The Standards Blog

Ecma Does What it is Told to Do

OpenDocument and OOXML

Everything is going as planned (by Microsoft)in Ecma, as the XML Reference Schema Working Group is approved, with only one vote against, and one abstention.

I landed in Dallas a few minutes ago and checked in with a representative of IBM to find out how the vote at Ecma went today. Due to confidentiality obligations, he was not able to give me details on the deliberations themselves, but he was able to describe the results in some detail. Here's what I learned:

 

1. Ecma has voted to create the Technical Committee requested by Microsoft.

 

2. But for a single vote against creating the committee (that was IBM) and a single abstention (HP), everyone else who voted cast their ballot in favor of the proposal.

 

3. It appears from all that my contact was able to tell me that the final Terms of Reference were substantially identical to those that I was given and posted earlier this week. Or, as my contact phrased it, "None of the questions raised in the community, by IBM or by you in your blog were answered today. We still don't have any reason, for example, to think that proprietary extensions could not be used with the formats. In short, the status quo has been maintained as far as information or answers to questions are concerned."

 

He also stressed that IBM's vote should be considered to be not a vote against Microsoft but a ballot for open standards.

 

So there we have it. A "standards" committee formed to standardize a single vendor's product, and only one vote against proceeding as requested by Microsoft.

 

Given that there was so little opposition to the vote, one would assume that things would proceed rapidly and smoothly from here, since much of the normal give and take of standard setting -- what existing implementations should we accommodate? What features merit inclusion and what don't? What vendors' future product plans should be facilitated? What future capabilities might the community need? What creativity could be utilized to improve the technology? -- all of these will not only be moot, but will be out of scope for the committee as well.

 

It would appear that Microsoft has chosen its venue quite well. It has also shown its hand at the last possible moment to limit the possibility of organized external opposition, and will be driving the process hard to end true to its beginning.

 

All of which makes the contrast to ODF rather stark: in contrast, that standard was developed by a community process that decided what should and should not be included and which had no constraints imposed upon it by anyone; it is supported today in multiple product offerings; it is not only open source friendly, but already implemented in open source; it is already in the voting queue at ISO; and it has no dependency, formal or de facto, that will require it to track any individual vendor's product in the future.

 

There's no denying that Microsoft is a great strategist and extremely thorough in its execution, and therefore likely to succeed in its effort to produce an Ecma branded standard . The question is, when that standard comes out with the Ecma rubber stamp at the top, will the market adopt it to the exclusion of ODF?

 

I don't know. But I hope that everyone will work to make sure that the flow of information is full, accurate and timely between now and then, so that the market can make up its mind in the most informed and intelligent a manner possible.

 

I do know this, however: if the market wants a truly open standard, the information to date is telling me that the market wants ODF.

 

subscribe to the free Consortium Standards Bulletin