OOXML and Standards Australia – an important correction

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Groklaw has a rather extensive discussion of a recent meeting at Standards Australia about their vote on OOXML. I need to correct something mentioned in that report.

IBM is not now a member of CompTIA. We used to be a member, but we quit some time ago. We did not participate in any CompTIA meeting where we voiced our support for OOXML.

I don’t know why any representative of CompTIA would stand up and misrepresent our membership and our position on this issue. Regarding the latter, I think that just about everyone else in the world knows where we stand on OOXML.

Needless to say, the CompTIA representative should set the facts straight for all participants at that meeting. An explanation of how and why these misrepresentations were made is necessary, in my opinion.

If these same statements were made elsewhere in the world, they should be corrected there as well. If anyone has heard such things, please let me know.

Also See: An “OOXML is a bad idea” blog entry compendium


  1. Bob hi,

    Out of interest, what is IBM’s position on OOXML? That is shoudn’t be standardised ever? That is should be standardised, but differently, or ….. ?

    – Alex.

  2. Alex, I think the time is long overdue for Microsoft to join the ODF technical committee in OASIS and work on a single, converged standard that does everything that people need. This might require some refactoring and some layering, but should be doable as an evolutionary process.

    I’ve said this before, but at some point I believe that Microsoft will understand that OOXML is not a solid foundation for the coming decades of documents. Therefore, when they do their third version of an XML document format (OOXML is the second), they will come up with something that looks a whole lot like ODF. I think we could save a whole lot of fuss and bother by just collaborating sooner rather than later, in my opinion.

  3. Bob the groklaw post says … “CompTIA apparently was called out by the IBM representative, who pointed out that IBM is a member of CompTIA and does *not* approve of OOXML.”
    and later … “CompTIA was represented by Danaka Bakailch and were pro OOXML mentioned they have 25000 corporate members and gave the impression that she was speaking on behalf of the member companies. Kaaren from IBM asked how this position was arrived at as IBM is a member and does not agree with that position(Sun is also a member), I don’t believe CompTIA adequately explained how they arrived at this position. Claimed it was feedback from members but this was disputed.”
    So it looks like it was IBM who were misrepresenting their position by claiming membership. I can’t see that anyone from Comptia made any assertion that IBM supported it in the post.

    Your position on OpenXML is well known, you oppose it. IBM’s position isn’t so clear. IIBM is sometimes slow to understand the speed the market can change and has doggedly stuck to its strategy in the past believing IBM knows best. Happily history suggests IBM will eventually respond to its customers interests though. Business managers inside IBM seem to already understand this, IBM products like Quickr and DB2 seem to be planning to exploit OpenXML already. Notes will in the future I believe.

  4. Kaaren never said we were a member. We are not. IBM clearly opposes OOXML as an ISO/IEC standard.

  5. Dear Bob,

    As you know I am more pro ODF than OOXML. But I think there is no point in actively forcing MS to join ODF technical committee. As things now stands, IBM will not join the OOXML committee, I do not want IBM to be actively forced to join OOXML either. In the long run, however, I must say there is a possibility of MS joining ODF and IBM joining OOXML.

    I believe Microsoft knows that OOXML is not a solid foundation. Whatever they say, their technical people are not stupid. Take borders for example, their technical people is competent enough to know that it is stupid to write down and store all possible borders as keywords in the standard document even for Microsoft coz it means they have to go back and define new keywords every time they want to add new borders. I think it is Rob Weir that says the correct way of describing the border is to store a bitmap image of the border in the zip file, then get the XML to reference this bitmap. In fact I will bet good money that this is the way MS Office do borders for a few years now. I believe the reason why they adopted to specify borders as keyword here is simply to make OOXML different from ODF and to fortify the illusion that they are “opening up legacy file format”. Something the “business side” of Microsoft will demand.

    Personally, if OOXML stands up to the criteria for fast-track, I do not have a problem. Having OOXML as fast-track was initially not a problem to me. It was when it is clear that OOXML is badly written and flunk the criteria for fast-track that I started to oppose OOXML for fast track. I do feel that ECMA is abusing its fast track authority by proposing a badly written OOXML for fast track.

    I treat ISO as impartial mediator. If they see a need for OOXML, and is willing to host a standardization committee on it to work through all the problems we see with OOXML today, I do not have a problem with this, even if IBM is complaining.

    Taking a hint from Microsoft’s “shared-source” initiative, I say OOXML qualified as “shared-standard” . Open it is not.

  6. I sympathise Bob. I find Groklaw frequently post reports of meetings that contain inaccuracies.
    I don’t understand how you’ve jumped from “Kaaren not saying this” to “Comptia said it” though.

  7. Bob
    Where I am unclear is ODF versioning? Looking at the OASIS committees working on adding to ODF, it appears very soon that we will be faced with several versions of ODF in the market? How are you guiding folks to pilot ODF when it looks like OASIS work isnt done yet?

    I am not sure what 3rd version of OOXML you are reffering to? Can you point me to something about this? Thx. Tristan

  8. Stephen, sorry, maybe I misunderstood you. In any case, our understanding of the meeting was that CompTIA claimed what I said, and I wanted to set the record straight.

  9. Tristan and WuMing, I was just speaking speculatively about the future. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything, just talking about a future possible collaborative path.

  10. Well, not even that, with borders.

    I imagine that some of the borders will (sooner or later) be covered by a commercial copyright. Imagine a picture of Mickey Mouse, copyright Disney corporation, or something like that. Desirable, for sure; Microsoft might well like to bundle it with Windows, so you can put it around your party invites and print them. And for the right number of dollars, Disney will grant permission to Microsoft to do just that.

    But the moment you email the document to someone else, and they take the bit-map border and put it in their ‘borders’ library (without paying Disney for the privilege), you get into commercial legal trouble.

    Really, it’s not an engineering problem. We know perfectly well how to put bitmaps into XML documents; ‘.png’, ‘.gif’, Sun ‘.ras’, all work and all are openly documented and unencumbered. Techincally, all of them will work.

    But for assorted commercial legal reasons, we cannot do it.

    If you want the commercial laws changed, go see your congress-critter.

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