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ISO Relevance Questioned After OOXML Appeals Fail 236

Posted by kdawson
from the burning-down-the-house dept.
Cowards Anonymous passes along an Australian PCWorld piece that begins "Countries whose appeals were dismissed regarding the ISO/IEC's approval of Microsoft's OOXML as an international standard are questioning the judgment and relevance of the ISO/IEC and the standards they approve. In a statement made at the Congresso Internacional Sociedade e Governo Electronico (CONSEGI) 2008 conference, representatives from three of the four countries that appealed against an April 1 vote to approve OOXML as a standard said they are 'no longer confident' in the ability of both the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission to be vendor-neutral and open when it comes to setting technology standards." Here is the statement signed by South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba. The countries won't pursue further opposition to OOXML.
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ISO Relevance Questioned After OOXML Appeals Fail

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  • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:13AM (#24857203)
    Really, I really mean this question.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Really, I really mean this question.

      Why? Who else is there to replace them? Or are you advocating a no-standards-free-for-all?

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:24AM (#24857313)

      Yes. Yes it does.

      Imagine you know jack about technology (like, let's say, the average CEO). Then you have to turn to someone to tell you whether something or someone is capable of accomplishing some task. So what do you do? You start looking for standards, check what those standards describe, find out if it applies to you and look for tools that work according to that standard.

      You can't decide whether the tool you choose is really "good". You can't decide whether someone who happens to be certified according to some certs can actually do something (I've seen ISO 27001 people who didn't know jack about real security problems, you can't certify something that changes faster than you can slap a standard together). But when you don't know you have to believe (ask the religious guys, they know best about that). And CEOs tend to believe industry standards. Whether those standards actually "work" or are arbitrary doesn't matter. Well, it does matter, but they don't really have a choice. It's "as good as it gets" for them.

      Compatibility is a huge issue in today's economy. You have to be able to send your documents to your partners and expect them to be able to use them. Standardized formats play a big role in this game. Those formats may be bad, dated, horribly insecure and a vendor lock-in, but they are standardized and thus compatible with the companies you deal with.

      That's what CEOs care about.

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:44AM (#24857483)

        I agree that you are describing reality, but this is exactly why ISO has now lost credibility in the technical community.

        If a standards body acts only as a known library where you know you can go to look up useful information — a channel for communication between interested parties, if you like — then it is useful for compatibility, avoiding reinventing the wheel, and similar laudable goals. But if being an "ISO standard" confers some sort of status, making some sort of statement about the value or relevance of the standardised item, then there are standards (in the ethical sense) that must be upheld for the ISO standards to mean anything. One of those needs to be independent, peer-reviewed audit, and that clearly hasn't happened here.

        Most CEOs are not stupid, but most of them probably are naive on technical matters, because that's not what they do. If CEOs cannot trust the technical merit of ISO standards then ISO is a liability, because it gives a false sense of security.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Magic5Ball (188725)

          ISO may have lost credibility in the vast part of the pseudo-technical community who doesn't know what standards-setting organizations do.

          A standards organization doesn't force any individual or organization to adopt or follow any standard. It offers one (or more) standards that individuals or organizations can adopt in its processes/products, such that other individuals or organizations can rely on a basic level of documentation, interoperability or performance being present in the standards-marked process

          • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:28AM (#24857991)

            ISO may have lost credibility in the vast part of the pseudo-technical community who doesn't know what standards-setting organizations do.

            Ah, yes, those of us objecting are all stupid and/or ignorant.

            It offers one (or more) standards that individuals or organizations can adopt in its processes/products, such that other individuals or organizations can rely on a basic level of documentation, interoperability or performance being present in the standards-marked processes/products, should they choose to follow the standard.

            Exactly. And in the case of OOXML, other individuals or organizations can't adopt it or rely on a basic level of interoperability. AIUI, Microsoft themselves don't actually implement the variation of OOXML that has been recognised by ISO. Given how ill-specified parts of that OOXML "standard" are, no-one else has any chance at all.

