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What Happens Next on the US Vote on OOXML 82

Andy Updegrove writes "As you may know, V1, the INCITS Technical Committee that had charge of the US vote on Microsoft's OOXML, failed to reach consensus on either approving or disapproving the specification. As expected, Microsoft has turned to the full INCITS Executive Board in an effort to salvage the situation. Between now and Labor Day, a complicated series of fall-back ballots and meetings has been scheduled to see whether the Executive Board can agree to approve or disapprove OOXML, in either case "with comments." A vote to approve would mean that addressing the comments would not be required for the US vote to stand, while a vote to disapprove would hold the possibility of US approval if the comments are satisfactorily addressed. The bottom line is that a vote to approve (either in the US or in many other nations around the world) does not appear likely, due to the sheer number of technical issues that have been raised with OOXML, and the expedited schedule upon which Microsoft has insisted throughout the process."
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What Happens Next on the US Vote on OOXML

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  • A friend in need ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @12:49PM (#19957937)
    is a friend indeed, as they say.

    Following the report by V1 that it had failed to achieve consensus, Microsoft requested a place on the agenda at the Executive Board meeting held in California on July 18 - 20, in order to make a short presentation on the V1 events. That presentation occurred on Thursday of last week. However, after giving the brief overview, the Microsoft representative made a motion not provided for on the agenda (which was immediately seconded by the Apple representative) that the Executive Board consider a written ballot of "Approval with Comments," with the comments in question being the 96 issues that the V1 members had succeeded in agreeing upon before ending their deliberations. That would have meant that some 400 additional comments (the more difficult ones upon which consensus had not been reached) that V1 had received from various sources would not have been submitted to ISO/IEC JTC1 if the ballot passed.

    Interesting, although unsurprising, to see Apple following the money here.
    • And how many web applications are run as cron jobs? I don't know a single one...

      Mod parent up, informative! Apple has as much to gain here as Microsoft does -- after all, Office runs on the Macintosh, and Apple has a vested interest in seeing it say dominate, as that it was one of the major draws of their platform.

  • US vote or ISO vote? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @12:54PM (#19957995) Journal
    Big difference. If it's the International Standards Organisation that's voting; it should not be subject to the machinations of the company that submits the standard under scrutiny.

    According to the earlier article, V1 and INCITS were both extensions of the ISO evaluation process. Not just a US agency.
    • From other articles I've read on this, it's both. Specifically, this is the national vote that determines how the US rep @ ISO votes. At the int'l level, each national vote has the same weight.

      Obviously, the US isn't the only nation going thru this at this time. MS has been attempting to stack the deck (typically, a working group with half a dozen or a dozen voting members, suddenly has 50 MS partners pay the couple grand to join and vote in the 6 weeks before the national vote), but perhaps surprisingly
  • Thought it might be Open Office XML but found out that it means

    "Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) formats"

    Thought others might want to know.
  • I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting OOXML to go away.

    I know government is dog-ass slow, so I am not terribly up in arms, but agreeing to some open standard for government documents (not controlled by MS, but not necessarily ODF) is obviously the best choice for archival storage, transparency, and maintainability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KarmaMB84 ( 743001 )
      Once it becomes an ECMA standard, the specification belongs to ECMA and will not be controlled by MS. MS has been saying this all along ("It's now ours anymore, it's ECMA's"). They DO want it standardized since they worked on it for years even before ODF and it's the format for their product.
      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:36PM (#19958581) Journal
        Save that the specs are ridiculously huge, and full of what really amount to undocumented references. It's not a useful specification.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LingNoi ( 1066278 )
        It is not useful you can't calculate dates before 1900s due to backwards compatibility with other Microsoft products. How is that useful for other office products, as a standard and for users of the format.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by darkonc ( 47285 )
        The 'standard' is incomplete and includes a bunch of land mines for people who wish to create a true open source implementation.

        Microsoft is pushing the most important part of OOXML being it's ability to include old Office file data as opaque binary chunks (!). Problem is that their documentation of those binary chunks pretty much consists of 'try reverse-engineering old versions of office.' -- which is against the EULA for old versions of office.

        Even if someone manages to figure out how to decode thos

  • Show Me The Money!
  • I prefer choice. Having an ODF standard should not exclude an OOXML standard. With both standards published, it is possible then for developers to include support for each. Just like good syndicated news readers have the ability to handle both ATOM and RSS x.x.

    In the end, its about choice. With standared, published formats it is possible. Or, would you rather the MS Office document standard to remain closed? (Perhaps that is what those whose goal in life is to bitch endlessy about MS want?)

    • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:11PM (#19958219) Journal
      Or, would you rather the MS Office document standard to remain closed?

