Updated (twice): 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM
Last night, I projected that the OOXML vote in ISO/IEC JTC1 would fail (the New York Times predicted the opposite). I have now seen the official vote tally, and confirmed that the vote failed both tests for approval (details are included at the end of this blog entry). The official ISO announcement is here.
Microsoft issued a press release early this morning, seeking to put the best face on the OOXML in advance of the official announcement by ISO. The release is titled Strong Global Support for Open XML as It Enters Final Phase of ISO Standards Process, and subtitled, "Significant participation by National Bodies in ISO/IEC ratification process for Open XML; final decision expected in March 2008 at close of ballot resolution period."
The release focuses on the degree of participation (51 National Bodies), and level of "support" (74% of all qualified votes, without differentiating between P and O countries). It also refers to this level of support at "this preliminary stage of the process," and compares it "favorably" to the number of countries participating in the votes to consider ODF and PDF, but without mentioning percentage levels of support: the OpenDocument Format received a total of 31 votes - all to approve. Moreover, there were so few comments offered along with those votes that no Ballot Resolution Meeting was required.
The Microsoft press release tries to draw good news from the level of participation in the OOXML vote, stating perhaps more accurately than intended (out of 41 P members, 24 voted either against approval, or abstained) as follows:
This widespread participation and support is consistent with the rapid adoption of the Ecma Office Open XML file formats across multiple platforms and products from a wide range of IT vendors (including Apple, Novell, Corel, Sun, Microsoft, Java developers and Linux distributors), creating real value for IT users around the globe.
More tellingly, the cornerstone quote from Microsoft's Tom Robertson reads in part as follows,surely placing it in the running for winner of the "Pony in the Pile" award for today:
Updated: The vote did fail. Further details are here.
With the polls now closed and the early results in (some public, some not), think it's time to predict with assurance that ISO will announce tomorrow that ISO/IEC DIS 29500, the draft specification based upon Microsoft’s Office Open XML formats, has failed to achieve enough yes votes to gain approval at this time. This, with all due respect to the contrary prediction of The Old Gray Lady and US Paper of Record, the New York Times.
The final vote has been a moving target for some time, and for a variety of reasons. In most cases, the dynamism in the vote has been as a result of various types of behavior by Microsoft, both alleged as well as, in some cases, admitted. In one case, that behavior led to the Swedish national vote being thrown out and replaced with an abstention, after it became apparent that one company voted more than once (Microsoft admitted that an employee had sent a memo urging business partners to join the National Body and vote to approve, and assuring them that their related fees would be offset by Microsoft marketing incentives).
These actions have not only undercut the credibility of the system, but appear to have finally resulted in the sort of backlash that I have been predicting for some time. In at least one National Body, I am told that what had been trending towards a "yes" vote swung late last week to a "no," largely in reaction to the pressure that was being asserted against the members of the National Body and the widespread reports of similar behavior (and worse) elsewhere.
Public announcements of how P members of ISO have voted on OOXML are now rolling in one at a time, and the trend thus far is meaningfully weighted towards "No with comments."
By my count, there are now four announced Yes votes, with comments (Germany, Poland, Switzerland and the United States), two abstentions (Australia and Sweden, the former due to a failure to achieve consensus, and the latter due to voting irregularities), and seven eight public No with comments votes: Brazil, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, and New Zealand. Updated: and Norway; tracking changes made below.
There is also a blog posting of a No with comments vote by Korea here. In addition, I expect at least Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom to announce "No with comments" today or tomorrow (that would take us up to 12), and that a number of additional countries will be revealed to have voted in a similar fashion when the official vote tally is announced by ISO in the next day or so.
The reason I say that in any other case the vote would be over now is because of the 11 countries that upgraded their status from Observer to Participating member status in the last few weeks. Without those extra 11 P countries, it would only require 10 votes to make an overall vote to approve impossible under the ISO rules (i.e., one more than 1/3 of the former 30 P members, minus the two that have abstained).
I've had several questions from journalists today who want to know how the votes will be counted on the OOXML vote, and what the distinction is between the influence of P (Participating) as compared to O (Observer) members of ISO. I had promised in a prior blog post to explain the rather complicated rules, and with voting now in its final stages, that time is now. While I'm at it, I'll also explain in greater detail why the surge in membership in SC 34 matters, and what will happen between now and the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in Geneva, Switzerland in February 2008.
First, here's the flow chart for how it will be determined whether the vote to approve OOXML has passed:
Earlier this week I reported that there were nine new, last minute "P" members of ISO [Updated: the number of upgrades is now eleven]. I also predicted that the number could rise. Well, now that we're down to the wire on the ISO/IEC vote on OOXML, it has. In the last three days, two more countries have made the list: Malta and Cote-d'Ivoire. That assumes that the list if up to the minute, and I won't be surprised to see the count rise by the end of the day.
Who else might join? Well, here's a clue. JTC1 also has a committee called "Document Descriptions and Processing Languages." That subcommittee is, not surprisingly, the task group responsible for addressing document formats, and its role regarding OOXML is not yet completed. I've pasted in the rule set at the end of this blog entry, but the bottom line is that SC 34 will be running the show on the resolution of the comments submitted along with the current votes, after they have been reconciled and responses suggested by Ecma.