            And while in theory you would be right about what standards bodies are for, there is no point sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that endorsement by a major standards body such as ISO doesn't have other implications. Many governments require that their work is consistent with standards, for example, and any contractor who doesn't use the appropriate "standardised" software may find themselves out of luck when seeking any future government-funded work.

          • by Ilgaz (86384) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:44AM (#24859045) Homepage

            "pseudo-technical community"

            Lets ignore your direct attack to Slashdot community which we sometimes see non anonymous comments of industry leader companies CEOs and people having written World standard RFCs... What about "more serious looking" Sun Microsystems and IBM which itself larger than many countries represented in ISO?

            If you suggest a Windows only standard with a very suspicious voting process which even involves some dictatorships, you are irrelevant. You should be investigated and punished too if there was money involved.

            Being "ISO" really doesn't make them untouchable. Same goes for Microsoft too. They should be investigated by a international court as bribery (via money or other things) is a very serious crime.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Elektroschock (659467)

              Microsoft is very much afraid of the domino effect but in fact their ISO activities mainstreamed the idea to challenge the bully with governmental action. ODF is quickly gaining ground

          • by NickFortune (613926) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @11:57AM (#24860311) Homepage Journal

            In this regard, nothing which has happened with OOXML has changed the fundamental nature of standards bodies in their lack of prescriptive abilities.

            I might buy that if the MSOOXML spec was for for purpose. If three vendors make screws for one purpose, they all want their size and pitch to be the standard chosen, if only to avoid retooling costs. But whoever wins, everyone can use the standard thereafter. Everyone gets what they want.

            This does not appear to be the case with the MSOOXML spec, where the final version remains unpublished, and where a large number of objections have never been discussed, let alone resolved, where the control of the standard remains in the control of the major playing in the field, and where a conforming reference implementation does not exist and likely never will. Under such circumstances, it's hard to see how this could ever serve the purpose of interoperability in the field of office documents. The spec is simply and blatantly unfit for its stated purpose.

            But the problem here is not so much that ISO favoured Microsoft. The problem is that, using your example, they did indeed force through a gravel based flotation device. And while no one is compelled to adopt the standard, a major that reason ISO standards have been followed in the past is that people trust their flotation devices to at least float. If they force through one that sinks, and then have the effrontery claim that nothing is the matter, then it would be surprising if this didn't damage confidence in other standards they may produce.

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:44AM (#24859037)

          The problem is that a standard being used to create compatibility and a standard being used to say something about the value of some implementation is the same in the ears of business oriented people. Something that makes me compatible with my partners is valuable.

          As for "not being forced to adopt", as someone has pointed out, a standard is pretty much forcing you to adopt it, out of necessity, not because it's some written law that you must. Standards force you to adopt them out of the necessity to be compatible. Sure, if everyone went and dumped a standard to favor another, maybe better, system, we could all happily ignore some wannabe standard. Problem is that this doesn't happen.

          CEOs aren't stupid, but they are also rarely if ever idealists. They don't know too much about the technical details about implementations or formats. But they want to choose the format that will cost the least to use. And generally, at least until now, this was using a standardized format. Relying on ISO was saving them money. Procedures could be trusted to be compatible with other companies that rely on the same procedures, which saves time. Time that would have to be used to "convert" diverging processes. Same for formats. Same for people.

          Now, I'm not saying that OOXML is going to cost more money, but due to its less than perfect design and no 100% compatible implementation in existance this can easily happen. And this could easily damage the reputation of ISO.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HiThere (15173)

            It's worse than that. The waiver of patent enforcement offered by MS was only for compliant implementations. So by ensuring that there are no compliat implementations, MS ensures that it doesn't have to waive any patent enforcement. And I don't think anyone knows exactly what patents are involved. (We've seen this pattern before, but this time we actually know that some real patents are involved. We just don't know what the complete list is. So nobody can be certain that they've worked around them.)

