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Tuesday, September 16 2014 @ 04:29 AM CDT

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The Global Knock-on Effects of China’s Home-Grown Standards Preferences

China

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Forbidden City Imperial Guardian Lions, Courtesy of Allen Timothy Chang/Wikimedia Commons - GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 +For years now, China has annually invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing and implementing a sophisticated IT standards strategy. That strategy is intended to advance a variety of national interests, most obviously to enable Chinese manufacturers to retain a larger share of domestic market sales, and gain a larger and higher margin share of global sales.  But there are other motivations at work as well, one of which ensuring that Chinese authorities can keep a close watch on the Chinese people. 

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Upgrading China's ITC Standards Strategy

China

The following is a position statement I contributed to an on-line forum that will launch at 11 EST today focusing on policy reform within the Chinese standardization system.  You can join in that discussion here

By Georgio (Own work (Photo personnelle)) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsA variety of constituencies from the West have taken it upon themselves to reach out to China to "educate" the Chinese about the existing global standards development infrastructure, and to urge them to take part in that infrastructure in the same way as do other countries.  Clearly, having China, with a single national vote, participate in ISO, IEC and ITU would be best for the status quo players that have become skillful in participating in those organizations through decades of effort.  It's interesting to ask, however, whether that course of action, without more, would truly be best for China and its people.

If I were a policy maker in China, the most obvious question that I would be asking would be what strategy Chinese industry should follow as regards consortia, as well as the "Big I's."  To date, China has participated primarily in the latter, and in only a few of the former (e.g., OASIS and the W3C).  But China has launched a number of domestic consortia open either largely, or only, to domestic companies, to develop "home grown" standards.  And that seems backwards to me.

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Don't Forget UOF: Here Comes EIOffice 2009 (Updated 2X

China
Updated:  A story on a press event was posted at a Chinese site (in Chinese) on July 22.  I've run it through the Babelfish translator, and you can get the gist of the story at this page.  I am told by someone local that the story summarizes a high-level meeting at the EIOffice, with representatives of  both SAC (the standards National Body for China) and CESI, as well as representatives from many other government agencies, all there to recognize the release of the first office suite to fully support UOF.  The story also reports on various agencies that have announced that they will be converting to the new EIOffice 2009 product.


Long time followers of the ODF-OOXML story will recall that there is a third editable, XML-based document format in the race to create the documentary record of history.  That contender is called UOF - for Uniform Office Format, and it has been under development in China since 2002, although I first heard and wrote about it back in November of 2006.  Last summer, UOF was adopted as a Chinese National Standard, and last Friday the first complete office suite based upon UOF was released.  It's called Evermore Integrated Office 2009 (EIOffice 2009 for short), and here's the story.

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China Slams Nokia for Standards Based "Pride and Prejudice"

China

I'm hardly a veteran "China Watcher" in the State Department sense of these words, but I have had a Google alert in place for three or four years to snag standards-related news emerging from this most powerful of emerging economies.  This has led me to read a great many articles from the Xinhua state news service over that period of time.  I've also read the English version of the Peoples Daily in paper form from front to back during five visits to speak at conferences in Beijing.  As a result, I've had a fair opportunity to get a feel for how the state press likes to present its news to the West, and how it makes its points, not only generally, but over the course of ongoing stories as they develop.  Every now and then I see an article that really wants to make a point, and today was one of those days.

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IPR, Trade Barriers and Open Document Formats: China Learns its Lessons Well

China

One of the topics I'm behind writing on is the state of IPR concerns and standard setting in China in general, and the current status of UOF – China's "Uniform Office Document Format" entry in the document format sweepstakes – in particular.  I recently spoke at two conferences in Beijing, and got back up to speed in this regard direct from the source.  Here's an update (you can find background on UOF here and here).

While ODF and OOXML continue to generate news and heat, the progress of UOF has proceeded with much less fanfare and reportage.  I gave a keynote presentation called the Beijing 2007 Open Standards International Conference, and also moderated a panel on IPR and interoperability.  That conference was organized by the dominant software industry standards association in China, the Changfeng Open Standards Platform Alliance, and was co-sponsored by the China National Institute of Standardization and the China Electronic Standardization Institute.  Several panels were dedicated entirely or in part to open document formats.   

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OOXML, ODF and UOF: What's Up in China?

China
Microsoft has seemed to be flying high in the Peoples Republic of China lately. Bill Gates spent several days in Beijing earlier this year in meetings with high-level officials, after hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao the spring before at Gate's own home.   And legitimate copies of Microsoft products appear to be at last gaining ground in comparison to pirated copies, albeit at the price of discounting them to almost unimaginable levels (students can now reportedly obtain a Windows/Office bundle for the incredible price of $3).   Many credited Microsoft's pragmatic decision to accept Chinese realities and not insist on having everything its own way. 
 
Others, though, wonder whether the Chinese are smiling all the way to the bank, taking everything they can get, and giving little in return. David Kirkpatrick asked that question in the title of his April Fortune piece, titled How Microsoft conquered China: Or is it the other way around? Kirkpatrick hitched a ride on Gates' April trip to Beijing, and witnessed the rock star status and high level access Gates enjoyed. In the end, Kirkpatrick concluded that both sides are doing just fine, thank you, even if China may be doing a bit "fner."
 

