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Sweden voted Yes to Office Open XML

Tags: Office Open XML

Today was the meeting when the Swedish standardisation organisation, SIS, was to vote on the Office Open XML standard.

I have observed this procedure, but not actively participated in it since the first working group meeting a few months ago. At that time it felt pretty comfortable and the Yes vote was in reach.

Final vote presented When this day approached both camps, the pro Office Open XML team and the no-sayers both gathered their forces for the final battle. We all entered the meeting at the last possible minute and we all was signed in to the meeting.

Starting with IBM, a number of representatives ran out of the conference room mumbling and cursing when they realised in which direction the vote would go - and the vote result was clear to most of us. After a presentation round and a round of all members commenting their voting intentions, we all thought that it would be a quick vote.

The representative from IllumiNet, flanked with Sun and Google, did try to convince all the yes-sayers for a long time and the discussion went pretty harsh! I have to give credit to the guy, who fought for his cause and really had put some time into the specification. Finally someone asked him "if ODF was up for voting, would you let it pass through"? After some thinking he answered "No, I would not!". This ended the discussion.

The vote went quick and it was 26 25 votes for yes and 6 for no. Read the press release from SIS here (in swedish).

Now we all have to wait and see what will happen on september the 2nd when the global vote will take place...

UPDATE: Correct amount of yes votes is 25. 26 was taken from my head when writing this one and 25 is according to my meeting notes.

27 Comments

  • Wictor said

    The citation me by somewhat out of context in this post, but the discussion was about that there already is one ISO standard for this purpose (ODF) and that the fast-track procedure does not allow a thorough review of the OOXML proposal. Some of the comments on OOXML that was raised is problems that have been mentioned about the already approved ODF standard. I already gave credit to this guy for his review and I appriciate his commitment for his cause - even if we don't share the same opinion.

  • Roland Orre said

    I must say that your biased view is very strange. You seem to ignore the facts about the poor quality of the OOXML standard, and its implementation problems, but also ignore the most embarrasing fact for both SIS and Microsoft that MS had bought 23 new voters which had as their only purpose to vote YES, without any considerations about the technical and legal flaws of the OOXML standard. I have written to all these companies and questioned their lack of competence and seriousity if they can blindly approve of something as bad as the OOXML standard draft just because Microsoft asks them to vote yes in favor of some potential compensation. These are IT companies so it would be expected that they have some insight in IT technology. I think you should read Google's comments upon the OOXML standard a three page PDF document titled "Google's Position on OOXML as a Proposed ISO Standard", which seriously none of the YES voters can have considered. This document explains in a very easy and clear way what are the serious technical and legal flaws of the OOXML standard as well as describes why it is bad to have two completely overlapping ISO standards for the same thing. It is expressed in such clear words that also non technical people can easily understand it. This is a very serious problem and something that puts both SIS in a very embarrasing situation as well as give bad credits for the companies that were bought by Microsoft. The good thing with this is of course that Microsoft have showed which ugly methods they can use to get their will through as well as giving SIS a chance to correct the rules so a scandal like this can not happen again.

  • Wictor said

    Thank you Roland for your input, and I have read your e-mail. Just to make sure everyone understand - I was there and I voted Yes. I have read a huge amount of arguments from both sides and considered them and so have a lot of my colleagues done, so I think it is unfair of you to judge all of the Yes voters.

  • Wictor said

    Here is a short comment on the Betanews article referring to me as an independent developer. I am independent in that way that I am one of the founders of our software company and that we are partners with Microsoft.

  • Roland Orre said

    Thank you for your reply Wictor. I don't judge Yes-voters per se. What I consider totally wrong, is that in a committee process, people can enter at very late stage, people that have not followed the discussions, they have not listened to alternative views and can therefore hardly make a fair judgement based upon technical and legal qualities. For my own I'm curious what are the aspects of the OOXML proposal that can justify it becoming an ISO standard as those flaws I am aware about are serious enough to make it impossible to consider OOXML as a serious candidate for an ISO standard now. It is therefore I question the competence of voters if they are aware about these flaws and still vote Yes, especially if the Yes is unconditional without comments. The legal issues need to be fixed. There are patents involved and we have seen in several other cases how promises or expectations about free patents has been later abused (Unisys LZW or Fraunhofer's MPEG-1 (mp3)) for instance. (LZW and MP3 are examples of "submarine" patents). The ODF ISO standard also involves patents, but Sun's "OpenDocument Patent Statement" is to be consider more secure than Microsofts current declarations. If Microsoft would withdraw their patents or donate them, then it would speak in Microsoft's favour regarding the legal issues. We have the problem with binary dependencies on platform dependent code. This is of course totally unacceptable for a standard and may make full implementation of the standard nearly impossible. We also have the pure size of the document, 6546 pages for OOXML compared to 867 pages for ODF, solving the same problem. I really doubt that those people voting yes have seriously evaluated a 6546 pages document from all technical aspects within this timeframe. I would say that it is simply impossible. There are many other issues, but these three I've mentioned are serious enough to say NO with comments.