            Ad

      • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:46AM (#24857507) Homepage Journal

        Standardized formats play a big role in this game. Those formats may be bad, dated, horribly insecure and a vendor lock-in, but they are standardized and thus compatible with the companies you deal with.

        But standardized formats are meaningless when they cannot be implemented, not even by the company who bought and paid for the format to become a standard.

        They are going to say that OOXML is an ISO standard, but their own products don't follow the ISO standard.

        So OOXML is not compatible. Not even with Microsoft's own products.

        Since ISO just approved an incompatible, useless standard, what does that make them?

        You got it.

        Useless.

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:57AM (#24858379) Journal

          A lot of people act as if ISO was

          A) some kind of guarantee that it'll be implemented 100% accurately and compatibly by everyone, and there is absolutely no room for wiggling in incompatible details, and

          B) it's the first time this happens.

          Hello? Both are false.

          As a trivial example, C is an ISO standard. ISO/IEC 9899, to be precise. When was the last one you saw two C compiler implementations, from two different vendors and preferrably on different architectures, that were 100% compatible with each other or the standard? It's trivial to produce code that produces wildly different results, and offten incorrect results, based on unspecified details like endianness or word size.

          Or take paper sizes. The ISO 216 defines paper sizes like A4, and multiples. Has that stopped anyone from selling "letter" sized paper instead? Or it's trivial to produce paper which is technically A4, but will jam your printer anyway, e.g., because it's much thicker than normal and the standard says nothing about that third dimension.

          Most of the ISO standards are just guidelines, nothing more.

          • by laptop006 (37721) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:08AM (#24858525) Homepage Journal

            Oh come on.

            Everywhere *BUT* the US A4 is the standard, just like everywhere but the US metric is the standard. As for thickness (weight) the standard is you specify in GSM (grams per square meter), with 80 being standard office paper.

            Give me any two C99 compilers on the same platform and some C99 code and it'll work. Endianess is explicitly implementation dependent as are a few other things. Almost every platform difference is due to OS libraries or libc, neither of which the compiler has anything to do with.

            I know ISO standards aren't perfect, but they sure as hell are usually a lot better then the crap we saw this time.

            • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @11:27AM (#24859831) Journal

              Yes, but GSM is a different standard. ISO 216 doesn't say anything about that. As far as ISO 216 is concerned, I could make a sheet that's 210mm × 297mm x 3000mm, in effect a _pillar_ with an A4 cross-section, and it would still count as ISO/DIN A4.

              As for C99, exactly who implemented a C99 compiler faithfully or at all?

              - GCC's own Status of C99 features in GCC [gnu.org] page lists a _lot_ of C99 features as missing or broken.

              - Visual C++ at least as of 2005 did _not_ support C99. Some 6 years after the standard had been passed. A quick search on MSDN leads me to believe that VS 2008 doesn't either.

              - Borland AFAIK never did.

              - a quick googling on Sun's site leads me to believe that their implementation is also not quite complete and compliant

              - a quick googling on IBM's site, produced "Not all run-time functions and facilities required by the ISO/IEC 9899:1999 International Standard are supported on all the operating system levels that can run this version of the compiler." in the relevant section of IBM C for AIX v6.0. I wouldn't know if newer versions even exist, or how that was updated.

              Sorry, if I don't have the time for the full research that this deserves. But so far it looks like, basically, if I could be arsed to, I could probably write some standard-compliant C99 code which doesn't even compile on _any_ major C compiler. Does that sound like the OOXML situation yet? :P

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617)

          Decision makers are not usually technically oriented people. They see "GIF" format and think "standard" not realizing there are multiple GIF standards. The same goes for ".DOC" files. And when they saying something should be in "OOXML" format because it is an ISO standard, they will be uninterested in the difference between Microsoft's implementation of OOXML and the ISO specification for OOXML. And just as in the case of "The Web" when something looks fine in MSIE and doesn't look right in Firefox, peo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gtall (79522)

          While I agree with your sentiments, there's nothing stopping from M$ claiming their docuthingy conforms to ISO standard Blah-Wooffle-Beetle-Bam. Anyone who must approve a docuthingy with an ISO standard restriction will simply see M$, see the ISO standard M$ points to which conveniently has M$ in name lest they care not to look further than that, and will mark the inviting checkbox that indicates said docuthingy meets the restriction.

