Two Sides of the OOXML Coin
Maybe it's because I'm a middle child in an angry, Irish family, but I've always
played the role of diplomat. Whether it's soothing tempers around the dinner
table or hoping to find common ground in a heated political discussion, I'm
not one to admire intransigence.
So imagine my dilemma covering the ongoing push to make Office Open XML (OOXML)
an ISO standard. After talking to some of the brightest minds in the industry,
I've come to an unsatisfying conclusion: Smart people can, and often must, disagree.
And sometimes, they must disagree violently.
Which helps explain the invective coming out of the open source and OpenDocument
Format (ODF) community this week, in the wake of the April 1 announcement by
the ISO that OOXML had, indeed, won
approval as a standard.
Sun's Tim Bray, who represented Canada in the ISO Ballot Resolution Meeting
in his blog back on Feb. 29 at the conclusion of the BRM session:
"The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullsh*t. I'm not
an ISO expert, but whatever their 'Fast Track' process was designed for, it
sure wasn't this. You just can't revise six thousand pages of deeply complex
specification-ware in the time that was provided for the process."
essay offers a more balanced perspective, though his criticism of the technical
Meanwhile, guys like Mono Project founder Miguel de Icaza praise
the technical worth of OOXML and earn a firestorm of scathing critique from
open source advocates. Andrew Brust, an RDN contributor, Microsoft regional
director and chief of new technology at consultancy twentysix New York, said
of the process that Microsoft was forced to counter targeted opposition from
competitors and open source advocates.
"I think the worst you can say about that effort was that it was necessary
to make the vote fair, and it was unfortunate that the OOXML standard could
not be judged exclusively on its technical merits," Brust said. "Were
it judged that way, without the politics, I think it would have won approval
[in the first round of voting], and done so with much less rancor."
OOXML has passed muster in the ISO, and Microsoft is, predictably, calling
for people to set aside their differences in the ratification process and move
forward. But with the European Commission looking
for signs that Microsoft abused its monopoly position in the ISO process,
and the real possibility of an appeal being filed, it's clear that the healing
process may take longer to start than even a diplomat like myself might hope.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/03/2008 at 1:15 PM