Microsoft's OOXML Endgame Revealed?


One of the mysteries concerning Microsoft's attempts to deal with the threat ODF poses to its stranglehold on the office suite sector is why some of its employees are making statements like that quoted here:

ODF (Open Document Format) has benefited from the two-year battle over the ratification of Microsoft's rival OOXML (Open Office XML) standard, which is native to its Office 2007 suite, Microsoft's national technology officer said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Red Hat Summit in Boston.

"ODF has clearly won," said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft's recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format.

Why would Microsoft acknowledge ODF's victory? Given an insanely combative nature that for the last 30 years has seen the company fight on and on and on – often past the point of rationality - why on earth would Microsoft meekly concede that “ODF has clearly won?” Could it be because it plans is to *co-opt* that victory by taking over ODF itself through the ISO committee it effectively runs? Groklaw's Pamela Jones certainly thinks so, and I for one find her logic worryingly plausible:

Guess what the SC 34 committee, the ISO/IEC committee responsible for OOXML, is up to now? I call it a takeover attempt of ODF, according to my reading of the published notes of the most recent meeting held yesterday, October 1st, and starring a document titled "Request to JTC 1 for alignment of OASIS and JTC 1 Maintenance Procedures." Uh oh. That sounds polite, but it is what it is. An attempted coup. They have already sent a "Liaison Statement" to OASIS. Surrender or else, what? SC 34 asks JTC 1 "to establish with OASIS a synchronised mechanism for maintenance of ISO/IEC 26300 and to inform SC 34 of the outcome." I gather they think they can do a better job of maintaining ODF than OASIS. What will JTC 1 do, do you think? You doubt they will hop on to this wonderful plan?

I gather the hope is, if the takeover were to succeed, that SC 34 would get to maintain ODF as well as Microsoft's competing parody "standard," OOXML. How totally smooth and shark-like. Under the guise of "synchronised maintenance", without which they claim SC 34 can't fulfill its responsibilities, they get control of everything. So utterly Microsoft. Microsoft yearns for interoperability, it seems. More like yearning for ODF's air supply to be ... well, you know. Microsoft never seems to change, does it? Yoo hoo! EU Commission! Are you watching?

Given that the ISO has already shown itself indifferent to the world's opinion of its actions, Jones may well be right in flagging up the EU as the only hope here.

BTW, if you actually wanted to see the fabulous beast known as the Final Text for ISO/IEC 29500-1 standard (aka OOXML) – which, for some reason, the ISO wants to keep secret (now, why could that be?) – Roy Schestowitz has something of a scoop:

In light of the systematic abuse and the demise of ISO, which IBM loudly protested against, we shall no longer let this process remain secretive. We finally have complete copies of the documents which the shenanigans keep behind passwords (unlike ODF which they attack).

I'd say “enjoy”, but I don't think that's quite the right word, somehow....

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