Open XML - ISO/IEC Standardization

Well, the big news for the day is the discussion about the ISO/IEC standardization of Open XML. A few things to remember as the IBM spin machine kicks into full gear tomorrow:

  1. Ecma 376, Open XML Document Format, is an international standard and was recommended to ISO for ratification.
  2. I believe I noticed Andy Updegrove and Bob Sutor crowing about the 19 submissions.
    • While 19 is a significant amount of activity for an ISO proposed standard, I think they are completely missing the point. This discussion has been going on in dozens of countries around the world. The United States, for example, considered this very carefully and decided there was no contradiction and thus made no submission whatsoever. That does not mean that there won't be further discussion about Open XML during the technical review process - but that is exactly what the process is designed for.
    • Don't be misled by the number 19 - we suspect that many of these are either outright statements of support for Open XML or simple statements that there is no contradiction.
  3. Another major factor is that this is simply one step in multi-step process. This is a complex process that gives an opportunity for voting members to raise concerns, and for those concerns to be addressed. ISO/IEC JTC1 has now closed its contradiction comments period as of Feb. 5, and now has up to 3 months (following the normal and approved ISO/IEC JTC1 process) to decide when to start the 5 month technical review process and ballot.

Now, the real question is why doesn't IBM like their customers? At the end of the day, this is an issue of choice. Customers have been very clear with us over the past few years (as have many other vendors including our friends in Armonk) that they wanted to see our Office document formats become more open and standardized. So we did that. (OSP-licensed, Ecma standardized)


Governments have been clear that they need the ability to have interoperability between ODF and Open XML. The Open XML Translator is now in production, and delivers interoperability. In fact, we built that to enable ANY ISV to use the technology - not just Microsoft. Novell has already announced (back in December) that they are going to build it into Novell's OpenOffice. Sounds to me like customers are going to have greater choice.


I have attended open source conferences for the past 6 years, and sat on innumerable panels with various executives from IBM. I am really unclear as to the relationship between the rhetoric of openness and increased choice that they have been saying in that arena and how it lines up with the reduction of choice and closing of a participatory process in this arena. The message from IBM standards participants around the world has been consistant: don't even consider Open XML for ISO/IEC standardization. That is less choice for customers.

Could it be that they are putting their business goals ahead of their customers' needs?