      OOXML doesn't open it.

      It just describes it, and incompletely at that.

      The sole purpose of OOXML is to torpedo any real standard document format. With Microsoft's machinations in the various ISO committees, it's ridiculous to continue pretending they have any intention of allowing real interoperability.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by erroneus ( 253617 )
      I am against choice. I think everyone should agree with me and do as I do... and more importantly, stay out of my personal way as I'm the king of the world!

      Okay, actually, keeping this particular "standard" as an option in "choice" is a potentially dangerous thing if for no other reason than the fact that Microsoft's "standards" are always moving targets. Invariably their specifications are subject to change or additional documentation. Their format is based on and/or defined by the behavior of specific
    • by kennygraham ( 894697 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:11PM (#19958241)

      Or, would you rather the MS Office document standard to remain closed?

      OOXML is still closed. When the spec has things like "This element means to parse it like Word97 with all of Word97's obscure bugs", that's not an open standard. What we're opposed to is having garbage like that officially recognized as an open standard.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by KarmaMB84 ( 743001 )
        It's just formatting stuff that's actually considered deprecated and inappropriate for new documents. It's in the spec because if you come across them in converted Office documents you might want to either ignore them or tweak rendering a bit to make it at least not ugly.

        If they weren't in the spec, it wouldn't be the complete OOXML spec used by by Office '07.
        • by ivan256 ( 17499 )
          If they're in the document than it is either appropriate to describe their functionality, or it is necessary to provide a reference to another open document in which they are defined.

          Sure, if they weren't in the spec, it wouldn't be the complete spec (Office '07 would produce non-compliant docs), but if they're in there and there is no available description of their functionality, then it still isn't the complete spec.
        • Since the description how Office '07 interpret those definitions aint in the specification - the specification aint a complete OOXML spec as used in Office '97.

          So the specification is flawed either way.
        • It doesn't belong (Score:4, Informative)

          by jgoemat ( 565882 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:10PM (#19959059)

          You don't put something in a specification and not define how it works. It has no place in the specification. That's the whole point.

          If they weren't in the spec, it wouldn't be the complete OOXML spec used by by Office '07.

          So here we have Microsoft working backwards. They take what they did and try to create a specification for it instead of creating a specification and then programming to it. Then they leave out parts of what is actually done in Office '07 so that other parties can never be compliant with the "specification". That would be akin to the TCP specification [] saying that bit 2 in byte 14 is a flag that says the checksum should be calculated like Windows 95 does it, without specifying how that is. This is just ridiculous. Do you not understand that some documents (probably all docs imported from Word 95 which I know is in the spec, I'm not sure about Word 97) WILL use this tag, and therefore anyone trying to comply with this specification will not be able to make the documents appear as they will in Office 2007? When importing a document from Word 95 or 97, Office 2007 should convert it completely to values defined in the specification, there should be no need for these tags for "backward compatibility".

          If the specification has no way to make the spacing look the same, I would say that it is an incomplete specification (although it is 700+ pages). If there are certain quirks of Word 95 and Word 97 that would make the specification hard to understand, it doesn't matter. They should be defined exactly anyway so that ANYONE implementing the specification (and only the specification) will be able to produce documents that look the same.

    • A proper standard nobody would have a problem with. This with it's patent problems, undocumented parts that need to be reverse engineered and binary blobs, it's just not a standard.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think a lot of people are just pissed because MS is trying to bully everyone into using their format after the fact. The fact was when government agencies decided they wanted an open format, and started looking around for it. They found one (ODF). Now MS says, "No! We want you to use our format that we're going to shove down your throats!" MS should have helped with the current format more if they wanted people to use their format. Hell, they should have just opened up the format to start with!
    • by Ai Olor-Wile ( 997427 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:17PM (#19958299) Homepage
      Maybe you should read about the actual OOXML specification before saying that kinda thing. ilure.html [] ally-.html [] [] [] / []

      Read these. Then decide if you really, really believe that making this specification a standard will do anything good for the environment. The spec is simply too big and poorly-defined for anyone else to come close to implementing. If it was worth the paper it was printed on (and if you see the last link, that can be quite a lot) Microsoft wouldn't be trying to fast-track it--specifications should speak for themselves in terms of quality. Anything reasonable would have no trouble getting written into an ISO-accepted standard, no matter what company it came from.

      Pop quiz: Why the hell is fast tracking with this kind of system possible? Emergency economic situations?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WED Fan ( 911325 )

        Well thanks for the links, and already having seen them, except for one, I really must compliment you on providing a well rounded set of links that present both sides of the argument. Why, all of those are surprisingly non-slanted. Dammit, why doesn't HTML have a <Sarcasm> tag?

