IBM: Thumbs up for OOXML!

by jlundstocholm 16. April 2009 23:32

Today news broke that ANSI (the US national standardisation guys) recently voted on the subject of approving OOXML as an "American National Standard".

The text of the ballot was:

Approval to Adopt the International Standards listed below as American National Standards:

  • ISO/IEC 29500-1:2008 (...) Part 1: Fundamentals and Markup Language Reference
  • ISO/IEC 29500-2:2008 (...) Part 2: Open Packaging Conventions
  • ISO/IEC 29500-3:2008 (...) Part 3: Markup Compatibility and Extensibility
  • ISO/IEC 29500-4:2008 (...) Part 4: Transitional Migration Features

A total of 20 organisations/entities voted and the result was

  • Approve: 12
  • No: 0
  • Abstain: 2
  • Not voted: 2

The details are here:

DateOrganizationYesNoAbstainNot Yet
TOTAL 12 0 2 4
03/16/2009 Adobe Systems       X
04/13/2009 Apple Inc X      
04/15/2009 Department of Homeland Security X      
03/16/2009 DMTF       X
04/09/2009 Electronic Industries Alliance X      
03/16/2009 EMC X      
03/16/2009 Farance, Incorporated       X
03/16/2009 Google       X
04/15/2009 GS1 US     X   Comments
04/13/2009 Hewlett Packard Co X      
03/24/2009 IBM Corp X      
04/15/2009 IEEE     X   Comments
04/08/2009 Intel X      
03/18/2009 Lexmark International X      
03/17/2009 Microsoft X      
03/16/2009 NIST X      
03/19/2009 Oracle X      
03/16/2009 US Department of Defense X      

An interesting vote here is naturally the vote of "International Business Machines Corp", otherwise known as IBM. It seems they now support OOXML - good for them.

I think it is an extremely positive move from IBM and I salute them for finally getting their act together and supporting OOXML. I also hope IBM will tread in the footsteps of Microsoft in terms of TC-participation and join us in SC34/WG4 to contribute to the work we do. I think it is positive for the industry that Microsoft finally joined OASIS ODF TC last summer, and I hope IBM will do the same with SC34/WG4 - we need other vendors besides Microsoft at the table. I also hope this means that IBM will speed up support for OOXML in either Lotus Symphony or OpenOffice.org. The support for OOXML in other applications than Microsoft Office 2007 is ridiculously low.

Thank you, IBM - you really made my day.

Smile

PS: I appologize for the colors of the table above

 

Comments

4/17/2009 4:39:07 AM #

Chris Puttick

Support for ISO OOXML is exactly zero - MSO2k7 runs something different. Need for support for OOXML is zero, unless you need to automatically process very complex MSO files into XML with a higher fidelity than is possible than with ODF. Still have not uncovered anyone who has that particular use case scenario!

Chris Puttick United Kingdom |

4/17/2009 6:03:05 AM #

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4/17/2009 6:41:18 AM #

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4/17/2009 11:31:08 PM #

Italo Vignoli

OpenOffice.org reads - and therefore supports - OOXML files, and is not an IBM product (in the sense that IBM cannot decide - given their involvement, even influence - the development strategy).

IBM, of course, can do whatever it wants with Symphony.

Italo Vignoli Italy |

4/17/2009 11:48:50 PM #

jlundstocholm

Italo,

OpenOffice.org reads - and therefore supports - OOXML files, and is not an IBM product

My point was just that it seems to me that OOo could use some cash to improve the OOXML-support, because it is in no was production ready. I believe IBM donated a large sum of money to OOo development - I am sure they could do this again.

Smile

jlundstocholm United Kingdom |

4/23/2009 12:31:00 PM #

Rob Weir

Jesper, this may not be well understood or appreciated by those who participate in JTC1 only at the SC or WG level, but the work of JTC1 is far broader than OOXML.  In April alone we had 41 different INCITS ballots, and the month is not over yet!  

Obviously INCITS member companies, like IBM, cannot participate in every WG for every standard that passes through JTC1.  IBM has a procedure for determing which standards committees we participate in which takes into account business and strategic priorities, as well as the quality and openness of the standard, membership rules, and intellectual property policies.  Based on these factors, OOXML simply does not rate highly in our standards participation priorities.  Now XForms, DITA, Web Services, vertical industry XML standards, yeah, we're all over that (and 100's of standards you've never heard of).  But a document format whose primary purpose is to represent legacy Microsoft Office documents, I can't see a compelling argument for our participation.

But a question for you:  where are all of the "supporters" of OOXML, the business partners that lined up in droves to vote for OOXML?  Why are they not participating more actively in SC34?  There were hundreds of letters supporting OOXML.  Almost two dozen companies joined the US NB, just to vote for OOXML.  Where are they now?  Apple?  British Library?  StatOil?  US Library of Congress? Where did they go?  What happened to Barclays Capital?  British Petroleum? Intel? Toshiba?  Where did they all go?  Why is participation now reduced to Microsoft, Novell.... and you?  It is perverse to think that IBM should contribute to a standard we do not support when the companies that created it and voted for it have withdrawn.

-Rob

Rob Weir United States |

4/23/2009 8:43:51 PM #

jlundstocholm

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your reply,

Jesper, this may not be well understood or appreciated by those who participate in JTC1 only at the SC or WG level, but the work of JTC1 is far broader than OOXML. In April alone we had 41 different INCITS ballots, and the month is not over yet!