But perhaps not. One story I've been following in China for some time is the development of China's own home-grown open document format standard, called UOF (for Unified Office Format). Now, two stories involving UOF, OOXML and ODF have appeared in the last ten days in the English language version of the state-owned Xinhua news service that provide an interesting temperature reading on the warmth of the Redmond-Beijing relationship.  (You can read more about UOF here and here.)

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More on China's Uniform Office Format (and much more)

China

The slides are now available for the Chinese standards/open source conference I wrote about on November 8.  The most interesting news I learned there was that China has been actively developing its own open document specification, which it calls Uniform Office  Format (UOF).  You can now see the full UOF case study presentation by WU Zhi-gang here.

The full index of presentations may be found here, and it's worth taking the time to scroll through the various slide sets.  If you do, you will see Chinese perceptions and strategies relating to open standards and open source software developed quite fully by government officials, professors and the development community.  The following excerpts, for example, are taken from a presentation by Guangnan Ni, a member of the China Academy of Engineering.  Note how the points made weave together Chinese strategies as diverse as increasing intellectual property protections for the benefit of local industry rather than simply as a concession to foreign interests, promoting the development of domestic office suites through development and adoption of open document formats, and benefiting domestic industry through the power of government purchasing:

1.  Promoting Legal Copy of the Software is Advantageous to Innovation in Software Industry

In order to promote independent innovation in the software field, China has strengthened the protection of IPR. On April 10, 2006, Chinese four Ministries jointly dispatched a request to all homemade PC manufacturers in China to pre-install legal copy operation systems. It is important to point out that, this action is not simply to reply to foreign requirements of strengthening protection of IPR.

The next basic software to eliminate piracy rapidly may be the Office Suite. Recently, in China the number of people involving in developing Office software may be only fewer than that of US. After the governmental support during the period of 10 th 5 Year Plan, many homemade Offices have realized their breakthrough, such as Evermore Office, WPS Office, Red Office, etc. They have entered the governmental market in big batches.

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Another Open Document Format – From China

China

Last week I was a keynote speaker at a conference in Beijing convened by the Chinese National Institution of Standardization, and learned quite a bit about the objectives and strategies of government and private industry in the PRC for utilizing open standards and open source software.  I'll blog at a later date on many of these topics, but today I'll focus on just one:  the news that the Chinese have developed their own open document format. 

Here's what I learned at the conference, and what I've been able to find out since.  I'll start with the basic details, and then offer a few thoughts on the significance of the news. 

What UOF is:  It's called the Uniform Office Format (UOF), and it's been in development since January of 2002; the first draft was completed in December of last year.  It includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation modules, and comprises GUI, format and API specifications.   Like both ODF and Office OpenXML, it is another "XML in a Zip file" format. 

From what I understand, UOF was developed with less compulsion to follow the lead of Microsoft Office and its fifteen years of accumulating features, allowing UOF to be simpler rather than slavishly faithful to (and therefore constrained by) what has come before.  I'm also told that the UOF format is based on existing Web standards, such as SVG.  I believe that the presentations from the conference will be posted at the CNIS site sometime this week, and I will post the link to the UOF Case Study presentation of Mr. Wu Zhigang when it is available, which contains additional technical details.
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WAPI Standards War to Reach Washington (Again)

China

Standards wars are not usually considered to be very newsworthy outside of the technical niche in which they occur, but occasionally there's a breakout story that receives much wider attention.  A recent example was the frontal assault of multiple countries directed at wresting control of the root directory of the Internet - a small but very important standard - from the United States.  That skirmish completely monopolized press coverage of the Tunis meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) last November. 

But before that, there was an even higher level confrontation, this time over a close-range wireless networking standard.  That dispute involved the IEEE 802.11 standards family commonly referred to as WiFi, on the one hand, and a Chinese-origin standard called WLAN on the other.  More particularly, it involved a security protocol (called WAPI) included in WLAN that China contends provides superior security protection than does WiFi.

The original WiFi-WAPI conflict arose from the announcement by China that only WAPI-enabled equipment could be sold in the Peoples Republic of China beginning in 2004, which would reverse the situation from one requiring Chinese manufacturers from paying high patent royalties to companies like Intel to one where Western vendors would find themselves in the opposite position.

Publicly, Intel and other chip vendors announced that they would refuse to sell microprocessors in China if the requirement was imposed.  Privately, they headed to Washington for help, since of course they had no desire to lose access to so vast a market.  The dispute worked its way up through diplomatic channels until ultimately then-Secretary of State Colin Powell became involved.  Eventually, China postponed the effectiveness of the home-grown standards requirement.

But what had been  brokered was only a truce, and not a final resolution to the dispute.  Now, that dispute is flaring up again, and it is the Chinese standards delegation this time that is calling in the diplomatic corps to engage with the opposition.

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ISO Says "No" to WAPI, China is Not Amused, and Intel is "Mute"

ChinaAs noted in my post of a few days ago, it was expected that last week's ISO vote on whether to adopt the IEEE WiFi specification or the Chinese WAPI submission would come out in favor of WiFi. As early as Sunday, word began to leak that the vote had in fact favored the IEEE alternative — and decisively so (with 86% in favor of WiFi and only 22% for WAPI). Later in the week, this result was confirmed, and China state forcefully that it would not take the vote as the last word.