        Really, thats alot like saying, "Here, read all about the Mormons at []".

        So, you want to find out about Jews? Try reading "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion".

        I understand the argument, people

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Well, no, I would say that's a simplification. OOXML is an attempt at vendor lock-in, whilst appearing to be friendly. Seriously, the point of a standard is to make it easy to implement and to make sure everyone follows it. But no one can implement all six thousand "AramaiacSmallCapsLikeWord6.2ForTheMacWhenRunning U nderSystem7.2.5" features, so only Microsoft gets to claim complete compatibility. Realistically, like PL/I was in the sixties, no one will implement it. However, it'll still be a "standard," and
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            See, Billy G. and Stevie B. really, genuinely are corrupt, horrible monopolist pigs who eat babies. Why do you think that antitrust suit exists?

            Well, not exactly. Actually, Billy G. and Stevie B. simply have such a low opinion of their own ability to compete on a level playing field that they are desperate to find some way to game the system. And it's clear their problem is endemic-- a fundamental part of the way they've been operating the business for decades.

        • by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:09PM (#19959057) Homepage Journal

          In an open market of ideas, that's how it works.
          Precondition: Open market.

          Reality: MS has been found guilty of antitrust violations and leveraging its OS monopoly to support and gain market its shares in other markets.

          Check: The only software capable of even competing with the market leader product is being given away for free.

          Conclusion: The "desktop computer office suite" market is not an open market.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Ornedan ( 1093745 )
          This is about whether or not to approve a standard. The people who do not want the standard approved have pointed out technical issues with it, severe enough that they should be fixed before the standard should even be considered for approval. But you get to ignore all those problems, because obviously anything any of the opponents say can never be based on facts. The whole bloody point of a standard is to make choice be among competing, but compatible vendors instead of among incompatible vendors. The p
          • Sorry about the solid block o' text. It was supposed to be paragraphed, but a freak accident with comment mode selection ate those :P
        • Why, all of those are surprisingly non-slanted.
          Yeah, I hear you man! They need to stay neutral -- deciding A is right and B is wrong is not acceptable. Only Sith deal in absolutes!
    • by KlomDark ( 6370 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:17PM (#19958311) Homepage Journal
      Wouldn't that be nice?

      Unfortunately, the current OOXML (The Microsoft format) is so messy it's unmaintainable and unimplementable. Major holes, parts with undocumented binary data, etc. It's all a last-ditch attempt for Microsoft to continue it's office monopoly.

      They are being way sneaky with the naming too. Note that the Open is called ODF (Open Document Format), while Microsoft sneakily called theirs OOXML (Office Open XML) - which confuses everyone, as many people think that OOXML is the "good" format, since they reasonably assume that OOXML means "Open Office XML". But it's not.

      Our best attack right now is to make as many people as we can knowledgable of this name game.

      ODF: Good and Open
      OOXML: Bad and Closed by Microsoft. (It's not truly open when it comes to the details of the format)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Rudisaurus ( 675580 )
        Another suggestion (not mine; I've seen this elsewhere -- e.g. on Groklaw []): MS-XML instead of OOXML. I believe in calling a spade a spade, and that's what OOXML is: Microsoft's own internal (proprietary) format, not an open standard.
        • by KlomDark ( 6370 )
          Good idea, but that still leads people to believe there are two things - MS-XML and OOXML, which then plays right into Microsoft's hands, people thinking that OOXML is for OpenOffice.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by CowboyCapo ( 1127223 )
            Here's a possibility, one that might do the trick for the format name in question...


            Sure, it's a little longer, but it says who, in truth, the format belongs to, and the quotes around OO would indicate some falsity to the naming of the format, much in the same way that the CIA should have their middle initial surrounded by quotes as the sarcastic little bit of bullcrap that it is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Having an ODF standard should not exclude an OOXML standard.

      There are two arguments here:
      The first is that, independently of the existence of any other standards covering the same subject matter, OOXML is a poorly described, non-implementable, and otherwise bad proposed standard, and should be rejected.
      The second is that that the existence of one standard covering a topic makes additional standards covering the topic less valuable, potentially redundant, and in some cases contradictory to the purpose of st

      • A standard should be A STANDARD. Whats the point of many standards?

        Then you're back at square one with everyone using a different standard.

        Hell lets go further and just let Microsoft put any propitiatory crap that will only work with their programs and call that a standard. Oh look now we're back again with everyone using different standards but this time they're closed source so only Microsoft can use them and around, and around, and around we go.

