Over at Groklaw, PJ posted a blog post asking what OOXML is for. I did comment on a previous post about her unfair attack on Alex Brown. This post is about the other issues I mentioned in the post.
When comparing postings from pro-OOXML and pro-ODF camps, one can see that both camps are strongly opined. The difference is pro-ODF postings from tier 1 (read quality) posters are better researched and contains references from external sources. Tier 1 pro-OOXML postings, like mine lousy posts, are personal opinions, depleted of external references.
I did learn a lot from PJ’s post. However, I have to say I disagree with PJ about the exact reason why government should us ODF and not OOXML. She says governments belong to a different category from commercial enterprise. I would not put governments in a different category from big commercial enterprise. I think governments are big commercial enterprises, but with the responsibility to take care of their weaker customers (read citizen) , not discard them like big enterprise do. Why? If I do not like a big company I can choose not to do business with them, but I cannot opt out of any government services. Therefore, when it comes to IT, they must ensure that no citizens are disadvantaged because they are weaker. That is why when an alternative, free (as in money) standard exists (read ODF-based application), proprietary standard that is not free (again as in free beer) has to be avoided because government should not force their citizen to pay to access them.
What really interest me is what PJ dug out about ISO OOXML charter:
“… capable of faithfully representing the preexisting corpus of word-processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations that had been produced by the Microsoft Office applications (from Microsoft Office 97 to Microsoft Office 2008, inclusive) at the date of the creation of ISO/IEC 29500.” [Emphasis mine]
I emphasized 2008 not because there is no MSOffice 2008 [Stocholm point out MSOffice 2008 is for Mac, see first comment below], but because we are now in 2009. According to the charter, their work stop at MSOffice 2007, putting OOXML compatibility with the next version of Microsoft Office (Office 14) out of scope. If so, why is the committee working on it on compatibility with the next version of MSOffice.. It is interesting because as I blogged before, I am troubled by the fact that Brown said that
“Microsoft are keen for new features introduced in the “strict” version of OOXML to be mirrored in the “transitional” version – presumably, in part, because Office 14 will use transitional features.
My objection at that time is “transitional” should mean precisely that, i.e., simply docuenting existing features and no more feature addition, especially for future version of MSOffice. At the time of writing, I believe that whatever features added to Office 14 should go into the “strict” version only. Now having read the charter, the proposed changes should not be even in the “strict” version.
If, they follow that statement through, it means OOXML will only work for compatibility with previous versions of office documents and this stops at MSOfiice 2007.
Of course it is easy to rewrite the charter, as it is only words. However, a charter sets the guideline and scope for one’s work, in agreement with a third party. That is why people do not like to alter the charter. Think about a charter like the consitution for the group, it can be amended if there is consensus, but should not be attempted with great caution, i.e., much greater care than amending a rule.