back to article Microsoft accused of ballot stuffing in standards vote

Microsoft has been accused of rigging a vote on the ratification of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an international standard at a government body in Sweden. Swedish internet pioneer Patrik Falstrom has accused Microsoft of bussing in local partners to a Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) meeting on OSI ratification of OOXML. The …


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  1. Sam Liddicott

    Perchance purchaser of Diebold?

    Is this a subtle way of engendering shareholder approval for a purchase of the Diebold electronic vote manipulation business?

    It seems to me that nefarious attempts to rule the market by force will push any company down hill much quicker than any natural decline would.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Single vendor suicide

    This ISO thing is a side issue. The problems with OOXML remains, it originates from a single vendor and that vendor claims IP rights over it. All products that use it, need a license from that vendor, and so any government that uses that format will be at the mercy of that company and it's license policy.

    The whole ISO thing is something of a joke, nothing but a play on the word 'standard'. If ISO didn't endorse it, MS would simply find some other standards body to endorse it. Simply so they can say it's a 'standard'.

    But there's nothing stopping them creating OOXML+ with Microsoft extensions, nothing to stop them changing the license terms for each revision, and no reason why anyone would lock themselves into a single supplier situation. The play on the word 'standard' doesn't fix anything.

    What next? Will they get the XBox360 declared an ISO standard to try to fix it's poor sales? Will Microsoft 'Bob' make a comeback as ISO standard 294857. If they can simply stuff the ballot with Microsoft Certified Partners, then both these are easily doable, but neither would fix the shortcomings in those products.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OOXML approval doesn't matter

    Current MS applications do NOT conform to the proposed standard. Office formats remain as closed as ever. Even if approved, OOXML does not make MS product any more attractive from a standards point of view unless the company is prepared to change its practises wrt standards.

  4. Gerry

    Amazing world

    America. land of free speech, ex-long time scourge of all things Soviet, might yet have free speech saved by Russia

  5. Greg Nelson

    A Right Of The People

    While I can't recall the particulars I'm certain there was a legal precedent set in Canada that governments have a duty to use a format accessible by all or as many citizens as possible. Free software should take precedence over proprietary software as people are more enabled by free software when petitioning a level of government. And open source software should take precedence over closed source software in dealings with the government for the same reasons and for the TAO of good democratic government. ( Transparency, Accountability, Openness ) Proprietary software is an impediment much as it would be an impediment for a level of government to demand a petition from it's citizens be in a format inaccessible to some by dint of cost.

  6. Gerard ter Beke

    Votes were bought

    Read and weep:

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Microsoft bought voters so they could have their way? Is this supposed to be surprising? Really?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Halloween Memo??

    It is being reported that Microsoft sent a Memo to Microsoft partners in Sweden, telling them to join the Swedish Institute of Standards and vote yes on OOXML.

    Apparently it states that partners are "expected" to join the standards insitute and "participate on the meeting the 27/8, to vote yes to Open XML”.

    The partner companies are also asked to participate in some additional meeting after the ballot, this to "show their good judgment".

    For the partners that do not feel they are adequately knowledgeable about the subject, Microsoft offers ready-made arguments as to why Office Open XML should be accepted by SIS.

    ”[The partner companies] do not need to discuss the technical contents in the specification but should be prepared to offer a few arguments as to why they vote yes - these will be provided by Microsoft", the company writes. The fee for joining SIS is 15 000 SEK [appx $1200] and the partnership companies will have to cover this themselves, but the software giant offers "marketing support" and "additional support in the form of Microsoft resources" to the partners that join and participate in the ballot.

    Now if this really is true and the memo does exist its just more ammunition against Microsoft. I'm sure the EU commission will be interested to find that, as expected, Microsoft is still involved in illegal practices, corruption and vote rigging.

  9. Brett Brennan

    Welcome to the real world

    I don't like this any more than the next OSS guy, but, hey, this is the way things work in the real world. Microsoft and its partners did not do anything illegal or outside the rules of the standards group. It was simply immoral.