        One file format to rule them all and in the XML spec bind th
        • Hmm. Perhaps they can title OOXML the "standard for interchange with microsoft programs" and then call ODF the "standard for interchange between non-microsoft programs" as a way of finessing it.

          Then the states and countries could say that microsoft had to be compatible with the general standard in addition to their internal standard.
    • by SnowZero ( 92219 )

      With both standards published, it is possible then for developers to include support for each.

      That only works for complete standards, which would rule out OOXML. It has tags such as "do the spacing like Word 95". How, exactly, is a developer outside of Microsoft going to support that? And how is it "open" when you reference closed binary-only software in your spec? The OOXML people could fix this, but up to now they have resisted cleaning up their spec in any major way, and continue to push it even though it has major flaws.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uglydog ( 944971 )

      In the end, its about choice. With standared, published formats it is possible. Or, would you rather the MS Office document standard to remain closed? (Perhaps that is what those whose goal in life is to bitch endlessy about MS want?)

      There is nothing preventing MS from publishing their format. That is very different from being ratified as an ISO standard. I could publish my very own file format. But if I have shoddy documentation for the file format, it is useless. No one, besides myself, could effectively use the format.
      Ratification is when a group (of people, states, etc) approve of something (a constitution, a file format). In the case of my file format, they wouldn't ratify my format because it is useless to them.

    • by pembo13 ( 770295 )

      Having an ODF standard should not exclude an OOXML standard

      But having OOXML might near exclude ODF

      it is possible then for developers to include support for each

      Yes, but what MS says in the computer world is Law

      or, would you rather the MS Office document standard to remain closed?

      From what I read, it isn't opening very much, or at least enough to consider it "open"

      Perhaps that is what those whose goal in life is to bitch endlessy about MS want?

      Do you really find that makes sense

      • by WED Fan ( 911325 )

        Perhaps that is what those whose goal in life is to bitch endlessy about MS want?

        Do you really find that makes sense

        Oh, please, you know that you mention MS in an article on /. that there are tons of calls to bone doctors because knees jerk so hard they jam them under desks. Some of these people should read /. standing up because it would entertain others with their funny walks.

        If MS were to fold up and get sucked into the near-by "Mel's Hole", 10% of /. readers would go insane because they had nothing

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @01:54PM (#19958841) Journal
      Choice in products, not in standards. You want GE and Sylvania and all other light bulb vendors fighting to sell you a light bulb which will fit the fixture you have in your house. GE should not be promoting its own "snap in" bulbs and Sylvania pushing its "screw in" standard and Phillips proposing a spring loaded catch standard. Just yesterday I discovered that the table lamp I bought from IKEA uses a bulb R17, and even IKEA does not carry replacement bulbs. I get R12 and R26 but not R17. Three "standard" bulb types and they manage to screw me. That lamp is junk now. That is what happens when you have multiple standards.

      Do you really want both Betamax and VHS? Do you really want both DVD and Laserdisk? Come on. Demand real open standards. It is not about free software. It is not about open software. It is not about non-commercial software. It is perfectly OK to have two or three proprietary closed software supporting ODF and one or two Open Source but not-free software and a couple of Open Source and free software all supporting one document standard with perfect portability across them.

      Only when users demand the ability to switch from one software to another without any loss of functionality they will have the power in negotiation. In the present situation, they have to buy whatever MSFT charges. Did you really think people will be forking over 150$ for a spreadsheet and word processor 10 years ago? The whole MS Office was selling for 50$. Now it is supposed to be 500$. Dont you see where the customers lost the ability to negotiate better prices because of vendor lock in?

    • You're mostly right.

      With well documented published formats, interoperability is increased.

      However, that does not mean that OOXML needs to become an international *standard*.

      If OOXML wasn't so crap, rushed or poor-quality, it might eventually make a decent standard. But it is crap. It is rushed. It is of piss-poor quality. It has obviously never been given a detailed review by anyone. No-one has ever built a product from the spec. (MS didn't write Office 2007's support from the spec, they wrote the spec from
  • Is it possible to implement with relative ease into ODF, all the features that Microsoft sees lacking in ODF? If possible, Microsoft should help in this effort and then standardize on ODF or tell us the disadvantages of using ODF together with all features that Microsoft wants.
    • I doubt it:

      From [] (2nd last bullet):
      Legacy document rendering compatibility is identified using (deprecated) tags. For example, book 4 section, "autoSpaceLikeWord95", "useWord97LineBreakRules", "useWord2002TableStyleRules", and book 4 section, "lineWrapLikeWord6", and "suppressTopSpacingWP" for a 16-year-old version of WordPerfect.[44]. These items should only occur in OOXML documents that were converted from predecessor Microsoft Office document
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jimicus ( 737525 )
        These items should only occur in OOXML documents that were converted from predecessor Microsoft Office documents.

