back to article EC probes OOXML standards-setting process

European anti-trust regulators are examining the voting process behind the passing of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) file format as an international standard earlier this week. The contentious specification secured official approval on Wednesday, having picked up two-thirds of the vote from delegates representing 87 …


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  1. Neil Greatorex

    "when OOXML control and maintenance is fully transferred to JTC1 (ISO/IEC)”


    We'll be ice skating down below before this happens.

    I think most of us here have read Rob Weirs blog, but for those that haven't, have a shufti at:

    scroll down to the table showing the way OOXML handles formatting. How can this "Standard" have passed.

    PS Office 2007 doesn't use OOXML as far as I can tell (have to use it at work)

  2. Dr. Mouse


    Microsoft? Abuse their position to promote their product? And try to force a half-baked solution on us?

    Never! I dont beleive it! Microsoft is the All-knowing Holy Father of All that is Good. It would never do anything for it's own personal gain, prefering instead to bring hamony and light to people of every creed, colour and OS-orientation. All praise be to the Almighty Microso...

    *** GENERAL PROTECTION FAULT: Bullshit overload in sector 03F6B2AE. Please say 6 "Hail-Bills" to continue ***

  3. Robert Grant

    Where do we write...

    if we want to complain? Let's get some of the non-ranty Reg readers on the task :)

  4. Fox

    I suddenly feel a bit better about the world!

    Best news I've heard for ages.

    Perhaps this sort of sh*t isn't going to be allowed to go on any more, after all.

  5. R Callan

    Minor nit

    Umm Office 2007 doesn't use (D)IS 29500 but pre-(D)IS 29500! The format used by MS will need to be changed before MS Office conforms to the standard. There were hundreds to thousands of changes made to the original draft spec before it was (possibly) passed. Even then there is some doubt as to whether MS Office 2007 conformed to the submitted spec.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Need a different approach

    The complaints are about a problem nobody seems willing to solve. It's all about lock-in through complexity. OOXML is exceptionally bad, but ODF isn't much better. With standard people normally seek a diverse market with a level playing-field, and seek to lower the hurdles to partitipate. None of the available standards is able to deliver this for office applications, as they aim to promote overly complex software for tasks that really don't need this kind of complexity.

    What the world really need is a hierarchical set of standards that cover everything from simple un-formatted text to the most complex ooxml can offer (and beyond), coupled with requirements for applications to always store data according to the simplest set of these standards required to handle the actual content. This can in many ways be compared to how the family of IP protocols i defined in IETF standards. Requirements for implementations is just one IETF principle that should be adopted in this process. The requirement for multiple independent implementations of a standards prior to its approval is another.

  7. David

    @Neil Greatorex

    "Office 2007... (have to use it at work)"

    You have my sympathy. Can you reveal the name of your employer?

  8. Tom

    There never was anything to worry about...

    Microsoft were never going to use the standard:

    If they used the standard then they could read in the standard. Which meant that you could save a fortune by running Open Office (which would be able to write a pretty comprehensive subset of the standard by the time MS actually try to implement it in one of their rameaters) and then using one copy of whatever MS software was necessary to move that pointless piece of styling the sub pixel fraction required by some AR in the marketing department.

    So if they actually adhered to the standard they'd loose their monopoly anyway.

    Its a bit of a Mexican standoff with one man and some fairground mirrors and few crazies in the crowd shouting foul!

  9. Neil Greatorex

    @ By David

    I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that...

  10. Ted Powell

    How much better?

    "OOXML is exceptionally bad, but ODF isn't much better."

    How much better is ODF? One way to calculate that is (number of conforming implementations of ODF) / (number of conforming implementations of OOXML). Let's see now... That works out to about... (half a dozen or so) / (zero).

    Remember the old joke about how many MS programmers does it take to change a lightbulb? MS _has_ defined darkness as the new standard!

    MS-OOXML is a dead parrot nailed to the ISO/IEC perch.

  11. Mark Blafkin

    IBM Restraint More Likely Out of Fear of Examination of its Own Standards Practices

    As former Ecma president Jan van den Beld wrote in his blog, IBM has long dominated ISO and other standards processes and has used a lot of questionable tactics along the way, including in the OOXML debate. IBM doesn't want a full fledged investigation of standards processes, because it is IBM rather than MIcrosoft that will take the biggest lumps in that process. More importantly, it might lead to changes that will limit IBM's longtime ability to manipulate standards bodies.

  12. Paul


    Bah humbug to it all. OOXML, ODF, the whole bloody lot.

    I'll be using plaintext ASCII files for everything from now on. Now *there's* a standard we can work with.

    What's that you say? Even that isn't standard? LF, CRLF, CR, weird codepages? Well bugger that for a game of Global Thermonuclear Warfare, then.

  13. Ed

    Re: Need a different approach

    It's possible that ODF is more complicated than it needs to be. However, from what I've seen of the spec, it isn't that complex, most things only have one obvious way to do them, and it is relatively consistent.

    There are a large number of elements which are not obvious needs for writing documents - many of them apply only to particular languages or to functions which are extraneous to printing papers. However, the first case of these are needed for any global standard - nobody can conscionably ask a nation to accept a word processing standard which does not support all of the primary written languages that nation uses. The second case is debatable - but you're going to have them in *any* international open standard, because there are people who care enough about them to show up to the standards meetings.

    Further, there's quite a few different software projects which have not felt that ODF is too complicated.

    All of that having been said, if you feel you can improve on the concept, feel free. ODF is an open standard, and anyone can participate. Furthermore, as I understand it, so long as you comply with their guidelines and processes, the IETF would probably not object to an RFC for Simple Document Format.

  14. Ross

    @Robert Grant

    [Let's get some of the non-ranty Reg readers on the task]

    What, both of them?!

