CyberTech Rambler

October 2, 2008

OOXML vs ODF war is not over…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:17 pm

Far from it. This time, fighting is inside ISO!

Groklaw thinks it smell a rat in a SC34 proposal that it maintains both ODF and OOXML. I concurred. Not because I think that both standards will not eventually be synchornized or merged, but simply this is not the correct time. First of all, there is so much bad blood between the two camps. I do not have to mention that a lot of people in the ODF camps will not like OOXML one bit. For the other camp, note that Alex Brown already said in his second posting of the SC34 Korean meeting that “[some people in OOXML camp’s] view was that ODF had served its purpose (to get MS formats out into the open) and should now declare victory before fading away gracefully; another was that OOXML would surely become the default format of the OpenOffice.org suite, and that this would crystallize the real option users had: to use FOSS or commercially-licensed Office packages.” How are we going to reconcile the differences in the joint maintenance commitee? We need time to dilute this.

Second, ODF is more mature than OOXML, the maintenance pace are different. Makes no sense to synchronize the two. If this happens, it must be in the detriment of one of the standard, if not both. There is an established management regime in OASIS, already blessed by ISO, so why the need (or should I say “want”) to distrub it. Alex Brown thinks that it is not doing a good job but it is not a valid reason to yank maintenance regime from OASIS. Every process has its flaw. In my view, OOXML has more flaws than ODF and it will take much longer to correct it. Rob Weir’s posting suggests that if there was a problem, they are at least taking steps to correct it. Nobody is going to dispute that OOXML has more “corrections” to do compared to ODF.

Most importantly, pro-OOXML people had been trying to bang it into me that OOXML and ODF are for two different purposes? If so, why the need for join maintenance, or the need to “harmonized both”, as they now ask us to do.

Finally, the crucial point, one that PJ should take comfort on: A forced marriage will achieve nothing. There is enough momentum behind ODF such that if ISO forced OASIS hand, OASIS will simply rename ODF to something else and continue under the new name. One thing ODF vs OOXML war achieve is to open the eye of government what an open standard really mean. At present, they are pursuing the goal of a truely open standard, rather than something stamped by any standard body. ISO reputation is tarnished by the fact that it refuses to govern its own standard process and thus makes ISO standard slip down several levels. If it force join maintenance regime, and the maintenance is at the expense of either standard, ISO reputation will drop further. And ODF decides to break out and rename, with government choosing the renamed standard rather than going with ISO’s blessed one, ISO not only consigned itself to irrelevence in IT, but will see itself dropping its “Gold Standard” reputation elsewhere.

Alex Brown once mentioned that ODF Foundation News Topic favourite is OOXML. I think his favourite news topic today is IBM. First, presenting a picture of an empty seat with Rob Weir’s badge is a cheap shot. No sound person following this debate can see Weir attending on his own accord, and the USA delegation need not contain Weir. If Weir had said he will attend and did not, then one should call him out. But if the name badge were simply there because Weir is sent an invitation, or because Weir has the right to choose to attend the meeting, then it is really a cheap, below the belt, shot.

Then there is a claim of “secret” meeting organized by IBM to discuss openness. There was insufficient information to assess this piece of information. If it was an IBM company meeting, who cares if the attendee list is secret? or it is invitation only? That’s IBM’s own business. Even if IBM calls a meeting with its partners to discuss “openness” and does not publish any details, that’s IBM own business. Ditto if Alex Brown’s company, or Microsoft, choose to do the same thing. Unlike ISO, OASIS or ECMA, IBM, Alex Brown’s company and Microsoft do not make any claim to represent joe public. What they do or don’t is their private business.

It does not take a genius to figure out who is paying the expense for the meeting. Some companies will actually hide behind other organization when calling for meeting. IBM did not, at least in this case. In any case, IBM is smart enough to make sure that the first public salvo, if this meeting is the first salvo, is open enough.

Alex Brown is worry that IBM might withdraw Charles Goldfarb from SC34. IBM has every rights to decide which meeting its employee will go to. If it choose to withdraw Goldfarb from SC34, a person with the calibre of Goldfarb has the option of leaving IBM and join another company to participate in SC34 if he choose to. Therefore I would not be too worry about IBM decision one way or the other but focus on  Goldfarb. If SC34 deem Goldfarb’s participation as crucial, then it should come to an accommodation with Goldfarb (and IBM, if it wants to).

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