How Microsoft Will Play the ISO Card


One of the arguments adduced in favour of making OOXML an ISO standard was that it would place control of the former in the hands of an independent ISO group, which was a much better situation than the present one.

Anyone who believes this has clearly learned nothing from Microsoft's history of unremitting subversion of practically every independent standard it has been involved with. Microsoft will continue to develop OOXML as it wishes, taking only token notice of anything the ISO committee says. It will, however, bask in the glory of the ISO approval (assuming it stands after the various challenges currently being made to it), irrespective of the fact that its own products won't support the standard properly.

But you don't have to take my random opinion on the matter. Here's what Tim Bray, generally accepted as one of the fathers of the XML that underlies both ODF and OOXML, says about what he calls the “ISO Delta” - the difference between the ISO standard and the real OOXML as used by Microsoft:

The important thing is this: The ISO Delta is completely irrelevant to the marketplace. It is not implemented in the shipping Microsoft products. Microsoft may choose to implement some portion of it in some future release of some product, or they may not. Given Office’s release and adoption cycle, it’s very unlikely that any pieces of the delta they decide to implement will be widely deployed in anything less than five years.

Thus, if you write OOXML software and you generate ISO-Delta markup, it won’t be usable by the deployed base of software. In fact, we have no information as to how gracefully Office will react; will it bypass such markup or explode messily? I’m not optimistic. So, implementors should not generate ISO-Delta markup.
Implementors also need not bother reading ISO-Delta markup, because it is entirely absent in the deployed base of documents, which in fact conform to ECMA-376.

Got that? The ISO version of OOXML is completely and utterly irrelevant to the real world. Bray concludes:

What Microsoft really wanted was that ISO stamp of approval to use as a marketing tool. And just like your mother told you, when they get what they want and have their way with you, they’re probably not gonna call you in the morning.

So, tell me, BSI: how does it feel to be taken for a mug?

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