Critics Speak Out On ISO's OOXML Ruling

Bob Sutor, IBM's executive vice president of standards, wrote in a blog post that now that the process of international standards making has been "laid bare for all to examine," some may not like what they're finding.

The fast-track approval process, which some had criticized as inadequate in light of the complexity of OOXML (more than 6,000 pages of code) exposed flaws in the standardization process. "People now have some sense that there are no brakes on putting the wrong standards though some existing processes."

Microsoft developed OOXML for its Office 2007 suite and is positioning it as an open standard. In December 2006, OOXML was certified as an Ecma standard, and Microsoft has been pushing hard to get OOXML certified with the ISO.

Sutor also cited politics and a complicated voting process which varies by country as issues that need to be closely examined. Regardless of the outcome, he said the fight for open standards would continue unabated.

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"While fully cognizant of these current results, I'm energized to take the bigger fight for openness to the next level with the thousands of individuals who are now convinced that the standards system needs fixing, and soon," he wrote. "There are now, as there have always been, much bigger issues than OOXML itself. For that reason, we are still in the early phases of the worldwide movement to true open standards."

Red Hat's legal team issued a statement expressing "disappointment" but not surprise at the ISO's decision. "[OOXML] made it though an unfortunately flawed fast-track ISO approval process," the release states. The legal team also used the release as an opportunity to voice their support for the Open Document Format (ODF).

"[The ODF] will continue to be a force in procurement decisions to be reckoned with," the release said. "Government and Enterprises are tired of the lack of choice, lack of innovation, and premium rents from vendor lock-in. We doubt anyone will be confused by this outcome."

The OpenDocument Format Alliance issued a release predicting governments will take a "buyer beware" point of view regarding OOXML and said in the wake of reports of voting irregularities, Microsoft needs to ensure that promises made to national standards bodies are delivered.

"The process itself brought to the fore OOXML's deficiencies that will prevent its use by public administrations, chief among them that OOXML remains a "community of one" -- undocumented features, IPR restrictions, and features and functionality linked to other Microsoft products that will prevent OOXML's use in other software products," the statement read. "If anything, this vote has galvanized the ODF community, making us more confident than ever of ODF's emergence as the document format of the future."