Microsoft cannot resolve OOXML JTC1 ballot comments

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It is not the responsibility of Microsoft to resolve the many technical comments that have been presented on OOXML within the JTC1 ballot promise. They cannot promise to fix them.

It is the responsibility of ECMA to handle this, since ECMA formally submitted the specification for Fast Track approval. ECMA is a member organization and, presumably, no one member can speak for that organization.

Moreover, OOXML came out of a particular ECMA technical committee (note I didn’t say “created by”). Anyway, Microsoft can not speak unilaterally for that committee in terms of what changes will definitely be made.

Unless, of course, Microsoft = OOXML as far as ECMA is concerned. If this is the case, I would like to hear this from ECMA because it would simplify matters.

If it is not the case, then promises made may not be promises kept.

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


  1. “Microsoft = OOXML as far as ECMA is concerned”

    Of course it does.

    Standards work where existing technology exists is always more of a political process than a technological one. And I doubt that has ever been more true than with MS and OOXML.

  2. It appears to me that ECMA commited itself here ( to deal with all comments.

  3. What stroke me the most about the approval process is how loose it is. The Brazilian standards body (ABNT) has decided this week to answer with a “NO” to ISO. But the process to getting to this “NO” was anything but formal.

    They had 60+ comments on OpenXML that needed to be addressed before the decision was taken. They managed to discuss two of them. And no technical answer was given at all. It was all politics.

    I would imagine that a body such as ISO would try to keep things technical, but it looks like it’s not really so.

    Then it’s no surprise that ECMA is not being required to properly address the issues and that Microsoft can simply state that this and that will be changed in the future.

  4. Not always, besides, where is all of MS-OOXML’s “existing technology” to be found? Not online. Not among academic and research journals. And not among all the new, exciting online office suites. ODF is far more suited to future tech than MS-OOXML could ever be in the face of the fact of implementation.

  5. Hi Bob,

    Just come from reading Andy Updegrove yesterday and groklaw today about the Germany decision over OOXML. A comment on Groklaw has sparked a question I have been wondering about over the last few months. Clearly, Microsoft have mobilised staff, partners and “anyone we know or owes us a favour!” to try and ensure approval in these countries. Is it the case that IBM and Sun have merely underestimated just how far they were willing to go. Both of these companies have comparable resources, staff and “friends” to Microsoft so is it just the latter has become incredibly good at the political game or is it the Microsoft are just more desperate to get it approved?

    Any thoughts and insight you have would be appreciated.



  6. phantomjinx, I think it would be best to wait until this phase is over before we have a post mortem. Many, many fine people from around the world are fighting against this rampant abuse of the standards process to make a product specification into an international standard. It ain’t over, nor will it be for many, many months.

  7. Fair enough, although I find the frustration with such behaviour hard to quell!


  8. I think you meant to say “formally submitted” and not “formerly submitted”.

    A pedantic quibble I know – but the two mean quite different things.

  9. Yikes, I certainly did. Thanks!

  10. When you buy a map from these guys, it’s pretty accurate but you know there are a few deliberate mistakes. One or two streets get invented, that sort of thing. It’s so that if another map company starts selling maps, and they contain the same mistakes, A-to-Z can show that the other map company has copied the A-to-Z maps, rather than making their own survey.

    Perfectly good commercial legal reasons for doing so; but it does mean that you need to check things out for yourself on the ground, if something is really important.

    You get the feeling that OOXML is rather similar. It has inherited a number of features that might have been deliberate at the time … as Oracle pointed out, the inability to represent dates before the year 1900, and the inaccurate characterisation of one year as to whether it was ‘leap’ or not.

    Why are we building deliberate mistakes into an ISO specification ? Practically any technical review is going to pick them up, and request a design change.

  11. I think I know IBM’s take on standalone office productivity software. After all, IBM does sell some . Bob, do correct me if I’m wrong.

    It’s rather like typewriters. And Personal Computers. And hard disks. And OS/2. And card punches.

    Once upon a time, it was a growth market. More people wanted them than had them, and they could be sold for premium prices. Businesses not only wanted the product, they wanted an assurance that if there was any problem, the problem would be resolved before it affected the orderly conduct of the business. And IBM would sell the product and sell the warranty.

    However, as you sell more, and as IBM and others invest, the market saturates and prices come down. The profit margin thins, and you have to move on to something else.

    You can buy Lotus SmartSuite here , quantity one, if you want, but quantity one isn’t going to gladden the heart of a salesman. He or she needs to sell quantity a million, to be worth spending the shoe leather.

    You can get all the above products on ‘ebay’ , and in flea markets around the world. Even a genuine IBM Personal Computer … the new ones are Lenovo , but you might find a second-hand IBM-built one, and if it’s still in warranty then that warranty transfers to its new owner. IBM has a record of all the serial numbers, knows when each one was sold, knows when the warranty expires. is where you check, if you’re at a flea-market considering a purchase. Really.

    The sales person can sell Lotus Notes, by the million. is where to go if you want to see. It’s worth investing research and development dollars in; that will grow the business, and will also reduce the cost to IBM of delivering on the warranty.

    It’s a kind of steady commoditisation, and ‘profit’ moving along the value chain. No longer is the profit in the telephone handset; the profit is in the telephone network, the proposition that you will pay for something useful to happen in the infrastructure when you press the buttons. You will connect, for controlled collaboration.

    Punch-cards fell to networked personal computers.
    Typewriters fell to personal computers.
    OS/2 fell to Linux.

    IBM is pretty unlikely to invest anything more in developing Lotus SmartSuite. Rather, IBM’s likely to encourage all interested parties to develop and share for mutual benefit. Huge push behind ISO ODF XML as an interoperability layer.
    That is, after all, what happened with respect to IBM OS/2 and collaboratively-developed Linux ; happens with ; and a few other projects.

    SmartSuite will fall, to a combination of and Google Sun StarOffice. SmartSuite’s age of growth and profit is gone. Some lower-cost outfit might be able to run SmartSuite as a profitable business for a while. Call IBM with your best offer, if you think you’re up for it.

    Now, what other corporations do is their business, of course.

    But we’ve got serious stuff to do . These things to exploit, to build into solutions for business, to enable businesses to run their operations better, to optimise, to grow. These too.

    Time to move on. The future is Open.

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