm responding to you... no other software manufacturer CAN implement OOXML. It's completely impossible. The documentation is incomplete, inaccurate and full of references to proprietary and closed solutions that only MS has access to. No other company than MS can implement support for the OOXML standard. Hence the outrage that it has been passed as a standard by ISO.

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Anonymous Coward

@OOXML

Whether ratified as a standard or not it will be the standard as used by MS Office. Accordingly it will become the standard in the same way the .DOC format is the current standard.

Admittedly this is not the standards standard but it will be the standard standard, which in English can be stated: Makes no difference what the bearded ones decide, users will use MS Office.

And users will expect that vendors will provide materials in formats the users can read (which would be PDF or whatever format MS Office is using) and accept materials in the formats users provide.

Or they'll spend their money elsewhere.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Lee

Except for all those government organisations that now, by law, have to use file formats that are ratified standards. .doc is now forbidden (and rightly so) regardless of how popular and "standard" it is elsewhere.

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@ Lee

I think you've got the right facts but come to the wrong conclusion.

Seriously, how many times do you want to buy a word processor just because the file format is changed by the dominant supplier?

If it is all about innovation in productivity (or extra features) then the product will be purchased anyway, by those that want to need those features.

If it were a car you might want 5.1 stereo, leather seats and air-conditioning, but it might be nice to forgo those so you can buy something else you need more.

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@Lee

If governments start churning out documents in odf people will start noticing it, and a lot will follow suit. 'The government do it, it must be right - they are the best of the best after all'.

Certain bodies now MUST use open-standards, so if OOXML becomes ISO then the governments can use it and we are exactly where we were with .doc at the beginning.

The point is, if an organisation you deal with uses ODF you may use whatever software floats your boat in your own org or at home. No problems.

If they use OOXML, you MUST pay for MS Office. Like it or not, you pay.

SCHOOL. It's where they started with the same trick. Here's cheap/free OS.

How generous they all say. Then realise they need MS OS at home to be able to do homework. And, so it began. OOXML, and so it begins.

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Gates Horns

@ Lee too

OXML won't be a standard, ever, because it won't be implemented, ever, by anyone. Only MS could do it, and they're not even going to try.Office2007 is NOT compliant with the OXML standard (by far). Actually it is not even compliant with the transitional spec, which should have been designed from Office2007 in the first place. i.e. even MS doesn't know what its software is actually producing. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/22/office_2007_oxml_fails_test/

Second point, you're basically saying "it is crappy but lots of people will fall for it, so we should welcome it and trash all the other, better, solutions". Which I find kind of flawed. I reckon it's to proper logics what OXML is to a proper standard.

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Flame

Several companies have implimented previous versions of OpenXML

Several companies have implimented previous versions of OpenXML.

http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/features/ooo.html

"OpenOffice.org Novell Edition supports the import and export of established Microsoft Office file formats, even taking advantage of geometrically compatible fonts to match document length. In addition, OpenOffice.org Novell Edition ensures compatibility between the Open Document Format (ODF) and Office Open XML, Microsoft's document format for Microsoft Office 2007. Transparent document sharing makes OpenOffice.org Novell Edition the best choice for customers who are deploying Linux desktops in a mixed Linux / Windows environment."

And ODF 1.0 is hopelessly flawed. Maybe someday they will fix.

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Jobs Horns

@Bruce

''Several companies have implimented previous versions of OpenXML.'', how did they do that, how can we verify that if we don't have a standard that we can check it against ? OOXML is not complete, so it can't be done.

''And ODF 1.0 is hopelessly flawed. Maybe someday they will fix.'' I have to ask Bruce who's shilling you are taking -- you seem to regurgitating the cr*p that comes out of the M$ publicity engine.

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MSOOXML is hopelessly flawed

Nuff said.

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Office Open XML

"Several companies have implimented previous versions of OpenXML."

This is wrong in so many ways...

First, you're talking about OOXML, not OXML.

Second, OOo and Office2007 partially support .docx stuff, which IS NOT the standard that have been ISO-approved: more than 122 000 errors last time someone checked, see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/22/office_2007_oxml_fails_test/ ffs) and Office2007 docx is not even compliant with its own specs.

