OFE statement on the DIS29500 ISO Vote

Approval but at what cost to Microsoft and the International Standards Process?

Given the immense resources that Microsoft has poured into persuading National Bodies and Governments across the world to gain approval for DIS 29500 (OOXML), there should be little surprise that MS has won a sufficient majority to enable the specification to be pushed forward as a fast track project within ISO.  Nevertheless, the market has responded with incomprehension as to how such a decision could be made.  The result could well prove a hollow victory for Microsoft. It comes at a considerable cost to the reputations of Microsoft, ECMA and the International Standards Organisation (ISO).  The outcome may be regarded as a considerable success for the Open Source and Open Standards communities. Never before has such a universal response been marshalled by these communities. The outreach has been second to none. The Open Source and Open Standards communities have clearly demonstrated both their underlying strength and endurance. They will not go away. Many important alliances have been forged across the world demonstrating a real victory for Openness and for the Open Document Format process which has been clearly demonstrated as transparent and applicable across a whole range of vendors. Microsoft will experience ever increasing and costly outspoken grass roots opposition across the world to vendor specific business models and related practices.

Various investigations of mal or dubious practice/irregularities are in progress, not least by the European Commission.  We expect new allegations to surface.

So what is the status?

We have seen disapproving votes from emerging and large countries like China, India, Brazil and South Africa which speak volumes to the fact, that there is real evidence that many people worldwide agree that DIS 29500 is not suitable to be published as an international standard in its present form.

In addition, there are a significant number of unresolved issues, including incompatible licensing conditions, single vendor interest and unresolved change control issues as well as those other factors uncovered since the original comment period closed. It is noteworthy that an increasing degree of secrecy has occurred throughout the whole process including the fact, that national bodies voted for the specification blindly without having been the revisions made at the Ballot Resolution Meeting of ISO in late February in Geneva which have not yet been published. The resolution of a large number of dispositions by a paper vote appears to be contrary to normal practice and did not do justice to the seriousness of the dispositions themselves.

The OFE conclusion is such a standard, when finally published, would govern the manipulation of all future documents and lock users into a single supplier environment for those who adopt it. The OOXML specification in its current form will:
- Stifle competition
- Diminish innovation overall
- Severely restrict consumer choice
- Block Government choice and
- Limit the ability of SMEs to innovate and compete all at a considerable economic cost to those National Governments which adopt OOXML.

National Governments can demonstrate their independence by adopting the multi-vendor ODF standard DIS 29300 as the standard of choice rather than locking themselves into a secret single vendor specification.

We should not forget, that international standards are by their very nature voluntary.

Graham Taylor
Chief Executive
OpenForum Europe
0771 359 3217

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