    If the rest of the OSS community really cares about this, they will "pull off a Microsoft" at all the other ratification votes and kill this once and for all. Get IBM, SUN, Novell and all the rest to register their partners and turn them out for the vote.

    Maybe if everyone does this, the standards groups will stop looking like a vendor version of "Fight Club" and become more the broad-base organizations that they should be.

    Or maybe it will just end up as a world-wide "Fight Club". Either way it's more fun than this mess.

  10. Dave

    If you are Swedish and support open standards...

    ... boycott the following businesses

    Camako Data AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Connecta AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Cornerstone Sweden AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Cybernetics (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Emric AB, Exor AB (Microsoft Certified Partner), Fishbone Systems AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Formpipe Software (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), FS System AB, HP (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), IBizkit AB (Microsoft Certified Partner), IDE Nätverkskonsulterna (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Know IT (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Modul1 (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Nordic Station AB (Microsoft Certified Partner), ReadSoft AB (Microsoft Certified Partner), Sogeti (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Solid Park AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), Strand Interconnect AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner) and TietoEnator (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)

  11. A J Stiles

    International Standards

    Surely anything that is afforded the status of an international standard must by definition be free of any encumbered "intellectual property" ?

    i.e. if OOXML gets approve as an ISO standard, then any patents in it will be *annulled*!

    Or does that only happen when a national standards body (e.g. BSI) affords an ISO standard the status of a national standard?

    It would surely be against any country's constitution to have a national standard depend on "intellectual property" -- a legal fiction -- belonging to a corporation -- another legal fiction!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Microsoft was unable to comment on the vote at time of going to press."

    Perhaps nobody has told you, but "El Reg" doesn't actually go to press. It's on that new-fangled internet thingy you may have heard about.

  13. SevenT

    IT Angle

    I've been through enough incarnations of Windows to understand some of the thinking behind the Chinese policy.

  14. Don Mitchell


    Wait, Sweden had an "internet pioneer"? Is that just a label every computer scientist stamps on himself when he wants to make a public political statement about the computer industry?

  15. Adam Azarchs

    "widely used standards"

    Explain to me how ODF counts as a widely used standard (for the Russian law). It's open, sure. But it is nothing close to as widely used as MS .doc format. I don't see that law as helping ODF.

  16. James Butler

    Not just Sweden...

    Lots of nice links explaining things in that last page...

    (Disclosure: Links from The Internet Society Chapter Delegates mailing list .. I'm Chairman of the BOD of the Los Angeles Chapter. NOT the Chinese "Internet Society", but the "real" one...)

  17. James Butler

    From the ODF:

    "The alliance works globally to educate policymakers, IT administrators and the public on the benefits and opportunities of the OpenDocument Format, to help ensure that government information, records and documents are fully and natively accessible across platforms and applications, even as technologies change."

    Even though it is widely used, the .DOC format certainly does not pass this simple test. Note the "even as technologies change" comment. Can you open a .DOC file created with Word 2007 in any other application other than Word 2007? Nope. Therefore it is not an "opendocument format". Can you open a .TXT file created with Word 2007 in any other application other than Word 2007? Sure can. So the .TXT format is more "open".

    Interoperability is the key, "even as technologies change".

    Microsoft's OOXML is only readable using Office 2007 technology, or badly translated by one of the available conversion programs. It's far from "open", has licensing restrictions, and only works reasonably well with Microsoft applications.

    These and many other reasons are why OOXML is not being supported in its bid for ISO approval by any of the non-affiliated organizations.

  18. Doug

    re: From the ODF

    it does not matter what the ODF says or doesn't, what is going on here is that Microsoft is purchasing it's way into the ISO to become a public standard. As bad/closed/proprietary/crappy as MS-OOXML is, they are corrupting the ISO organizations structure such that they can just pay companies to join the local ISO org and vote for Microsofts MS-OOXML.