  • Wictor said

    Hi Roland, I only speak for my Yes vote and no one elses. As I said I have been reading a lot of the comments on the proposed OOXML standard and reviewed them in the best way I can. As you should be aware of there are a lot of comments discussing basically the same thing and a lot of the comments are editorial which I don't consider since the vote is based on "technical merits". You talk about the legal issues in the OOXML, as I am no expert in this area, I have to rely on other sources which I trust. The size of the specification argument, which I'm pretty tired of right now, is not relevant since OOXML covers so much more and more explicit than the ODF specification. Just take the vector ML for example. In OOXML it's defined and specified, in ODF it's only a reference to SVG (just a W3C recommendation which also requires the W3C DOM2 etc.). Yes Roland, I might agree that the SIS committee process is not flawless. I'm still convinced that OOXML will be a great ISO standard (if it becomes a Yes on September 2nd) and I have not yet seen any argument that will make me change my mind. I do think it is sad that I know have to spend that much time in defending my vote.

  • Roland Orre said

    Hi again Wictor. You may be tired to defend yourself, but voting for something that may become a global standard also implies a responsibility. It is not enough with you wanting it to become a great standard. If the issues are not corrected it won't become a great standard, only an annoying disturbance, that people will refuse to use. I won't tire you more now, but here are just a few examples: The OOXML proposal contradicts several international standards. Date representations conflicts with the Gregorian calendar ISO 8601 and also incorrectly handles 1900 as a leap year. The date representation within OOXML does not allow years before 1900, which is in conflict with ISO8601. Language codes conflicts with ISO 639 for representation fo names and languages. Embedded objects refer to "Windows Metafiles" or "Enchanced Metafiles" instead of using ISO 8632 or W3C SVG. How can you expect to specify Windows Metafiles on a Linux system, a Mac, BSD or Solaris system? This is joke! You mentioned DrawingML but this is a format which conflicts with the already existing standard W3C SVG. They have invented something to express math, but this is in conflict with the W3C recommendation MathML. Regarding security they propose their own (often flawed as we know...) hash algorithms instead of referring to accepted standards for cryptographi like ISO 10118-3, W3C XML-ENC. For including animations and other multimedia in documents they define something that conflicts with the W3C recommendation SMIL. And the clip board issue is really a joke, they define something an ST_CF type which have allowed values like EMF,WMF etc, only Windows proprietary formats. Specifying e.g. PNG here would be invalid. There is something named "optimizeForBrowser" of WordProcessingML which ignores other browsers than Internet Explorer. Ha! About Vector ML you mentioned by the way, VML is, as you say, specified in the document (600 pages), but... VML is (according the document section 6.1) an obsolete format supported for backward compatibility. "The DrawingML format is a newer and richer format created with the goal of eventually replacing any uses of VML in the Office Open XML formats. VML should be considered a deprecated format included in Office Open XML for legacy reasons only and new applications that need a file format for drawings are strongly encouraged to use preferentially DrawingML". The need to support VML by OOXML consumers, in addition to DrawingML, would come at great implementation expense , would disadvantage all vendors but Microsoft, and would hurt interoperability. There are many other issuses, like bad tag naming and such making it hard for humans to read OOXML documents, and the proposal is full of inconsistences, but as I said I will not tire you now. As you see it is not possible to produce standards compliant output in the way OOXML is designed. This is what you have voted YES to, and you are tired. I'm tired on how Microsoft and others deal with serious technical issues.

  • Trackback said

    I just recieved new information (in Swedish) that Sweden will not vote Yes for DIS29500 Office Open XML, which I previously reported on. Sweden will instead abstain from voting in the ISO vote on Sept...

