Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

Can anyone be more disingenuous?

There is not enough time to blog about everything that should be said about Microsoft’s indecent tactics to win the ISO vote on OOXML at all cost. I explained in my previous entry how misleading the disposition of comments document is, claiming agreement even when they disagree just so that the response can be seen as positive.

For another demonstration of pure disingenuousness let’s look at Microsoft/Ecma’s response to China’s comment.

China filed along with their No vote in September a comment explaining that “we found it is a very complex technology […] We think the fast-track procedure is not suitable for this DIS” and ending with “more time is necessary and essential to conduct a credible and responsible evaluation.

Seems reasonable enough and it’s fair to say that this sentiment is shared by many.

In response, Microsoft/Ecma’s wrote the following:

DIS 29500 is indeed a large specification. However, there is precedent for ISO/IEC specifications totalling housands of pages. Examples include:

  • ISO Standards for the Exchange of Product model data (STEP):
    • ISO 10303-210:2001 – 4,515 pages
    • ISO 10303-214:2003 – 3,529 pages
    • ISO 10303-212:2001 – 2,808 pages
    • ISO 10303-218:2004 – 1,837 pages
  • MPEG 2 Standard (ISO/IEC 13818) – 1,558 pages
  • MPEG 4 Standard (ISO/IEC 14496) – 4,415 pages
  • ODA – 1,244 pages
  • POSIX (ISO/IEC 9945) – 3,549 pages”

On that basis, many will think “Oh. So, that’s really not a rare occurrence. So, what’s all the fuss about OOXML being so big then?”

Well, here is the catch: What Microsoft is conveniently omitting to indicate in its response is that none of these standards have gone through the Fast Track process! They all went through the normal 5 stage development process over several years.

For instance, documentation on MPEG 4 (ISO/IEC 14496) indicates that “The total documentation package for ISO/IEC 14496 is extensive; 17 parts have been published from 1998 to 2004, with more to come.” This makes it very clear that while the specification is indeed several thousand pages long it was developed in several parts over 6 years!

But that’s not all. Microsoft/Ecma’s response then goes on into citing how PDF went through Fast Track and is “a specification of over 1300 pages, which was submitted to ISO in June 2007 and ratified as ISO 32000 in December 2007.” Putting aside the fact that 1300 pages hardly compares with the 6000+ pages of OOXML, once more they omit some fundamental pieces of information:

PDF did go through the Fast Track process but it has been a de facto standard which had been publicly available for many years before it was submitted to ISO. Only 205 comments were filed during the review, and all of them were resolved. In the end it was approved unanimously.

Unlike PDF, OOXML is a brand new format. It is NOT the format that everybody is using today. OOXML is neither a de facto standard nor a format that has been publicly available for years.

If OOXML had been developed the way MPEG 4 has, it wouldn’t be of such a low quality today and, its standardization through ISO wouldn’t be so controversial.


February 22, 2008 - Posted by | standards | , ,


  1. from law but applicable to international standardization processes

    Noun – Singular

    …3. (law) Intent to deceive or mislead another to gain some advantage; dishonesty or fraud in a transaction (such as knowingly misrepresenting the quality of something that is being bought or sold).

    ( )


    Comment by orlando | February 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] employee, it might as well be added that Microsoft’s DOS attack with heaps of pointless pages received a pushback from China, the world’s largest population. From the blog of another IBMer: For another demonstration […]

    Pingback by Boycott Novell » IBM on Open Source, Standards, and OOXML (Video) | February 23, 2008 | Reply

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