Third, I can open docx documents with Vim (or even ed) but it doesn't make it a widely supported standard. Nor a good format.

Also, ODF might not be perfect, it's still much, much closer to being so than OXML. It's implementable, for a start. It's consistent (same things represented the same way across different doc types, no "this tag makes the same thing as some undocumented option in one of our previous, closed application" crap, ...) And most ODF implementations I've seen are actually rather good: logical, usable, documents easily recovered. Not to mention that nothing prevents you from implementing it your way...

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Linux

Give it time

Microsoft's document formats **have to** be kept a secret. This is because, unlike physical objects (which may have parts such as blades which go blunt, rubber belts or idlers which perish, heat exchangers which corrode or metal parts which scrape against metal parts), software **doesn't wear out**.

The only way that Microsoft can build in planned obsolescence into Office is to release a new version with exactly the same functionality but an incompatible file format, stop making the old version and give away (or rely on the pirates to give away) a few complimentary copies of the new version. Then, when all your friends are sending you documents in the "new" format, you will find it easier to upgrade your own copy of Office than to explain patiently to everyone that they need to go into settings -> advanced -> file format -> default, select "Save as .doc : Word 2000 / XP", and then ignore the requester which pops up everytime they save a file saying that some features may not be supported when saving in this format and wouldn't they rather save in the latest and greatest new file format instead?

Of course, having bought (we'll assume you're a business and therefore unable to get away with using pirated software, though some of the people with whom you are corresponding clearly are) the latest brand-new version of Office, you will now find that your computer slows to a crawl and so be forced to upgrade your motherboard. And remember, all this is for no noticeable benefit for you. The **only** thing that New Office does that your Old Office didn't do is save its files in a different format. And consume more CPU cycles while doing it, of course .....

If someone were able to write a program that could read "new format" files and spit out "old format" files, then you would be able to exchange documents with your friends just fine, and so never need to upgrade. Hence, documenting file formats would be professional suicide for Microsoft. So they aren't going to do it.

(How it's done on the Other Side of the Divide is this. The best and most complete documentation for any file format is always the Source Code to the program out of which it was saved. Knowing that people will be looking at your Source Code, you already made your file format as extensible as could be and wrote your file-reading code as bomb-proof as could be, just so nobody would have anything to point and laugh at; so when loading a "new" file into the "old" program, new features probably will just get ignored. There is generally no good reason to change a file format radically, unless you introduce a feature which is so new and so radical that it really cannot be represented at all in the old format.

In situations where code is thoroughly audited, "shiny and new" isn't considered as important as "proven stable and secure" and the latest versions of everything are not necessarily available immediately -- Debian, for instance -- a simple conversion tool can be created by splicing the new "read" routine onto the old "write" routine.)

There are two ways out of this situation, and it's a matter of time before one of them becomes reality:

Sooner or later, someone high-profile will end up in the situation where a vitally-important Word document, created with a version of Office which is no longer obtainable or will only run on hardware which no longer exists, is no longer accessible. Then there's going to be an interesting show.

Or it's possible that a decompiler will be invented before then; in which case, there won't be such a thing as closed source anymore. But betting the future accessibility of your old documents on such an outcome still too big a gamble for most organisations.

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Gates Horns

One wonders

One wonders how many zero's MS added to the Swiss bank accounts of those in charge. Maybe an outside investigation is deserved after all that has gone on. Like the Bushies like say you don't have anything to fear from being investigated unless you've done something wrong.

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@Give it time By A J Stiles

"The **only** thing that New Office does that your Old Office didn't do is save its files in a different format."

I hate MS and their OXML crap as much as any sensible person, but this is not entirely trivial. At least OXML docs will suposedly be readable with a text editor whithout the need of hexa conversion, which is great for data recovery. If someone ever bothers to implement it, that is (highly unlikely). But the same applies to .docx documents. It's crap and the ISO certification is a sinister farce, but at least the .docx format is not as bad as the .doc one.

