Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Microsoft, OOXML and ISO

Glyn Moody has an excellent article in Linux Journal on the process Microsoft went through to get OOXML approved as an international standard at ISO.

"I have been covering Microsoft for over 25 years - I've even written a few books about Windows. During that time, I've developed a certain respect for a company that just doesn't give up, and whose ability to spin surpasses even that of politicians. To be sure, Microsoft has crossed the line several times, but it has always worked within the system, however much it has attempted to use it for its own ends. No more: in the course of trying to force OOXML through the ISO fast-track process, it has finally gone further and attacked the system itself; in the process it has destroyed the credibility of the ISO, with serious knock-on consequences for the whole concept of open standards...

Leaving aside the intriguing idea that approving two, rival document standards may fall foul of the World Trade Organisation, there is also the interesting prospect of the EU getting interested. Some in Denmark have have already already complained to the EU about OOXML, and a posting from Poland claims that "the European Commission is currently investingating the Polish OOXML standarization process." And this is on top of an earlier statement from the European Commission that it would be examining "whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products." Microsoft may have won the ISO battle, but it could well end up losing the rather more important war with the European Commission, which has already shown itself deeply unimpressed with Microsoft's approach to business."

Read it in full, for a great picture of the kind of behind the scenes work that large organisations engage in to bend the markets, often less-than-subtly, in their own favour.

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