          For M$, a win is a win no matter who they had rape to get it.

          Gerry

      • by db32 (862117) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:55AM (#24858351) Journal
        You realize you just made the argument for why ISO doesn't matter right? CEOs need to be able to trust these things, compatability, interoperability, etc. When the standards can be outright purchased as they were here, then that whole process breaks down, and nobody should be trusting anything with an ISO stamp.
        • Again, what else is new?

          Especially in regards to the ISO 9000 series, especially as applied to software companies/departments who want that rubber stamp, you could be 100% compliant even if you work towards the wrong goals and achieve the wrong results. Essentially anyone with the money to blow on a byzantine bureaucracy where you have to document every bleeding obvious step, and document compliance with some brain dead rule, can get that certification. No need to even pay those money to ISO. You'll lose th

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      Does ISO still matter??

      Yes. FTA: "What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks."

      They are only "re-evaluating" the relevance of ISO/IEC in government use. It says nothing about how companies in those countries will continue to rely on ISO standards, and it really only applies to those countries (for now).

      • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:14AM (#24857821) Journal
        Translation: We don't want to do this. It's a bunch of headache. We liked being able to rely on ISO/IEC, it made our life easier. But we've seen things recently that make us wonder if we have any choice but to find alternatives. Needless to say, we're not going to make any rash statements before we know our options, but honestly, if this wasn't a really big deal, we never would have got off our asses enough to make a statement about this issue in the first place. ISO matters in that we miss them, and we're pissed off that they let us down, but not in the sense that we feel secure enough to continue using their standards, because we don't.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PMuse (320639)

          What this debacle reveals is that ISO's processes and procedures are poorly designed to deal with a wealthy attacker. Our options are (i) fix ISO's procedures or (ii) fork ISO.

          Reforming ISO is probably going to be the easier option, but before we nail any theses to the church door, consider whether we will have anything like a unified, standard church when we're through.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      Maybe fast-tracking is the problem. Normally, a standard exists because something has been in use for a while and gained acceptance (a de facto standard) or because relevant parties sit down and agree to it. If the standard was created elsewhere (eg, C++), it makes sense for ISO to defer to them. But to just approve OOXML (and OpenOffice XML) is the wrong approach. They should have sat down and created a new ISO Document XML format with input from MS, Open Office, Apple, IBM, or any other relevant parti
      • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:36AM (#24858095)

        They should have sat down and created a new ISO Document XML format with input from MS, Open Office, Apple, IBM, or any other relevant parties.

        What a good idea. They could call it something like Open Document Format.

        Except I doubt Microsoft would be prepared to be involved in such a discussion.

    • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:02AM (#24857687)

      Really, I really mean this question.

      As long as no significantly more credible replacement exists, ISO will continue to matter, at least with respect to government procurement (which again sends strong signals to the economy as a whole) -- even in fields like informatics where practically all knowledgeable people primarily look elsewhere for standards.

      Replacing ISO is not an easy task, but IMO it needs to be done. If you're willing to help, please join the effort at OpenISO.org [openiso.org]

    • That's separate from the question of whether OOXML, itself, matters.
      I submit that, after all this public brouhaha, the court of public opinion is going to kick this standard right in the OO, or maybe flatten them to _ _.
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:18AM (#24857243)
    ... The Best Standards That Money Can Buy ®
  • by meatmanek (1062562) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:23AM (#24857309)

    These countries should just all start using ANSI. It's a much better organiza--

    Wait, you're telling me A doesn't stand for awesome?

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:26AM (#24857333)

    > "questioning the judgment and relevance of the ISO/IEC and the standards they approve... said they are 'no longer confident' in the ability of..."