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J
Go

Web blogs

And are there any other types of blogs? Blog being a contraction of Weblog and all that, if I remember the olden days...

Anyway, a solution for this problem would be a law that forces the manufacturers of software to release the source code of a product when obsolescence comes (or when the company dies/abandons product, whichever comes first). If they are not going to support their stuff anymore, they should be forced to allow other players to do it, which can only be possibly done with the source code. So, shiny-spanking-new Office 2007, and dropping support for, say Office 97 and its file formats? Great, time to put the code for Office 97 in the public domain, then. Or support it indefinitely so people can still read old files. I suspect that would make companies much less eager to keep the upgrade treadmill going. No?

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RW

@ J re "Web blogs"

"a law that forces the manufacturers of software to release the source code of a product when obsolescence comes..."

Won't work unless you're not allowed to sell software without first depositing a copy of the source code with The Powers That Be. Otherwise, software companies. will just plead "my dog ate the source code."

More seriously, what happens if a company simply goes under? Unless there's a copy of the source on file already, you can bet your sweet bippy that the bankruptcy trustees will not be the least inclined to hand over a copy. No teeth in that provision you suggest, see?

Yet another issue: source code embodies trade secrets and just because version 1 of some program is no longer supported, you can't assume that the source for it doesn't contain trade secrets still in use in later versions.

Software obsolescence is a serious problem but the proposed solution won't work.

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@RW about trade secrets

You're right except that it CAN work. Trade secret is not an issue, that's what intellectual property laws are about. Open source software is, indeed, open source, and trade "secrets" are out for everyone to see, but if someone re-used them in a way that violates the licence they would face problems. You can't have everything. If closed, proprietary code is hidden to protect trade secrets, then the owners should stop using IP laws. If they want to sue world+dog for alleged code-stealing, they should release their code.

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"what happens if a company simply goes under"

If the company hasn't sold software then they have a good reason to go under. If they have, they have given source code out. And if they delete all code, then any employee can't start a new company with the source either, so deliberately deleting code is a pretty spiteful thing to do.

NOTE: You don't have to give source to a central repository. You can be required to give source with the binary. Since they are both still copyrighted, your customer can't rip you off.

Your proposal of how to enact the solution won't work if you look hard enough to find a problem and not a solution. The idea will work. Just give source code to the customer you sold the binary to or you don't get copyright. Copyright is meant for expressive art, not unexpressive binary.

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IT and ISO

It's funny to see the posts about the credibility of ISO. IT is such a tiny portion of ISO operations that it's almost nonexistent. ISO jumped on the IT standardization bandwagon to make more money, not to provide the same sort of standards governance they do to real things like manufacturing and quality control processes.

Besides, standards are only a "universal guideline" they don't have to be followed or implemented. It'd be better if people stopped whining and got back to work.

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@RW

I agree that source code would have to be deposited at an unbiased organisation at release, however you fail to see the point of the whole process.

If the source code of you version 1 of the program contains trade secrets still being used in version 5, you can just keep supporting version 1. The source code isn't released until you cease all support and sale of version 1.

As for bankruptcy, don't necessarily release the source code. Only release it if the trustees can't work out a way to have someone else keep selling and supporting the product.

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Alert

@Remy

See, you've managed to show how copyright and binary don't work.

Trade secret.

In version 1 of the program.

Now, if version 1 of the program is copyrighted, this is supposed to be public info so that people can learn from it.

Trade secret is something you don't tell ANYONE.

See how you can't have both? Or at least, shouldn't be able to have both.

If you have a trade secret, you shouldn't be selling under copyright. Trade secrets are managed with NDA's, not copyrights.

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Jobs Horns

...send me your money!

Microsoft bought ISO lock, stock and barrel. They have absolutely no credibility left. As a standards body they should always be neutral.

Microsoft and their cronies must be laughing their collective asses off at this debacle. I would be intrigued to know the specific amount of money Microsoft paid ISO to give OOXML a free pass.

The irony here is that Microsoft themselves cannot implement the standard they bought properly.

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Flame

Hey Solomon!