  • Roland Orre said

    Hi again Wictor. You may be tired to defend yourself, but voting for something that may become a global standard also implies a responsibility. It is not enough with you wanting it to become a great standard. If the issues are not corrected it won't become a great standard, only an annoying disturbance, that people will refuse to use. I won't tire you more now, but here are just a few examples: The OOXML proposal contradicts several international standards. Date representations conflicts with the Gregorian calendar ISO 8601 and also incorrectly handles 1900 as a leap year. The date representation within OOXML does not allow years before 1900, which is in conflict with ISO8601. Language codes conflicts with ISO 639 for representation fo names and languages. Embedded objects refer to "Windows Metafiles" or "Enchanced Metafiles" instead of using ISO 8632 or W3C SVG. How can you expect to specify Windows Metafiles on a Linux system, a Mac, BSD or Solaris system? This is joke! You mentioned DrawingML but this is a format which conflicts with the already existing standard W3C SVG. They have invented something to express math, but this is in conflict with the W3C recommendation MathML. Regarding security they propose their own (often flawed as we know...) hash algorithms instead of referring to accepted standards for cryptographi like ISO 10118-3, W3C XML-ENC. For including animations and other multimedia in documents they define something that conflicts with the W3C recommendation SMIL. And the clip board issue is really a joke, they define something an ST_CF type which have allowed values like EMF,WMF etc, only Windows proprietary formats. Specifying e.g. PNG here would be invalid. There is something named "optimizeForBrowser" of WordProcessingML which ignores other browsers than Internet Explorer. Ha! About Vector ML you mentioned by the way, VML is, as you say, specified in the document (600 pages), but... VML is (according the document section 6.1) an obsolete format supported for backward compatibility. "The DrawingML format is a newer and richer format created with the goal of eventually replacing any uses of VML in the Office Open XML formats. VML should be considered a deprecated format included in Office Open XML for legacy reasons only and new applications that need a file format for drawings are strongly encouraged to use preferentially DrawingML". The need to support VML by OOXML consumers, in addition to DrawingML, would come at great implementation expense , would disadvantage all vendors but Microsoft, and would hurt interoperability. There are many other issuses, like bad tag naming and such making it hard for humans to read OOXML documents, and the proposal is full of inconsistences, but as I said I will not tire you now. As you see it is not possible to produce standards compliant output in the way OOXML is designed. This is what you have voted YES to, and you are tired. I'm tired on how Microsoft and others deal with serious technical issues.

  • Roland Orre said

    Thanks for your replies Wictor. By the way, I think you need to check your blogware, posts are duplicated now and then. Like my last one, and your reply. Happy crunching! Nice to talk with you. Best regards Roland Orre

  • Wictor said

    Roland, I guess we have a very different view on this issue and it will not be solved here. I am sincerely sad that this standardization process became such a mess. I have my point of view and I stand for it - but now it looks like it is not being counted for due to the latest SIS action. Yes, I'm aware of the problem with the duplicates - this is one of the problems being a developer, full-time employee, business owner, father of two daughters, husband and being totally in love with programming. I have not had time to correct the problem on this site (all bits are my own). Cheers Wictor

  • Roland Orre said

    Thanks for your replies Wictor. By the way, I think you need to check your blogware, posts are duplicated now and then. Like my last one, and your reply. Happy crunching! Nice to talk with you. Best regards Roland Orre

  • Wictor said

    Per, you are right. The vote was not about voting ODF away and I personally think that these standards can co-exist, since they have some differences that are important to a lot a people. I said it before - freedom to choose. Then of course, these standards can of course improve. ODF is at version 1.4 now (or something).

  • Roland Orre said

    If someone think that this was not about voing ODF away they have a somewhat naïve view. All MS want to do is to lock you in more to the Windows and Office platform. People that don't understand the differences between ODF and OOXML may believe that OOXML is both open and XML which is wrong. There are too many ties into Microsoft proprietary formats in OOXML. If Microsoft really believed that can come up with a good standard, why did they try to fasttrack this mess of a proposal and use so many dirty methods to get it through? In this case I don't put my company url as you have already seen it, I put an url to a simple, easy to understand overview about the most serious deficiencies with OOXML (i.e. this http://www.slideshare.net/anandvaidya/o-d-f-vs-o-o-x-m-l-v14/ )

  • Roland Orre said

    If someone think that this was not about voing ODF away they have a somewhat naïve view. All MS want to do is to lock you in more to the Windows and Office platform. People that don't understand the differences between ODF and OOXML may believe that OOXML is both open and XML which is wrong. There are too many ties into Microsoft proprietary formats in OOXML. If Microsoft really believed that can come up with a good standard, why did they try to fasttrack this mess of a proposal and use so many dirty methods to get it through? In this case I don't put my company url as you have already seen it, I put an url to a simple, easy to understand overview about the most serious deficiencies with OOXML (i.e. this http://www.slideshare.net/anandvaidya/o-d-f-vs-o-o-x-m-l-v14/ )

  • Wictor said

    Hi again Roland (the double comments are back, are you refreshing the page to many times - I have to look into it...). As you and most of us realise now is that the ISO vote will be a "No - with comments" and most likely there will be a BRM. During the BRM months (until february) I think we will see Microsoft/ECMA adjusting the spec so your and others comments will not be "valid" anymore. My personal reflection on why Office 2007 does not follow the spec 100% is just the fact that MS waited for the ECMA and ISO standardisation to finish so they can provide a better OOXML implementation in upcoming service packs/patches of Office 2007.

