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.
Everyone with a vested interest in this – both pro and con – are working with all of the tools available to them. No matter what people argue about, though – at the heart of this remains the idea that making document formats more open is a good thing.
Question: Why does Microsoft want another standard, what’s the rationale?
Answer: There are at least 4 good reasons why:
*ODF started out and was completed as an XML format, specifically supporting OpenOffice with a tight scope around that product.[ODF did start as a description of OpenOffice. This is not uncommon in standards setting – to use a not-over specific specification for an existing product as a starting. But the committee had no “scope” to stay there. Through a multi-year process, it was developed into a specification with many changes. [Update: Te original Call for Participation is too long to include here, but clearly states that while OpenOffice would be used as a starting point during the first phase of the TC’s work, the second phase would move beyond it.]In contrast, OOXML not only started as a description of Office, but with a mandate at Ecma to describe that product and no other. There are many implementations of ODF today in addition to OpenOffice.]
*It wasn’t until 2005 that the spec was offered up as a general XML office document format and consequently renamed to ODF.[Blatantly false. ODF had been under development within OASIS for several years at that point.[Update: since December 16, 2002, the first meeting of the ODF Technical Committee.] It was formally adopted by OASIS in May of 2005]
*No opportunity existed for Microsoft to actually participate in this full process – given the original scope, the 6 months between the re-naming of the spec to ODF, and its subsequent approval by OASIS as a standard.[Blatantly false. Microsoft was a member of OASIS throughout the entire development process, and at any time could have joined the Technical Committee and influenced the result. If memory serves, Microsoft was even represented on the Board during part of this period. [Update: Microsoft’s Chris Kurt was on the OASIS board since 2001 or 2002, and remained on the board until last year.]
*The scope of the ODF spec never included even the basic requirements that Microsoft required to support a fully open format, and nor did the OASIS technical committee want to include these requirements.[Blatantly false. In September of 2005, I interviewed Mary McRae, OASIS Manager of Technical Committee Administration and other key OASIS, Microsoft and Massachusetts participants in the ODF debate. Mary stated that every effort was made to make ODF as compatible as it could, absent the cooperation of Microsoft.]
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