I’m hoping that this is more or less the end of what I write about the ECMA vote last week, but given the thousands of words that have been written on this, I thought I would clear something up.
In reading some of the things about Microsoft getting their XML-ized office format “Open XML” passed in ECMA on Thursday, it struck me that some people may have thought that this was a surprise or a hard fought battle of some form. Those of us in the standards world sometimes forget that others don’t hear about the ongoing inner deliberations or see how one standards organization or industry consortium differs from another.
Let me put it succinctly: it was essentially certain that it would be approved from the instant that ECMA accepted it in 2005.
They had a schedule they had to keep, largely because of the release plan of Microsoft Office, and they also needed to work around ISO’s upcoming schedule. There was no surprise here. I might imagine someone taking umbrage at this statement, but I don’t think it’s really debatable. It’s best to understand the large collection of votes that take place in ECMA over a long period and who is sponsoring what. That’s life.
We voted “no” because we fundamentally believe that this is doing nothing more than “standardizing” Microsoft’s formats for its own products and that’s not how the industry should be behaving in 2006. In ECMA you do get to vote, and we exercised that right. It’s nice that the Microsoft spec is XML, but that alone will not guarantee widespread correct and complete implementation for the many reasons people have laid out.
Make sure you follow how well the Novell and Corel implementations do, incidentally. If they falter, watch out for those who try to blame those companies or open source itself, when the root of the problem may be with the Microsoft Office Open XML spec in the first place. You heard it here first.
Now we all move on. The battle for truly open and non-vendor dictated standards is far from over and is gaining momentum. Assume nothing. Should you favor everyone being able to implement real open standards I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised come one year from now. (I know you can interpret that last sentence in several ways!)
Let me also clear up one last thing, something I more or less said in a comment a little while ago. I would like nothing better to see Microsoft try to provide the best native and well integrated implementation of ODF on the planet. It would represent a real change in the industry regarding community developed and maintained open standards.
From a competitive perspective, that might be an issue for others, but it would offer a lot to their current and potential customers. If they can still maintain their huge marketshare because of superior features, ease of use, speed, and security, and not by using a difficult and gargantuan XML specification to perpetuate data format lock-in and limit other complete implementations, so be it.
Don’t be surprised if this actually comes to pass. They have the capability to do so. They may have done it already, for all I know. Care to speculate?
- “Is Open XML a one way specification for most people?”
- “Interoperability vs. intraoperability: your open choice”
- “IBM votes NO on Open XML in ECMA”