I mainly agree with you. However, you write "standards are only a "universal guideline" they don't have to be followed or implemented. It'd be better if people stopped whining and got back to work."

Now what if my work is IT-related and MSoffice licences are vampirizing my budget? What if "it's no standard" is my time-efficient argument of choice to oppose to all the sheeple who insist on using MSoffice crap? MS forced the ISO certification for this very reason imho. They don't even need to implement the standard, they just rely on Joe Bloggs' natural stupidity. The standard is OXML, they'll keep on using OOXML and stick the "ISO standard" on it. Then my duty IS to whine. It's part of my work, mind you.

Plus, I feel very uncomfortable with having stuff like "behaves as office97" included in "universal guidelines" -as you put it- even if noone has to implement it.

Also, you might note that they fast-tracked the standard, which is reserved to already implemented formats that are 'de facto' standards, but noone actually implemented OXML (not even MS). Even the "transitional spec"- which should have been written according to an already in-use application- is not supported correctly by MSOffice2007. MS shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near an ISO application then. I guess that 6-zeroes-grade liberalities can help sometimes.

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Gates Horns

ISO appear to be corrupt

ISO appears to be corrupt. Why else would they support a convicted monopolists file formats as a standard. The point of a standard is that all can use it, but Microsoft have a history of extorting large sums of cash to use their api's and barring others from using their file formats.

ODF is a great file format and anyone can use it. Why make Microsoft's impossible file formats a standard?

Maybe ISO is open to cash payments? I wouldn't be surprised. Very suspicious behavior.

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Thumb Up

PS: Universal guideline

If ISO standards are "Universal guidelines", how is it possible to have two incompatible sets of guidelines for the same thing? ODF is the ISO standard for text documents, spreadsheets, databases and whatnot. (and it is a pretty good standard, too). How is it possible to issue new (inconsistent) "universal guidelines" that are incompatible with the existing ones? All the things I could do, if I had a little money, it's a rich men's world! (known air). Gates and al. listened to ABBA too much methink.

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@ BKB

Followed your link. First sentence in the MSWord spec is "Many of the structures written into Microsoft® Office Word 2007 .doc files differ slightly from the corresponding structures Word uses internally.". That's just brilliant. Way to go MS. Now if you will excuse me, I have a few MS install discs that need to be burnt.

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@BKB

True. If it's patented, then you WANT people to read it so you can sue them for doing something similar.

The wonders of Software Patents!

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Bastards at BSI

What's the news on the complaints against the BSI for reversing their initial outright rejection of OOXML without following their own procedures?

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Pirate

Surprise, surprise!

Here we have a company that's attitude to everything is either sue, buy or screw anything that gets in its way & they've just managed to do it again. I wonder how much these B's got for selling out.

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@BKB

Yup, file formats are patented in MS's OOXML. There are patents in the exchange protocol (documenting computer-computer documents like MS Word documents human-human documents), SMB, FAT32 and much, much more.

OOo can't reverse engineer safely if it's patented: reverse engineering is sinecure against TRADE SECRET appropriation, not patent (which is why so many people use "IP": so they can confuse you about what they are talking about). GIMP can't use spot value colours because pantone have a patent on them (which is why saying "GIMP isn't any good" is silly: the reason why it can't do everything Photoshop does is becayse pantone have a patent and require a license to be bought. Not GIMPS fault).

Please also remember MS have still not identified in any way what 237 (or whatever) patents "Linux" infringes.

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Paris Hilton

Where's the beef?

Look, MS already stated they are going to support ODF in Office this year and they have no plans to support OOXML until the next version of the Office suite (Office 14?). Now all that's left for them to do is release a (stand-alone) 'legacy format' viewer/converter-to-ODF and we're done. What's the added value of OOXML again?

Paris, because she doesn't get it either.

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@BKB

"the .doc file differs from Word's internal structure, but since you don't have access to Word's internal structure that's not a problem."

2 lines down further in the spec:

"Many discussions in this document use the name of the internal structure when the file-specific structure is what is really being referred to."

Now that might begin to look very unprofessional.

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