    Doesn't matter if ODF exists or does not and the ISO needs to stop the process now and stop it in its tracks. They have to know this is going on and the steering committee should end this now before it is too late.

  19. Patrik Fältström

    I am not mainly complaining on Microsoft

    This article have some claims that are not completely correct.

    First of all, I am not calling myself an Internet Pioneer. When I started work with Internet in Sweden (1987) other people already was working with it of course. What is true is that there where not many of us...

    Secondly, the main problem is not with Microsoft, but with the way the standards organisation SiS has managed the situation. One can not in any standards organisation combine "open to everyone" and "voting". That scenario will always at some point in time be misused. Specifically should voting not be used in a situation where there is no consensus in the group, and the vote (in ISO in this case) does not have to be "Yes" or "No" (i.e. black and white).

    This situation / broken process has now been used by Microsoft. I do not blame them for that. It is to some degree their responsibility to their shareholders.

    The second problem is that OOXML is not a good standard. It has many flaws. Those flaws might be possible to fix, but as long as there are flaws in any standard so that no interoperability is possible, the documents are not ready.

    So the in an ethical way wrong behaviour by Microsoft is to push something through an SDO that is not ready yet. Show a document that specifies OOXML, show an implementation of it (your own, like Word) that implements all features, and then a second implementation that do not share any code base, engineers etc that produce interoperable documents. That should be the measurement on whether a standard can be called a standard.

    We are not there yet regarding OOXML, and the bad thing is that Microsoft and others that do push OOXML (for reasons I understand) manage to use loop holes in the SDO process.

    It will be interesting to see what Sweden actually will vote in ISO on Sep 3. Do they have a spine strong enough to vote against the suggestion from the working group (that Microsoft stuffed)?

    We'll see. Movie at 11.

    /Patrik Fältström (look how well the register handle non-ascii ;-) )

  20. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "only works reasonably well with Microsoft applications"

    Well, actually the accuracy of that last phrase kinda depends on what the next patch is going to do to your system, doesn't it ?

    And no telling what happens if you change Office versions . . .

  21. franco merletti


    where is ethics? are NBs working serious or they are commercial proxies?

    Exor AB: (Microsoft Partner) [,1895,1776744,00.asp , ]

    Formpipe software AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ ]

    H-Vision AB


    Cybernetics (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ ]


    Ibizkit AB (Microsoft Partner) []

    Readrift AB

    Emric AB (Microsoft Partner) [

    , ]

    Strand Interconnect AB (Microsoft Gold Partner ) [

    , ]

    Nordicstation AB (Microsoft Partner) [ ]

    Sourcetech AB (Microsoft Partner ) [ ]

    Cornerstone Sweden AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ ]

    Solid Park AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [, ]

    Fishbone systems AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ ]

    FSSystem AB (MS Shop?) [ ]

    KnowIT Sverige (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ , ]

    Modul 1 (Microsoft Gold Partner) ,

    IDE Nätverkskonsulter (Microsoft Gold Partner) [


    Connecta AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) ,

    Camako Data AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [

    , ]

    Sogeti AB (Microsoft Gold Partner) [ , ]

    Tieto Enator Corp. (Microsoft Gold Partner) [

    , ]

  22. Landreth

    The Swedish OOXML vote has been declared invalid!

    The Swedish Standards Institute has last night issued a press release where they declared this weeks earlier vote regarding OOXML as invalid and by that Sweden don't have any official position regarding OOXML any more.

    According to the press release issued by SIS tonight (the pdf document is created 18:05 CET) the SIS board has declared this weeks earlier OOXML vote as invalid due to that one of the participating companies has voted two times where the SIS rules clearly says that each company can only cast one vote each.

    Microsoft had 3 persons to represent them at the SIS meeting and it looks like that Microsoft was the one to voted two times.

    Due to this and since it's highly unlikely that SIS will be able to organise a new vote before the 2nd September, Sweden will then not participate in the international vote regarding OOXML.

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