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The OOXML Contradictions Disclosed

OpenDocument and OOXML
Someone was kind enough to send me the package of materials distributed by JTC 1 earlier today to its members (I have authenticated these materials through a second knowledgeable source as well). The package contains each of the responses filed during the ISO Fast Track Contradictions period for Ecma 376, the specification based upon Microsoft's OOXML formats, as well as the responses prepared by Ecma to those responses.
As you'll recall, I had been told that the majority of these responses were critical, while Microsoft had downplayed them, suggesting that most or many were either neutral, or in fact "laudatory." As they are to be made public shortly, you will be able to perform your own comparison, but here are brief extracts from each of the 20 responses received by JTC 1 (the package confirms, as I had earlier reported, that a total of 20, and not 19, responses were received). While these are only extracts, I have reproduced short out takes that are sufficient to allow you to now see the actual mix between favorable, neutral and negative responses. As you will see, 14 of 20 responses were clearly negative, two indicated divisions of opinion, three were inconclusive or neutral, and one offered no objections. I think that it's fair to say that the over view that I had previously offered has proven to be accurate.

What happens next? The files sent to me also include the JTC1 transmittal note, which indicates that after internal consultation, next steps will be communicated to the National Bodies "in the very near future."

Here are the extracts, divided by category, taken directly from the original responses filed by the 20 national bodies. 

Updated 10:50 EST 3/3/07: I have not felt comfortable posting the full documents that I have received.  However, I will provide links to them as others get copies and post them on line.  You can find the summary Ecma document, with Ecma's proposed actions, through the following link that appears in a March 1 article by Eric Lai at ComputerWorld, or in this link from a March 3 Groklaw article by Mathfox.  The same article by Mathfox includes the full text of the French response.

Favorable responses ( 1 ):
Romania (brief response): "We agree with the project as it is."
Neutral or inconclusive responses ( 3 ):
India (brief response): "It is requested to extend the contradictory period by one month."
Italy (brief response): "Italy has been unable to assess the existence of contradictions of [OOXML] to JTC 1, ISO or IEC standards. The term "contradictions" does not appear to be defined, not even at the level of examples."
Netherlands (brief response): "The Netherlands Standardization Institute is changing its reaction on [OOXML] [from? This is not indicated]. The Netherlands Standardization Institute votes "abstain."
[Updated 3/2/07:  I have heard from multiple sources that the Netherlands experience replicated the American National Body experience.  See my comments and those of some visitors at the end of this blog entry for further details.] 
Divided responses ( 2 ):
Hungary (short response): "[Hungary] abstains as a result of differing views in the National Committee about the necessity of the Fast Track handling of the subject."
Norway (short response): "The document is very comprehensive, and responding on whether there are contradictions to JTC 1 and other ISO and IEC standards is difficult within the short timeframe….There are things in this document that is [sic] probably contradiction to for example ISO 8601 and ISO/IEC 8632….On the other side; we recognize that this document covers areas that [ODF] does not, and these areas are very important for many users with considerable legacy in office documents."
Negative responses ( 14 ):
Australia (two page response): "Australia proposes that this document be referred back for discussion within SC 34 before it goes to [Fast Track Ballot], given the many significant issues that need to be clarified."    
Finland (two page response): Abstains, objecting to the short amount of time provided to review such a lengthy specification, and requesting that OOXML be removed from the Fast Track process.
Canada (short response): "Canada perceives that there are contradictions between" OOXML and other named ISO standards. Canada "believes that all options need to be considered, up to and including cancellation of the Fast Track ballot. Canada does believe that the perceived contradictions should be resolved before the Fast Track Ballot does proceed. Vote: Disapprove With Comments."
Czech Republic (short response): States that 30 days is "too short for the preparation of comments to this document…We are not convinced that there do not exist contradictory provisions with other ISO and ISO/IEC standards….For this reason the Czech Republic suggests using the standard procedure for the development of ISO/IEC standard" rather than the Fast Track process.
Denmark (short response): Notes "perceived contradictions" with five ISO standards and other difficulties, but does not see a problem with advancing to the next step in the Fast Track process.
France (short response): Indicates a lack of consensus on what constitutes a "contradiction," but (unlike the US response), Afnor (the French NB) provides a response based on the two opposing viewpoints expressed by its members. Specifically, it finds that OOXML would not "prevent the coexistence" with ODF (this is the Microsoft definition of a "contradiction"), but is inconsistent with existing ISO standards (this is the definition subscribed to by the contributors to the Groklaw Wiki, among others).
Germany (short response): "The German NB [National Body] prefers to have a harmonized Standards [sic] over having two Standards serving basically the same user requirements." The response goes on to ask that the ODF-based ISO standard be examined to determine what is lacking to permit backward compatibility for existing Office documents, and offering OASIS the opportunity to augment the ODF standard.
Japan (brief response): "[OOXML] seems to be competing and incompatible with [ODF]." Japan appears to be proposing that the two standards be harmonized. It also has IPR concerns.
Kenya (twelve page response, plus two page annex): "The reason why [OOXML] is so large is because is mainly because it does not leverage on any other well known specification in ISO. As such there are large contradictions with the preexisting international standards that are already mature, with wide and independent implementations….Due to its size, it should be reason enough why this documenet [sic] should not be allowed to be "Fast Tracked…. As can be seen from the above [the] proposed [standard] violates in many ways the current JTC1 Directives and therefore need be withdrawn form the Fast-Track Process."
Malaysia (four page response): "…Malaysia has identified the following contradictions to JTC 1, ISO and IEC standards for consideration:"   
New Zealand (brief response): "The National Body for New Zealand objects to [OOXML] proceeding via the JTC 1 Fast-Track process because its adoption would be in breach of JTC 1 Resolution 27, 2000 "Consistency of JTC 1 Products."
Singapore (three page response): "The Singapore National Body has identified the following contradictions with existing ISO/IEC standards"
Sweden (short response): "SIS [the Swedish NB] is not in the position to make a statement on whether this document should be passed on for a Fast Track ballot or not. There are, however, concerns from some of our members that two ISO/IEC standards for open document will be perceived by users as confusing and maybe also as a source of interoperability problems."
United Kingdom (three page response): "…the UK does not believe that ECMA 376…is an appropriate candidate for the fast-track procedure."

For further blog entries on ODF, click here

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The OOXML Contradictions Disclosed | 5,379 comments | Create New Account
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The OOXML Contradictions Disclosed
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 11:00 PM CST
It's great that the full text will be made public shortly, but do we know how it will be made public?  Where should we be watching?  Thanks Andy.
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