Damn ... that's a lot of work Smile

IBM has a procedure for determing which standards committees we participate in which takes into account business and strategic priorities, as well as the quality and openness of the standard, membership rules, and intellectual property policies. Based on these factors, OOXML simply does not rate highly in our standards participation priorities.

Ok

But a document format whose primary purpose is to represent legacy Microsoft Office documents, I can't see a compelling argument for our participation.

Well, a couple of personal observations from me:

Glancing back you are right - the purpose of OOXML was to represent legacy Microsoft Office documents. But the implications of having OOXML maintained in ISO are far greater than this. The idea - to me, at least - was to facilitate an "even playing ground" for competitors like IBM to participate and contribute to the future of the document format of the most widely deployed office productivity application out there.

If we step back for a second and look at the huge success of OpenOffice in business and governments, it would be ignorant to point to ODF as the cause of it. The cause lies in the good support for "the document format of the monopoly" - the binary DOC-files. You might not want to admit this in public - but OOo would never fly without support for the binary files. The products of IBM also widely support these binary document formats. It might not be desirable for some - but the harsh realities for you (and here I mean IBM) as well is, that your customers use these files and not supporting these renders your use cases moot.

Since OOXML is largely a transformation of the content in the binary files, my arguments hold for OOXML as well. If you ask me, the best way to destroy a monopoly is to "tab into it" - it is not to offer something different with a "rip out and replace"-strategy as the only option. OOXML/DOC are the tools for "tabbing into the monopoly of Microsoft Office" - ODF is not and OOo without support for DOC would never, ever be the tool.

And this is why I would welcome you or any OOXML-competent resources of IBM to the table in SC34/WG4. I would imagine that you - as with ODF - see some value in being able to form the future of document format you will not be able to ignore in the future. It might not be your preferred choice of document format - but you will not be able to ignore it.

Now, the grinding mill of OASIS moves quite diffently and quite more expeditious then the one for ISO, so one could argue that it was more important to being able to participate directly in OASIS to form the document format. I would certainly, to some extent, agree to that. However I do find it a bit odd that a company like IBM does not seem to see any value in (from an implementation perspective) supporting OOXML and thereby the maintenance of it.

(of course, maybe your strategy is simply to xcopy the latest and greatest implementation of OOo into your products and leave it at that ... who knows)

But a question for you: where are all of the "supporters" of OOXML, the business partners that lined up in droves to vote for OOXML?

I think you can find them the same place you will find the quazillion of manic and enthusiastic ODF-supporters that chanted so happily about the "community-driven ODF" and how much they supported ODF and how much they'd rather support ODF than OOXML ... during the DIS29500-days. They are probably doing what is essential to them - maintaining their everyday businesses leaving it to guys like you and me to tear each other's heads of in blogs ... and maintain our respective document formats when we have the time for it.

Smile

Realistically, standards maintenance and development is a task of the "selected few" - this is true for both ODF and OOXML.

What happened to Barclays Capital? British Petroleum? Intel? Toshiba? Where did they all go? Why is participation now reduced to Microsoft, Novell.... and you?

Jeeez ... sometimes I forget how important I am ... Smile.

It is perverse to think that IBM should contribute to a standard we do not support when the companies that created it and voted for it have withdrawn.

That's just politics, Rob. You should take part of the development of OOXML because/if it is in you business' best interest. I do not understand why IBM claims it is not, but then again, I do not pretend to know much about running a business anyway.

I do wish for a broader participation than NBs and ECMA, and I hope we'll get there at some point. I think it would be great to have IBM at the table in SC34/WG4.

jlundstocholm Denmark |

4/24/2009 12:18:46 AM #

Rob Weir

Jesper, no doubt having the MS Office XML formats documented in some form is important, for the reasons you state.  

However:

1) ISO/IEC does not document in an accurate and complete way what Office 2007 actually writes out.  I know you are working on this, but this is really a task for Microsoft since they and only they have accurate technical knowledge as to what Office 2007 actually does.

2) This is not an appropriate subject for a standard.  Maybe a technical report, but not a standard, since OOXML was and continues to be written to reflect the concerns of a single vendor's product.

3)Even if OOXML was made to support more than just the concerns of Microsoft Office, such additions would be irrelevant to the extent they are not supported by MS Office.  

So you are correct in observing the importance of the Microsoft Office file formats, but I think you incorrectly draw the conclusion that this makes ISO/IEC 29500 and your efforts in SC34 important as well.  This simply does not follow.

As for ODF support, a look at the TC attendance shows that the ODF TC has broader participation now than it had previously, measured by number of members, number of meeting participants, number of companies or number of non-vendors.  My point is that OOXML support has noticeably waned.  Of course, some of this is the effect of Microsoft hiring business partners who supported OOXML during the ballot.  But some of it is that most supporters in Ecma have simply disappeared now that the ballot has ended.  

If the value of the SC34 effort around OOXML is not sufficiently relevant to attract those very business partners who earlier argued how critical OOXML was to their business, then I think you'll have a hard time arguing that OOXML critics would benefit from participation.  If you are looking for help in SC34, why not start in the obvious place, and ask the British Library, BP, Apple, Intel, Toshiba, etc.?  I could give you hundreds more names.  You should start there.

Rob Weir United States |

7/14/2009 6:36:11 AM #

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