Open XML

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:10 PM :: 3038 Views :: Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Most probably know the outcome of the ballot Mobile-ready link to fast-track the Open XML Mobile-ready link standard thru ISO approval: it was denied. That isn't the end of it, tho. There are some important facts that should be pointed out. First off, I should explain how the voting process works. To get approved, the ballot must be approved by 2/3 "P members" and 3/4 all voting members. The Open XML ballot fell short of this on both accounts, achieving 53% P member votes and 74% all-up. The next is for the measure to go to the ballot resolution meeting in February 2008, where the members will have an opportunity to change their votes. In order to pass, 5 P members must change their vote from disapproved to approved or all 9 non-voting P members plus 2 disapprovers must all change their votes to approve it. Note that I may be 1 off on these numbers, depending on whether they round up or down in their ballots. The real challenge is meeting the 2/3 vote. The 3/4 vote is all but in-the-bag, needing 1 converter or 3 new voters.

As far as I'm concerned, achieving a 74% vote in favor of Open XML is tremendous; if for no other reason than, it's 74%!! I guess I was expecting a 2/3 vote to pass. Not sure why "P members" are so special, but I'm guessing some green-backs come into play, as they always do in these cases. I am hopeful of the future, tho. From what I saw, there were some good comments coming from both sides. The #1 being the dependence upon proprietary, legacy Microsoft file formats. I honestly didn't know this was included in the spec, but would have to say they should be removed. I feel like removing these would go a long way to making the spec feel like a community standard. Heck, I'd go as far as transferring key patents to ISO to show my interest and desire for full openness. Then again, I don't know what all would be involved with this or its implications. I'm merely looking at this from an objective standpoint. A showing of good faith would mean a lot to the opposition.

Another thing I'd do is officially change the name of the standard to Open XML, removing the "Office" moniker. I'm not sure where this came from, but I've always hated it. The name gives this assuming ownership by Microsoft, care of "Microsoft Office." This isn't what Open XML is about, so let's just remove the point of confusion.

We'll have to wait and see how things go, tho. There were comments about interop with ODF, but I don't think doc compat is necessarily something that should belong in a spec. That might depend on how intrusive it is, tho. As long as extensibility is built in, explicit compat shouldn't be necessary. Thanks to Sun's doing, ODF falls short on both of these counts Mobile-ready link, which is the main reason Open XML exists. Unfortunately, Microsoft's desire for competitiveness and consumer choice isn't shared. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the tables have turned: Microsoft wants choice Mobile-ready link, while historic open source supporters, like IBM and Sun, are pushing against the standard for commercial gain Mobile-ready link. In the long run, I don't think it'll matter. This whole ballot is about speeding up the standards process. Win or lose, the standard will ultimately go thru the entire process. The advantage to fast tracking is for consumers.