Curiously enough, that subcommittee only had 23 members at the end of last year, and additions had been few and far between (three in in all of 2005, and only 2 in 2006). Now, it has 48 - in short, membership has more than doubled in the past year. Moreover, all but 1 of these 23 new members has joined since April - and 8 have joined thus far in August alone. But wait - there's more.
I'm pleased to note that the Linux Foundation (which I serve as Director of Standards Strategy, as well as legal counsel) has issued a statement calling for ISO/IEC JTC1 members to vote "No with Comments" on OOXML. That statement is here, and is also reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry. The decision to issue the statement follows on the heels of a rising crescendo of reports of last minute additions of individuals to National Bodies which is slanting voting results, and of a similar last minute upgrading of nine (or perhaps by now, more) nations to "P" status in ISO [Updated: the number is now ten - Malta is the new addition.] [Updated: the number is now eleven - Cote e'Ivoire is the latest addition. And see this blog entry for additional implicationss]
Why should or organization that was formed to promote and protect Linux be, to my knowledge, the first standards organization to call for a "no" vote on a document format standard? There are quite a few reasons, to my mind. And they are all extremely important.
First, document formats are relevant to Linux on the Desktop. You can find a page of quotes from the Linux Desktop Architects here, expressing their concerns. Second, Microsoft painted a target on Linux, OpenOffice (and, presumably, other office software suites that implement ODF), email and "other open source software" as a single grouping, when it began speaking of infringement of its 235 un-named patents. To me, this indicates that Microsoft sees Linux on the Desktop as the next big battle after server software, and is aligning Windows and OOXML in opposition to Linux and ODF as part of a single strategy.
I hadn't expected to be able to post anything more today, but when you're camped at 8,000 feet you can sometimes surprise yourself with a signal (uh, when on vacation that's not all good).
Be that as it may, this just in: China has unanimously voted "no, with comments" on OOXML. As I had noted in an earlier blog entry, China had been signalling some displeasure with Microsoft and OOXML in recent weeks, via Xinhua, the official government news agency, so this is not totally a surprise. If you can read Mandarin, the result was revealed here. I am told by a trusted source, that Co-Creative.org, an organization promoting open source made the disclosure, and that he confirmed the news with Mr. Ni Guangnan, of the fellowship of China Academy of Engineering, as source quoted in the earlier Xinhua stories.
As you will recall, the Executive Board (EB) of INCITS, the US voting body on OOXML in the ISO/IEC JTC1, posted two simultaneous, seven day written ballots - one to approve, with comments, and one to abstain, again with comments. The votes have now been received back. and are as follows:
- Abstain, with comments: Unanimous
- Approve, with comments: 12 for, 3 against, 1 abstaining (six with appended comments). The full results of this vote are here.
While the votes to approve are sufficient and that may well be the final result, the game is not necessarily over yet, as members will be free to change their votes at the August 29 if they so desire. The EB members that switched their votes in this ballot were NIST, the Department of Defense, and GS1 (Lexmark had switched from "No" to "yes" in a straw vote held at the last in-person resolution meeting).
I headed in to town from the desert this afternoon to gas up and get groceries, and to catch up on all things ODF/OOXML. In scanning my Google Alerts, I ran into this posting by Microsoft's Jason Matusow, himself just in from vacation. In that post, Jason writes as follows:
Even though there were early predictions of doom for Open XML from Andy Updegrove and Rob Weir (and others), the US vote is likely to be either a “Yes with comments” or “Abstain” – not a ”No” vote. While the parties opposed to ISO adoption of Open XML have gone quiet on the US vote in the blogosphere, I think it is worth taking a close look at this key vote. In order to clarify my opinion – here are the details as I understand them.
Well, it's hard to take a vacation, isn't it? Not only is it styled as "going quiet," but it offers an opportunity for others to present only part of the story. While much of what Jason writes is accurate, it's curious what he leaves out - including the fact that not one ballot, but two, have been circulated to the INCITS Executive Board for simultaneous voting. According to Jason's blog entry again:
By the end of the meeting enough of those who originally cast a “No” vote indicated likely support for a second “Yes with Comments” ballot to begin on Thursday August 16. Thus, the ballot will move to the next phase as “Yes with Comments” heading into a Resolution Meeting on August 29. At that meeting, if Open XML gets 10 supporting votes, the US position on Open XML will be “Yes with Comments.” If it does not get the 10 needed votes, the EB is being asked to consider “Abstain with Comments” as its fall-back position. At this point, it seems a “No with Comments” is off the table.
To read that, you would assume that there is a single ballot under consideration. Curiously enough, there are two ballots that have been distributed, on an equal voting, and either - or neither - may be approved. One ballot is to approve with comments, and one to abstain with comments. Here, then, is the whole story, as given to me during a lengthy phone call with someone who attended the meeting, as well as the schedule and possible outcomes during the time remaining before the opportunity to submit a US position expires.