CyberTech Rambler

March 25, 2008

Durusau’s opnion on who loses if OOXML is not an ISO standard

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:52 pm

I respect Patrick Durusau and believe he brings valuable insights into the current debate over OOXML. His latest posting, Who Loses If OpenXML Loses, is another insightful thoughts.

His view on how OOXML will benefit ODF is logical. I have no doubt that OOXML being a ISO standard is one way that will encourage MS to stay on the track of openness. Personally I prefer competition, and will take antitrust pressure as a backup if competition fails. Why? So far, Microsoft had not demonstrated that it will do this willingly.

Standardizing OOXML through ISO may achieve the results of harmonization between ODF and OOXML, particularly on formulas. I am careful to use the word “may” as there are a lot of factors that will torpedo it, including both standard will simply run in parallel rather than converging and that difference of opinion will mean resistance from both camp towards harmonization.

As for ODF not having ISO-based definition of MS legacy features and current MS features for mapping purpose, an ISO-sanctioned OOXML will still not give you them. The best OOXML can give you is a quasi-definition written in OOXML. More importantly, ODF will be disadvantaged as it will forever have to play catch up. Playing catch up might be fine for legacy features, but not if you for current features. Don’t beliveve me? Ask WordPerfect.

Still, Durusau’s argument make sense and is worthwhile reading even if you disagree with him, or me for that matter.

However, I take issues with claim 2: Microsoft based third-party vendors may be excluded from contracts because Microsoft has no ISO approved format. To me, to introduce this arguement is to say that we should favour certain parties when making judgment on whether something is to be an international standard or not. This is wrong. A standard worthy of ISO blessing must be vendor-neutral throughout, from wording of the standard, to the whole process from creation to adoption to maintenance of the standard.

Having no ISO approved format is certainly an issue for third-party vendors and Microsoft. Just as there were no help to WordPerfect and its third party vendors when WordPerfect loses its market, there should not be any help to Microsoft and its third party vendors.

In any case, there is an alternative available to them: Support ODF. If Microsoft does it, it will “cure” the problem for all. If it does not, vendors can still switch support away from OOXML to ODF the way they did from WordPerfect to Microsoft.

Finally, there are people that says that Durusau’s support for OOXML was forced. He is the head of an ANSI (or is it ISO) committee whose work can be halted if the “puppets” that Microsoft put up simply do nothing. Only Durusau knows whether it is true or not and I do not think he is inclined to share it with us, at least not now. Right now, I do not think this is the case. First of all, he could had just kept silent. Or in the worst case, pen one or two obligatory pieces to “appease” Microsoft. Moreover, there are more effective ways to deal with people who impede progress through national or international committee: A quiet word or two normally do the trick. The same in national commitees. With national committee, there is an ultimate response: follow the Malaysian example by pressing the “kill” switch.

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