    I still don't get how the voting process "works", given that by my maths more Norwegian folk voted against OOXML than for it, but the Norwegian vote was for. I think this may drag on a while...

    And as an aside - "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that..." = best post of the year so far.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ted Powell

    No, no, it's... it's resting.

  16. Brett Brennan

    Really simple solution

    Microsoft will raise the retail and OEM built-in price of Office 2007 and subsequent versions by 15%, then give every government a free unlimited use license for the product. However, they will still need to purchase Windows at the regular retail price to qualify...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And on the reults being released:

    EC finds MS guilty of tampering with the voting process - cue lots of people saying 'told you so'

    EC finds no evidence of any irregularity - cue lots of people saying MS has paid the commission/MS have hidden the evidence/No way is this true MS have done something

  18. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    @Ross@Robert Grant

    No, fool!

    Half of them is plenty, then if they won't listen to reason we'll unleash the Surge Troopers.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The story so far.

    Disclamer- this is an fictional piece, fiction been the the only form of truth that pro MS types believe.

    I would like to illustrate the infamous ODF MS-OOXML debate with an analogy, using a football match.

    So we have a football match in progress and it is half time. The ODF team, against the pundits predictions, is leading the MS-OOXML team 2 to 0.

    While not having the resources of MS at there disposal, the ODF manager has concentrated on building a good, fit balanced team which integrates well and does a good, serviceable job with some flashes of brilliance.

    On the other hand, the MS manager, having long since forgotten what competition was has just slapped together a team without any real planning. In reality, the MS manager doesn't know shit about running a side. As such, he has names in his side which and now ancient and crippled (Pele), once functional but now past usefulness (Beckham) and the obligatory bloat (Maradona). Looks good on paper but is not balanced on the pitch and does very few things excellently, some things well and things at times woefully.

    From the beginning, the game did not mean much to MS. To MS-OOXML it seemed like a mere indulgence letting ODF compete with them, a PR exercise to show what a bunch of nice, co-operative people MS are. But as the half progressed, it became apparent to MS that it needed to win and a loss could seriously weaken the foundations of the company. As two goals were slotted home for the ODF team, panic at MS started to set in. So they hastily cobbled together a strategy to 'even things between the teams' which they implemented at half time. The plan was to make some 'minor, necessary changes' for the second half. After 'negotiating with officials' in the time honored and expensive way, the changes were:

    1)All MS players plus substitutes and emergencies allowed on the pitch at the same time.

    2)The two ODF goal scorers red carded and no substitutes at all for second half.

    3)When the Norwegian referee awarded a penalty to either side, the MS-OOXML side would take the benefit.

    In its generosity, MS allowed the two goals to stand. I mean, disallowing the goals would be unfair and counter to the lofty goals MS stands for, fairness and competition. And fairness and competition are core values at MS and it made sure everyone knew that interfering in the score was abhorrent to it's principles. Changing the playing conditions though was fine, it would make things more 'even' and benefit the fans and spectators only. The spectacle of the game was important to MS only, not just winning. They do this stuff for the people, never for self interest.

    Predictably, the press swallowed the line. If they didn't, no more free team shirts and VIP passes etc. A minority grumbled, but they have an agenda and an axe to grind. The nay-sayers will never,ever be satisfied and thus can be dismissed by all the MS true believers who love the golden glow of their favorite team. After all it was only a football match, no harm in bending the rules slightly, especially if it means better competition and benefit for fans. And MS is the biggest team with the most supporters and we all love to back the winning side, don't we, no matter the cost.

    Naturally, the bookies shortened the odds to have MS-OOXML once again the outright favorite to win with ODF long odds.

    But I would not mind a tenner on that ODF team. Could pay off handsomely in the end.

  20. Leo Maxwell

    don't trust the press

    I remember the BBC news announcing "nearly 37 percent of Microsoft corpoate customers have taken up software assurance" on the way home one night in the car.

    I thought " But that means more than 63 percent haven't! Hardly a resounding endorsement."- but that was what it was being spun as....

    Maybe MS are taking lessons from Mugabe.If you lose, lie about it, keep bribing and asking for recounts.

  21. Geoff Mackenzie

    @Neil Greatorex

    Unusual surname - any relation to Joe Greatorex of Glasgow, Scotland? :)

    Just to stay vaguely on topic ... doesn't it boggle the mind that it looks like the ISO have just approved a standard for which no actual implementations exist?

  22. capsaicin

    The real problem

    The real problem here is that national standards bodies have never been attuned to defining standards that are for the benefit of the populace, but only for the benefit of industry since they consist of committees where industry is found. IT standards are the only ones to date where this actually matters and the national standards oversight has not realised this yet. The only way, IMHO, to stop the present abuse is to complain to each and every national standards body to ask for their reasoning in accepting this standard and getting them to justify it with reference to the general well-being of their nation through the _users_ of the standard. Freedom of Information acts, etc. may help here to flush out the truth.


  23. John Angelico
    Thumb Down

    Why did they have to do it?

    MS claims that DIS29500 is clearly for the benefit of the computing populace.

    Not-so-naive Questions:

    1. If it's so good, why is there such a stink over the strong-arm tactics they employed, as reported by participants, including some who favour DIS29500?

    2. If it's so good, why did it have to be <b>pushed through</b> the Fast-Track process, rather than simply swanning its way through?

  24. Neil Greatorex

    @ By Geoff Mackenzie


    Quite possibly, but not to my knowledge. All "greatorexes" have a single common ancestor, so we are all related in some fashion. Mind you, we breed like "greatorexes", so there's now a shed-load of us :-)

  25. Mark

    re: And on the reults being released:

    And before they start looking, you're already saying what will happen.

    Look in the mirror.

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