There is no question that all over the world the competing interests in the Open XML standardization process are going to use all tactics available to them within the rules. - Microsoft's Director of Corporate Standards Jason MatusowThose on both sides of the ODF vs. OOXML competition are always accusing each other of spinning and misrepresenting each other's actions and statements. It's fair, and even important, for both sides to call each other out on actual misrepresentations, since the public is rarely, if ever, going to have first-hand knowledge to rely on. But when one side calls the other out, how does the public know which one to believe? That's where what historian's call "primary sources" come in – not second hand regurgitations and repackagings of what someone else said, but the words themselves that someone said or wrote, straight from the source, complete and unedited. Right now, you're hearing all manner of second hand accounts of what's going on in Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland, and other places around the world as the Fast Track process for Ecma 376 (the specification built on the Microsoft Office Open XML, or OOXML, formats) winds to a climactic finish. But which side should you believe, when you can't be in the room to hear what was actually said, and by whom? Is one side really consistently making misrepresentations, or is that just FUD spinning by the other side? Interestingly, I've often found that the farther afield you go from the center of the conflict between ODF and OOXML (and therefore the farther you are from public reporting and scrutiny), the less careful people become. As a result, in such places the public statements made more closely match what you hear second hand from the US and European bloggers, because the chance of a call out is less. But why believe me? After all, this blog post is about primary sources.
Well, here's a chance for you to make your own judgment, based upon a primary source rather than a subjective call-out. That primary source is a statement posted by Microsoft SA (as in South Africa) at a PR site called MyPressportal, urging the South African National Body to vote "yes" on OOXML. The version below is complete and unaltered.
Other players in the IT industry are far from supportive of this Microsoft initiative. “The standardisation of the document format will increase consumer choice, Microsoft have relinquished control of the standard to the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA)”, says Ferreira
ECMA is a well respected international standards organization. The standard, now ECMA OpenXML, was developed as part of a cross-industry/cross-organization collaboration that included Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the U.S. Library of Congress.
However, companies that rely heavily on IT consultancy fear losses should this standardised file format from the ECMA be approved. “Call-outs for file incompatibility issues would be greatly reduced, work downtime would be reduced and productivity would be increased”, says Ferreira.
Companies that are not in support of the standardisation of the ECMA OpenXml file format would appear to be supportive of the fragmentation of the industry; this in itself would inevitably lead to consumers moving away from their products due to incompatibility issues.
“We feel that when the SABS considers its vote for standardisation, its decision should be based solely on the technical merit of the file format. The fact that we have relinquished control of the standard goes to show that Microsoft’s intention is to promote consumer choice and to provide a continued competitive platform for all players in our industry”, ends Ferreira.
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