Microsoft Loses Open XML Vote

September 5, 2007 at 7:56 am | Posted in Standards | Leave a comment

Allegations of stacking the deck by recruiting a slew of small countries with one full vote but little real power. Buying votes. Intense lobbying efforts. Possible voter fraud. Is this another round of government diplomacy aimed at toppling a thuggish regime? Nope – it’s the vote on Open XML, Microsoft’s proposed open document standard.

Yesterday Microsoft lost its first bid to get Open XML approved as a standard (despite a New York Times prediction that it would win). A lot of digital ink has been spilled on this topic. See representative stories in Computerworld, InfoWorld, and eWeek. All of these mostly talk about the diplomacy and procedural issues, not technical issues. The British Standards Institution wouldn’t say why it opposed Open XML for some reason. In New Zealand, “Stakeholders raised several philosophical concerns, and identified technical omissions, errors and inconsistencies within the draft Standard” according to GeekZone.

Philosophical concerns? C’mon, what’s the real issue? Bob Sutor of IBM has a list of blog entries about why Open XML is a bad idea here. Many of them are still of a political nature. Rob Weir, also a strong opponent, has some charts and graphs of voting oddities here.

To check out the other side, Jason Matusow gave the Microsoft side of things in his blog in July. He addressed more of the back room diplomacy accusations last week.

There are some technical accusations that the ODF standard is superior (or at least already exists so there’s no need for another) and that Open XML includes features that companies other than Microsoft or on non-Windows operating systems would struggle to implement. But BetaNews says the real purpose of trying to get Open XML approved “is to enable the company to be perceived worldwide as cooperating with businesses and with nations in the drive for interoperability, especially for the benefit of the European Commission which maintains that Microsoft is an unfair competitor.” It goes on to say “Microsoft needs to have the opportunity to be seen as going through the motions, as playing by the rules, in order to escape the wrath of a lawmaking body that needs the presence of an evil enemy to justify its own authority.”

If Microsoft’s real goal was to get press coverage of their effort to get a standard approved, they succeeded admirably.

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