OOXML Approval Vote Fails in INCITS
Friday, August 10 2007 @ 11:20 AM CDT
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
As I reported on July 23, INCITS, the US balloting body on the OOXML vote, put out a ballot to see whether the US should vote to approve OOXML, with the ballot to close on August 9. That ballot has now closed on schedule, and there is a public link that shows the vote - which failed, with 8 in favor, 7 opposed, and one abstaining. As I noted previously, a vote of 9 in favor would have been required for passage. That number is a simple majority of the 16 INCITS Executive Board members that have voting privileges on this ballot (in fact, the Board has 18 members, but due to attendance rules, only 16 of the 18 had voting priviliges on this ballot).
There is a second leg of the vote, which also failed: out of the total number responding (in this case, all 16), the abstentions (one) are subtracted, yielding a number (fifteen) of which two-thirds (in this case ten) would need to be in the affirmative.
The link above includes links to the individual comments filed by eleven Executive Board members.
As you will recall from my prior post, a schedule had been pre-agreed upon that could accommodate a further vote of "no with comments." I have no further information on that at this time, but will report when and as I do.
Here are the votes:
- Yes votes: Apple, Department of Homeland Security, the Electronic Industries Allliance, EMC, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft and Sony Electronics.
- No votes: Farance, Incorporated, GS1 US, IBM, Lexmark International, NIST, Oracle, and the Department of Defense.
- Abstention: IEEE
There are a number of interesting things to note about the voting. First, EIA voted for, while the IEEE abstained, although both are industry organizations. Why the split? IEEE is, of course, an organization in which all of the large corporate members referred to above are active members. Not surprisingly, the brief comment that accompanied IEEE's abstention reads: "IEEE abstains due to the divergent viewpoints of key IEEE members and stakeholders." EIA is an umbrella organization of six other industry organizations. It is also currently influx, and undergoing a reorganzition. EIA did not provide a comment with its vote.
The government members of the Executive Board also split, with two agencies voting against, and one voting in favor. DoD and NIST, of course, are old agencies, with long involvement in the standards arena, while Homeland Security is new.
[The following is an update]
The NIST vote, however, requires a special explanation, especially in light of a seemingly contradictory press release issued by NIST earlier today. In that press release, it states that NIST "has voted for conditional approval of a proposed international standard for open documents." The INCITS voting page for NIST and its comments, contains the explanation, which reads in part as follows:
Based upon the technical comments identified, NIST believes that the US National Body should be voting for conditional approval to DIS 29500. The JTC 1 procedures in clause 9.8, Votes on Fast-track DISs, contain the note: “[Note: Conditional approval should be submitted as a disapproval vote.]” While this is advisory (i.e., should versus shall), it is the best way to ensure that the comments submitted by the US National Body are given careful consideration.
As noted earlier, a "yes" vote with comments does not require consideration of the comments, so a "yes with comments" is an unconditional approval. If someone voting thinks that OOXML, if properly documented, is entitled to become a standard, but should not be a standard in its current form, then the approved procedure, as noted in the NIST comment, is to "disapprove." Where NIST has muddied the water is by not being more explanatory in its press release - in effect, it opted to base its press release on its desired outcome, rather than its actual vote. Presumably, they threw up their hands at trying to explain the complexities of the ISO/IEC process in a press release.
[End of update]
Among the corporate members, I'm somewhat surprised at Hewlett Packard's vote. While they do not have a direct stake in the OOXML v. ODF competition, they are a stalwart participant in the standards infrastructure, and well experienced.
The overall vote is not, to me, a surprise. Leaving all politics or opinions aside on whether OOXML should become an ISO/IEC standard when ODF already exists, I do not believe that OOXML is in good enough shape to recommend a yes vote, with or without comments.
The brief comments supplied by eleven of the Executive Board members are of particular interest in this regard. Here is the comment that accompanied IBM's "no" vote, for example:
IBM Comments - http://www.incits.org/ref-docs/in071208.zip IBM is voting "NO" because they are substantial technical issues/comments(min 476), IPR issues, accessibility comments and the JTC 1 Directives are clear that in order to be assured that your comments will be addressed in a satisfactory manner you should vote "NO"..IBM is willing to change the vote to a YES if the US changes its position to a "NO" with comments
Several of the comments relate to what external comments should, or should not, be included with a US vote. Here is the comment supplied by Microsoft along with it's "yes" vote:
Microsoft further believes that (a) the 205 letters of general support/opposition/caution received from the public are not actionable at the BRM and should not be submitted; and (b) that the remaining 186 'unprocessed/unapproved' comments should not be submitted as supported US comments as they were never adopted by INCITS/V1, and should be simply transmitted to the Submitter for their review and appropriate treatment.
I haven't had time to review the other comments in detail, but will update this post later today (I'm in a meeting at the moment) when I have the opportunity to do so.
Update: This article from Ars Technica is instructive and useful. Be sure to also read the comment below by Frank Farance, an INCITS Executive Board member, and my response. And also this article, in which Eric Lai interviews Farance and receives further intormation.