  • Roland Orre said

    Hi Michael, (about the comments, no I'm not refreshing anything during my commentary (I think...). Have you tested with different browsers, it could be a browser issue? If you use IE, it is not always following standard behaviour, and I have several times had problems with my code because Microsoft has not followed standards, I tried to use BUTTON once, only to find that it didn't work with IE, but in all other browsers, then I found the problem in MS own documentation. Check out http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms535211.aspx which says that the "inner text" (insane) is send as submit, but the standard says NAME and VALUE, which makes sense. http://www.htmlhelp.com/reference/html40/forms/button.html OK, this is just a very simple example of incompetence within Microsoft. I'm running Firefox 1.5.012. Just to see if there is a difference I'm now posting this with Opera 9.02 instead. Opera is considered the browser best following specifications.)                   I agree with you Michael, that after the likely outcome "No-with comments" ECMA and Microsoft will probably make efforts and work towards a real standards proposal. If Microsoft and ECMA are serious about openness and interoperability I would suggest trying to join efforts with OASIS and suggest a new OpenXML or something that is a joint effort of both ODF and OOXML, without the current flaws of OOXML. Then Microsoft could regain their reputation. Or alternatively simply, skip the flawed OOXML and go for ODF only, it would anyway be bad having two parallell standards solving exactly the same problem.

  • Wictor said

    Hi Roland (it was not Michael who wrote the post recently, but me Wictor). I know I have some more testing to do, when I have time... let's not turn this thread into a HTML/CSS/JS/DOM standards thread :-) I still think that it is good in this case to have an alternative standard (lets assume that C++ was the only valid programming language), I just wish that all this would have happened in a "fair" way - which were my intentions.

  • Adam Orre said

    Hi Wictor, sorry that I mixed you up. (posting this from old mozilla to see if that induce the double comments..) About the programming languages I don't agree with you. Basically C/C++ is almost the only valid (de facto) programming language of today as a transport and implementation language. For my daily work I use several languages like C/C++, python, java, scheme, PHP, SQL, JavaScript, matlab (or octave) and some special languages. All of these languages have in common that they are implemented in C/C++ so they are easily transported to any platform or environment where I want to use it. Earlier I have been working with languages like simula, ada, pascal, modula2 and fortran but today I'm happy that it is mostly often enough to handle C/C++, and from there have access to all other languages I may need. Imagine what struggle we would have today if software would be implemented in a plethoria of languages. Therefore the document format serves the same puropose as C/C++ regarding the ability to move one document from one enviroment to another. If we look upon special formats like VML in the proposed OOXML, a document containing VML is like you would write your software in PDP11 assembly or modula2. To be able to deal with your document I first need to implement an emulator for this language, otherwise I would not be able to read your document. Regarding e.g. SVG, which solves the same problem there is already an ISO standard and there are plenty of implementations out there.

  • Wictor said

    Howdy! This discussion is a bit out of topic - my fault! Yes, there are a lot of software implemented in C/C++ today (as well as interpretors and compilers). But, the fact is that software IS implemented in a plethora of languages today. I was a C/C++ programmer but have moved to C#, which has improved my productivity hugely. I also use a lot of different languages - depending on it's purpose and what I feel like. I think all of this comes down to what we have discussed earlier - the freedom to choose format. Yes, I can still choose OOXML even if it's ISO standard, but I would prefer it being an ISO standard. And I know for a fact that many of my customers would, and I think they should be counted for also. About "double standards" this page summarizes my thoughts and opinions on the matter: http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/multiple.aspx Back to the ISO ballot - it will most likely be a No with comments, which will eventually make OOXML an ISO standard after Microsoft/ECMA has updated/changed/commented on all the comments.

  • Trackback said

    The ECMA Technical Committee 45, continues to comment the comments received during the Office Open XML ISO fast-track procedure and have now reached to two thirds of them. The response to comments are...

  • Trackback said

    The Swedish Standards Institute has as a result of the chaotic OOXML vote in August changed their rules for participating in technical committees and voting in them. Previously you could just before ...

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About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is the Nordic Digital Workplace Lead working at Avanade. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for seven consecutive years.

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