    Judgment: Bought
    Relevance: Irrelevant
    Your Confidence in ISO: Of no concern to us now that we have nice fat OOXML consulting paychecks flowing in.

  • by TheJasper (1031512)
    Don't use OOXML. A standard is not a law and ISO/IEC not an enforcement agency. They are an authority which you can judge on its worth.

    Since they are arguing that they spent money on using ODF then why care about OOXML?
    • by FST777 (913657) <frans-jan@NoSPam.van-steenbeek.net> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:36AM (#24857421) Homepage
      No, it's not simple. A lot of governments and businesses have rules implemented that say that they have to work with standards as much as possible. It is now possible for Microsoft to monopolize the office market further by waving the ISO flag at them.

      This means that there is less incentive to move towards open and broadly implemented standards for both governments and big businesses. In turn, that means that Microsoft Office will remain something everyone expects you just have on your PC. Think about schools that give kids assignments in MS Word and Excel. Think about bosses that send schedules to employees in those formats. Think about governments that makes documents available for download in those formats. Then tell those people you don't own a license for MS Office, and look at their response.

      ISO has put Microsoft in an ideal position to further conquer the market for office suits, the market for operating systems and the emerging market for online office service. I care about that.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:03AM (#24857697)

        It is now possible for Microsoft to monopolize the office market further by waving the ISO flag at them.

        No, not at all.

        Firstly, Microsoft's Office 2007 product does not implement the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (OOXML) standard.

        Secondly, ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument, or ODF) is also a standard that the office market can wave right back a Microsoft.

        ISO has put Microsoft in an ideal position to further conquer the market for office suits, the market for operating systems and the emerging market for online office service.

        No, Microsoft is not in such a position at all. Microsoft has no product to market that implements either of these competing standards.

        OpenOffice.org, KOffice, Google Docs, NeoOffice, Zoho, IBM Lotus Symphony and Corel WordPerfect Office X4 are all competing products in the Office market right now that implement the ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument or ODF) standard. Take your pick.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ilgaz (86384)

          Add Apple too. By giving "Read only" support to ODF, they put their weight behind ODF. "Text Edit.app" is a very important piece of software ;)

          Also my Symbian S80 Nokia 9300 can open/edit ODF documents via freeware. It is important thing since, it shows ODF is that easy to implement on anything. Symbian S80 is one of the weirdest portable OS'es you can find, even Nokia got rid of it in E90 upgrade (it is S60).

    • Yes, but (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:37AM (#24857433) Journal

      Part of the advantage MS gets from this is that they can now sell their software to organizations that require open document format specs. So even if you don't want to use OOXML, you local government might (and likely will - it's not like they'll stop buying office licenses, particularly if they can get around the open format law in this way).

      Of course, I've you've ever seen an ISO-9001:2000 certified process, you probably already know how completely meaningless the specs and certifications are in practical terms.

      • So what? I can use OpenOffice and still read it. In fact I don't have MS office and I haven't needed it yet. PDF is more important.

        ok, profesionally I have at times used MS Office. Mainly because some people insist on comunicating in word .doc format. OOXML should bring an end to that, shouldn't it?
    • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:47AM (#24857523)

      Don't use OOXML. A standard is not a law and ISO/IEC not an enforcement agency. They are an authority which you can judge on its worth.

      Since they are arguing that they spent money on using ODF then why care about OOXML?

      I RTFA (I know, I know) and that is basically what they're talking about doing.

      However, the whole point of the article is that this has deeper implications. From TFA:

      Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

      I don't think I need to clarify that any further.

      • That's sort of what I meant about judging them on their worth. However in the absence of any authority what do you chose? This is definately a blow for ISO and also for people wanting a standard. I don't see people ignoring ISO completely however. The wording was such that they are questioning its relevance. A competing standards authority might even be healthy (or it will be utter chaos).
        • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:47AM (#24858233)

          The whole point of a standard is that it's a document you can point at and say "We want your product to do this".

          The whole point of ISO is that they're a respected international organisation which publishes these standards so there's no confusion when you say "We want your product to follow ISO standard 1234567890" - and you can be reasonably confident that even if the standard isn't fantastic, it's at least something you can all agree on.

          Once ISO start publishing "standards" which for whatever reason you can't usefully point to and say "We want your product to do this", the point in their existence evaporates.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    granted ISO isn't handling these appeals and this scenario the way they should (imho), questioning their validity as a standards organization is probably the best thing for monopolies like Microsoft.

    At this point even if OOXML gets turned down as a standard and enough countries (especially the big players like europe and the US) scoff at the ISO then Microsoft has turned us against our standards ideal and won.

    Without even pointing a finger, MS will have stripped the ISO of legitimate credibility as a standa

    • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:46AM (#24857517)

      ISO did not have to go along with MS's scam. ISO could have done the right thing. MS did not hurt ISO, ISO did it to themselves.

      • Evil Judo (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:47PM (#24866371) Homepage Journal

        ISO did not have to go along with MS's scam. ISO could have done the right thing. MS did not hurt ISO, ISO did it to themselves.

        True, though Microsoft did have the brilliant idea of sabotaging the preeminent open standards organization and getting itself big government contracts all with a handful of payoffs. That's some evil judo they've got there.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:54AM (#24857587)

      MS has already stripped ISO of legitimate credibility, by proving that it can be bought.

      I don't see why undermining them as a standards organisation means Microsoft win. There are other bodies that can serve the same purpose, either recognised with some sense of official standing in a community, or simply producing de facto standards that people follow by mutual consent or from practical necessity.

      For example, while there actually is an ISO standardised version of HTML4, most of the "web standards" are not ISO recognised at all. And yet, here you are, reading this, and it probably looks pretty much how I and the Slashdot admins intended on your screen just as it does on mine. The W3C itself uses the term "recommendations" rather than claiming to define "standards", which I think is good form on their part, but almost everyone who makes browsers except for Microsoft treats the W3C as a standards-defining body in practice, and even MS acknowledge the W3C's existence.

      Other effective standards have come about because of sheer industry power, with Microsoft's own, IE6-compatible flavours of HTML and CSS probably the most common example in the WWW area.

      • by amorsen (7485)

        I don't see why undermining them as a standards organisation means Microsoft win.

        ISO is by far the most important standards organisation. We can dream that ISO will just go away in a puff of logic, but it won't happen.

        Having OOXML ISO-certified means that the government of my country can require that documents sent to them from my business are in that format. Since OOXML is unimplementable, I will have to actually send the documents as Microsoft Office X XML files. If I care about formatting, I will have to test the document in the particular version of Microsoft Office that the governm

  • This seriously sucks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pzs (857406) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:29AM (#24857361)

    Standards can be wrong or incomplete but they are still completely vital to the proper functioning of modern computing.

    If Microsoft's dodgy dealings have managed to invalidate trust in one of the main standards bodies, thereby making less people adhere to standards, this will be a serious blow to interoperable computing in the future.

  • Sad... (Score:3, Informative)

    by trendzetter (777091) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:42AM (#24857469) Homepage Journal
    It's sad that non of the countries tries to take the appeal on the next level [groklaw.net], the Secretaries-General, because it would show us how high the corruption in ISO goes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheLink (130905)
      We already know it stinks like shit, we don't need to know whether it tastes like shit ;).
  • Iso Vs Reality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Narpak (961733) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:43AM (#24857477)
    While I do not doubt that ISO will be around for a long while yet; the case of ODF and OOXML illustrates how their significance isn't all that it used to be. The case of ODF shows that even if a big corporation gets their own standards passed by unethical means people will still choose the superior product. At least so it would seem so far. More and more companies and nations are making ODF a document standard because it is Open and available to all their citizens. Why pay for expensive software when free software does the job more than adequately.

    What annoys me the most about cases such as this is the fact that they get little to no coverage in my nations media. No mention in any newspaper at all. Then again it's no big surprise since the "newspapers" are looking more like tabloids every day.
    • What annoys me the most about cases such as this is the fact that they get little to no coverage in my nations media. No mention in any newspaper at all. Then again it's no big surprise since the "newspapers" are looking more like tabloids every day.

      The simple fact of the matter is Joe Public can't be bothered to follow a document format war. They want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow and who's getting voted off the island tonight, and that's pretty much it.

      • by Narpak (961733)
        Sad but true. Though I do consider the News's purpose to inform about issues of importance; not just issues of interest. Then again, I reckon that is why more and more of us are getting our news from "alternative sources". Hurray for the internet. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ilgaz (86384)

      What was that UN like organisation, another huge one before United Nations? It was huge and effective until invasion of Poland and start of WW2. The day WW2 broke out, it became irrelevant.

      Acceptance of Windows only (shut up really, MS puppets) standard(!) could mark the end of ISO.

  • It is good that they are doing this, but it will have no effect in this specific case. No matter what anyone says, these guys speaking out does in fact damage the ISO's credibility. Considering the situation, it will effect the ISO at some point. Of course in the eyes of Microsoft the damage doesn't matter because each battle if fought one and a time and their is always going to be casualties. The ISO isn't part of Microsoft so however they suffer, won't matter one bit to them.

  • As always, (Score:4, Informative)

    by toby (759) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:57AM (#24857621) Homepage Journal
    Groklaw has more [groklaw.net] on this.
  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:04AM (#24857709) Homepage Journal

    That's how politics come to a close about an issue. Those who lost complain, publicly, loudly, and with no effect whatsoever on the process itself. Then everyone goes back to business.

    You can love it or hate it, but if you watch enough politics closely enough, you see this pattern repeat over and over and over again.

    • Yes that's often the pattern, but not always, especially in the computer field. Sometimes, a seemingly minor issue is the excuse for radical change. Often the only variable is the timing.

      That's how X.org started from XFree86 and XFree86 died -- it would have succeeded in 1990 not 2001.
      That's how IBM lost it's PC leadership (trying to force Micro Channel as "The patented successor to ISA") -- it would have succeeded in 1985 but not 1990.
      That might be happening with Vista too if Microsoft isn't careful -- it

    • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:52AM (#24858309)

      That's how politics come to a close about an issue. Those who lost complain, publicly, loudly, and with no effect whatsoever on the process itself. Then everyone goes back to business.

      You can love it or hate it, but if you watch enough politics closely enough, you see this pattern repeat over and over and over again.

      There's a difference here though: In most political contexts, nonviolently establishing an alternative process is prohibitively difficult.

      In this context, it's still difficult, but much easier. ISO is not an intergovernmental organization. It's just simply a private-sector organization with seat in Geneva. Nothing and nobody has the right stop us from setting up a competing organization [openiso.org].

      The key challenge is in convincing governments that the new organization is more worthy of paying attention to than ISO/IEC JTC1. In this context it's very good news that some governments are expressing doubts about ISO/IEC.

      Note that since nations are sovereign, it is not necessary for an organization that aims to become a better alternative to ISO/IEC to convince a majority of countries. Even convincing a handful of countries is probably enough if a heavyweight like e.g. Brazil or India is among them, since that would suffice for putting very strong pressure on e.g. Microsoft to allow true interoperability.

  • Standards are great, but who says you have to implement them?

    Look at Internet Explorer and the w3 standards as a case.

    If Microsoft don't add the competing OPEN format to Office, they will p-off lots of businesses and governments who went open source but still have departments using Microsoft products.

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      Older times, Microsoft would act like they are friendly to standards and fool some people.

      See what happened in 3 months: Silverlight 2 airing of Olympics (instead of V1), IE 8 beta 2 showing broken icon (or done with errors) on W3C compliant pages and let me give a clue to W3C/Moz team: test CPU usage when W3C standard page hits IE 8 beta 2 (thanks to Virtual PC 7!), no shipment of "MS Office 08 viewer" to OS X which they could ship in 15 minutes as the thing itself runs on OS X, broken OOXML importers for

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spatial (1235392)

      Standards are great, but who says you have to implement them?

      People mentioned that a lot of government entities require you to do so. That's a big one.

  • You managed to not only mess up another standard this time, you took down an international standards organization with you.

    This one must be a record.
  • EU Commission (Score:2, Interesting)

    by expat.iain (1337021)
    There is still the outstanding EU checks continuing. That and the fact there is still a path for the ISO appeals process to continue means this is not over yet. Considering ISO polices itself and does a pretty awful job, I suspect that the EU is going to be the best chance of putting this terrible 'standard' to sleep.
  • It also seems to me that we have a classic north/south western vs. non-western corporation dominated vs. socialist split occurring here. It's in the best interests of these interests of these countries to join forces to protect each other.

    And while their at it form their own version of the IMF/World Bank/WTO as those organizations seem to screw over smaller nations so consistently. Punch out of the current system and start their own.

  • On OOXML (Score:2, Interesting)

    by darkcmd (894336)
    Alright, OOXML has been ratified an official standard by the ISO organization. But what does that mean? Just because ISO has made OOXML a standard doesn't mean somebody is putting a gun to someone's head forcing them to use it. All of the good standards have been discovered over time, by the trial of time. If people do not use OOXML, then the fact that it is a standard would be moot.
  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:16AM (#24858613) Homepage
    Of all the countries participating in ISO/OOXML standardization isn't it pretty amazing that South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba are the ones that Microsoft can't buy...

    I mean you'd expect western countries to have a certain level of integrity... Whereas less wealthy countries usually would be easier to bribe, but I guess not...


    Okay, you can discuss whether or not the different countries/TC's was bribed, but dirty tricks were played!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shados (741919)

      Think about it for a sec. How did western "rich" countries become "rich"?

      yeah, you got it now...

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:26PM (#24860749)

    Standards bodies have always had a mixed record.

    In some cases (e.g. early ANSI C), they did a reasonable job bringing together practitioners and standardizing and documenting a mature technology.

    In other cases (e.g., ALGOL 68, MPEG-7), they brought together a bunch of academics who thought they could use the standards body to realize their untested and unrealistic ideas.

    Neither of those cases is relevant anymore; people can communicate and build consensus over the Internet.

    Where standards bodies still matter is in a legal sense: a standards body can guarantee that a "promise not to sue" actually has some legal force behind it, in the form of a binding agreement between the standards body and the vendor participants.

    Of course, that requires a standards body that actually takes this aspect of standardization seriously and doesn't make exceptions. ECMA dropped the ball on this.

  • As a Brazilian... (Score:4, Informative)

    by KGBear (71109) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @02:45PM (#24862969) Homepage

    ...I am not very comfortable to see Brazil rubbing elbows with crazy Chavez in Venezuela or Castro's Cuba. It reminds me there are political besides technical reasons why some countries support FOSS. For many years I was very close to the FOSS movement in Brazil and I can say "not sending more $$ to the USA" was as good a reason as any to support FOSS in certain circles.

    All that aside though, not too long ago I was talking to someone who makes a lot of money selling knowledge (in the format of software tools) to various Brazilian agencies both in the federal and local levels. I knew there is a law in Brazil that compels government agencies to prefer Open Source solutions over proprietary unless they can prove they could not find a viable FOSS alternative.

    What I didn't know was that when asked "do you want this for Windows or for Linux" the answer from some agencies would be "please don't ask that question. We want the Windows version but if you tell us there is a Linux version we'll be forced to buy that. Let's pretend you didn't say anything."

    In that environment being able to require an ISO standard is a tremendous tool to help level the playing field. If ISO had not approved OOXML those agencies in Brazil would have _no legal basis_ to prefer MS Office. By becoming a standard, OOXML now tilts the field back in MS's favor. MS knows this. That's why they did and will do absolutely anything to be able to let their reps and techs say "yeah, ours is an ISO standard too..."

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