        Which, for those who haven't extrapolated it yet, means "About 90% of them in any organisation which has decided to use OOXML as their standard file format".

        5 years down the line and other suites are coming out with the "Supports OOXML" box ticked, but further investigation reveals that the organisation still has a huge number of files which haven't had much attention paid to them since the conv
    • The impossibility here is not that ODF is incapable of rendering MS Office content properly; if MS wanted that to happen, it WOULD. (MS, after all, is in the best position of anyone to map their proprietary stuff to ODF and vice versa).

      No, the problem here is NOT technical, it's ideological. The feature that Microsoft wants is user lock-in. The essential feature for MS is that THEY control the standard document format, and exclude all others from adequately rendering that format, keeping essentially all use
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Is it possible to implement with relative ease into ODF, all the features that Microsoft sees lacking in ODF?

      With the behaviour and errors that Microsot insists on including, no. It is possible to convert such gems as 1900 is a leap year in an application that reads/writes MSO file formats. To make that behaviour mandatory is absurd.

      Most of the other complaints that Microsoft has are trivial/non-existent.

      Furthermore, OOXML can not correctly render most of the world's writing systems, or languages.


    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A ISO standard is a standard to interchange data between different applications from different vendors. A standard has to be usable for everyone. For instance.. a feature implemented in OpenOffice that will not work in MS-Office (and vice-versa) will not be considered a part of the standard. Especially when some things cannot be included because of the closed en hidden character of the implementation you cannot use it as a standard, because it is not interchangeable!

      So - to demand a ISO standard has to incl
  • We have two open standards. The Microsoft (a big company) open standard is setup to be backwards compatible with all the weird crap imposed by their prior formats (which makes sense, since documents tend to be stored in these formats), whereas as ODF is completely new format pushed by another massive software company... Sun (and sometimes IBM, another friendly open source lollipop factory).

    What does this have to do with anything? Last I checked, OpenOffice can save in xml and Microsoft Word can save in ODF
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mingot ( 665080 )
      If ODF, as it stands, were released by Microsoft and called Microsoft ODF, we'd have the same level of FSF, GNU, etc pushback

      Oh there would be MUCH much more.

      Check the "Criticism" section of the ODF wikipedia article for a good starting point.
      • I just did. All the issues seem relatively small (or at least, not fundamental problems) and about half have fixes in progress.

        Just take a look yourself:

        1. m []
        2. []

        The second one looks like it could have come from alt.sysadmin.recovery [].

        • by mingot ( 665080 )
          Sure, that's true, never said otherwise. But imagine if MS had released ODF and there were no excel formula definitions. Say what you will about word, but Excel is the crown jewel of office and if the format did not define something as fundemental as the the forumals and I tried to come back with "it's in progress" I'd get laughed off the stage.

          And of course I can use the same cop out for criticism to OOXML. There are fixes in progress (and yes, there are. MS knows there will be "with comments" votes
    • The Microsoft (a big company) open standard is setup to be backwards compatible with all the weird crap imposed by their prior formats (which makes sense, since documents tend to be stored in these formats)

      But their so-called standard really isn't a standard. Within the definition of OOXML are statements that are basically "implement this like Office 95 did", without any additional detail. The only company in the world that can implement these sorts of things is Microsoft themselves since Office 95 isn't
    • by Alsee ( 515537 )
      We have two open standards.


      I am a programmer. I have looked at enough of Microsoft's proposed specification to competently comment on it. The proposal Microsoft has put forward is incomplete and unimplementable by anyone other than Microsoft themselves. One can argue whether that is deliberate or merely an honest failure by Microsoft's specification team, but that point is immaterial. Either way the simple fact is that it is unusable.

      Publishing a document that effectively says "Use formats that Microsoft
  • I've used M$ word, and corel, star office, and OO pretty extensively, even taught courses in M$ Office certification, and other that just making documents an eyesore, I still see a reason we can't just use RTF... Course me sending in resumes in RTF might also explain why I can't get a decent job...
  • A "standard" means one, not several -- especially when they don't interoperate with each other.
  • Microsoft had to do some heavy hacking (and stacking of the standards organizations), just to get OOXML this far. Don't presume that they're not continuing their legal footwork behind the scenes to make sure that the people who need to vote for OOXML don't just give up and vote 'yes' to get Microsoft off of their back (or get MS money in their pocket, or whatever it is that MS pushes as a reason to vote for OOXML).

    Watch this situation closely, and if you can put your hand into the process to make sure th

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel