It seems that the Microsoft-dominated SC34/WG4 committee responsible for maintaining the ISO/IEC 29500 standard ( Microsoft’s submitted document format standard ) is now making changes outside the scope of the mandated rules, in a possible attempt at bringing the standard more in line with MS Office 2007.
There is a clear delineation in the rules between making changes to fix an issue and making changes that are additive to the standard. And the WG4 committee are making clear additive changes that are likely to cause incompatibilities with vendors who might have ( there weren’t actually any ) written according to the original standard. Instead of Microsoft changing MS Office 2007 to be in-line with the standard, it seems that the standard is being changed to be in-line with MS Office 2007 – scary!!! And the fact that MS Office contains far more patent-encumbered and non-implemented features than the standard itself should be worrying to all.
Another area of concern is the i4i patent suit against Microsoft; it’s likely that the 29500 standard will need to be completely withdrawn as it quite possibly is in contravention of the patent. What’s that I hear you say? I told you so? Yes you did …
And perhaps we should be worried about the current defect report which runs to over 800 pages – longer than the entire ODF 1.0 standard!
I get the feeling though that ISO and the WG4 committee are not worrying overly about this. And that should be a warning to all – ISO appear to no longer be putting out impartial standards, and vendors are charting the course of standards nomination, acceptance and maintenance.
at the Boycott Novell forum and that’s causing a bit of an uproar in the ISO community. Even though their own processes indicate the docs were supposed to be made publicly available 30 days after the standard was sealed. It’s now a couple of months after the fact and we’re all still waiting so why not put this stuff out there – it’s the right thing to do according to ISO’s own policies and procedures.
But Alex Brown, exponent of the OOXML process at ISO, says this is a copyright issue and is throwing threats around: “brazen act of copyright violation” according to the Linux Mag site. … Hold on, aren’t ISO standards supposed to be for everyone? Well I’m confused Alex – is it or isn’t it?
13 members of the Norwegian standards body, Standards Norway, have left the organisation citing issues relating to the OOXML standards process debacle. Reasons are as follows:
* The administration of Standard Norway trust 37 identical letters from Microsoft partners more than their own technical committee.
* The process within Standard Norway has been unpredictable and the administration has changed the rules along the way.
* Standard Norway and ISO have committed a series of violations of their own rules and other irregularities in the OOXML process.
So the fallout from the OOXML ISO process is starting to build. First there was an appeal from 4 participating countries, the stalled appeals process thereafter, the CONSEGI declaration and now this. If Microsoft sought to sow division, they’ve done a great job – pity the ISO can’t see further than their local Microsoft representative.
What it means to you
A document format is not just a simple way of saving information. Rather, look at it as a means of preserving information for the short or long term. Applications come and go, but it’s always necessary to open documents no matter what was used to create them. If another party gives you a document, you’d like to be assured of being able to open it. Truly open formats are the only way to ensure this.
Microsoft has publicly shown it’s inability to deal with open formats and continues trying to lock its customers in through the use of proprietary methods and formats. There is no technical or other reason why Microsoft can’t support an existing open standard ( ODF ) except to hold its captive market to ransom.
The South African government, amongst many others, has made the move towards open standards and ODF as a document format – it specifically issued the MIOS policy document in December last year which indicates the Minimum Interoperability Standard for Information Systems in Government ( http://www.dpsa.gov.za/documents/egov/MIOSVer4_1_2007.pdf ). MIOS sets out government’s technical principles and standards for achieving interoperability and information systems coherence across the public sector. Armscor has started the process towards Open Source software and many others are converting everyday. Sun has a plugin filter for MS Office that provides full ODF compatibility and features, if you would like to continue using it for your general office documentation but there are a host of other applications which provide for the creation of general office documents that are using ODF as a format, some being free like OpenOffice.
So if you require maximum backwards compatiblity, stick with MS Office 2003 or earlier, or even better, change to an office suite that uses the ISO-endorsed standard ODF – most of these have low or even no cost associated with them. Bob Sutor sums it up well in his blog: http://www.sutor.com/newsite/blog-open/?p=2031