Anyone who is surprised by any of this should check their history books...

Although Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format became an ISO standard two years ago, the company still hasn't built any software that truly complies with the standard. Microsoft Office 2010, which is expected to be released later this year, implements the deprecated "transitional" version of the format and is not compatible with the version that was crafted by the standards body.

Microsoft's failure to adopt the standard version of the format after two years has drawn criticism from Alex Brown, the convener of ISO's OOXML subcommittee (SC34). Brown was consistently supportive of Microsoft's push to obtain fast-track approval for OOXML during and after the ISO review process, but his optimism appears to be waning. In a recent blog entry, Brown contends that Microsoft is not fulfilling its commitment to adopt the ISO's edited version of the standard. ... Microsoft committed to adopt ISO's edited version of the format, but has clearly not done so in Office 2010. Microsoft's software is still largely based on the original 2007 version of the specification, the one that was rejected by ISO. Brown is particularly concerned by the extent to which Office 2010 relies on deprecated features that are only supposed to be used for legacy document compatibility.
I wrote extensively about the OOXML standardization battle at the time, though I was not directly involved in the process.  All I knew is that all the "evil empire" tactics that had lead to my extreme professional dislike of Microsoft as a corporation were playing out on a global battlefield, with crazy extremes of ballot stuffing, countries that didn't care participating, and even musical chairs in one country (Portugal) to ensure that the vote when Redmond's way.

In the comments on Alex Brown's blog entry, he still seems genuinely surprised and bewildered that anyone believes Microsoft acted with malicious intent in the process, or that anyone other than he should hold himself accountable for the way the ISO ballot was handled in the end.  The blog entry recognizes that perhaps Microsoft played him a bit, but he refuses to chalk it up to any individuals or even systematic intent, just a broken set of process.  He cites the "open letter" from Microsoft VP Chris Caposella that was written at the time of the ISO ballot, yet I doubt this issue is even on Mr. Caposella's radar right now, or that he'd take a call from Alex Brown.  Somewhere down the comment thread, a Microsoftie says he'd like to respond to all of this, but that he needs the weekend...meanwhile, the press has already taken to Brown's side, and declared the effort a failure.  As Ars Technica concludes:
It is now abundantly clear that fast-track approval of OOXML was a mistake. By giving Microsoft the approval first with the intention of correcting the problems in the standard later, ISO eliminated the incentive for Microsoft to take conformance seriously. It is increasingly obvious that Microsoft only wanted to be able to advertise its format as being ISO-approved and never really cared about interoperability or actual conformance with the standard.
Actually, it was obvious before it happened.  Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Link: Ars Technica: ISO OOXML convener: Microsoft's format "heading for failure" >

Post a Comment