Updated 29 Aug 2007 to include information on how Microsoft rigged the vote in Sweden…
Well, it seems Microsoft has gone out of the way to get OOXML approved as a standard. They certainly realize, too late, that the idea that all government documents should use an open format is compelling, capable of connecting many diverse constituents, and uniting them. Of course, Microsoft is incapable of openly opposing this effort, as doing so would only increase the cohesion of those they oppose. They witnessed exactly that this in their initial, unsuccessful attempt to derail open office file format in Massachusetts.
So their only option, if they are to oppose this effort, is to hijack it, and create a false standard that seems open but really isn’t. This fake ‘open’ standard will seem open at some level but be clouded with secrecy and proprietary extension which only Microsoft can control. This standard is called OOXML. In typical Orwellian fashion this stands for ‘Office Open XML,’ though, of course, though its not really open at all, but has all kinds of secret proprietary extensions which Microsoft will never license in a really open format, i.e., one that could be used to build GPL 3.0 compatible software.
The problem, of course is that open standards are ratified by standards setting bodies, and there are certainly many tech-savvy folks on those bodies, who might not be hood winked by Microsoft’s propaganda machine. So we see irregularities in nearly every country in which the national standards setting body is voting on OOXML. So Microsoft is stacking the committees, finding creative ways to exclude voters (Conference room to small) or spread false information about the date of the vote to delegates who would likely vote against Microsoft’s so called ‘open standard’ I haven’t heard a story of a dead person voting, but from the massive number of irregularities occurring, it’s just a matter of time.
A quick run down of some of the Microsoft-inspired shenanigans in Portugal, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden:
Notes from Portugal on the July 16th Meeting on Ecma-376
We’ve seen now reports from Italy and Portugal of what some are describing as a kind of ballot-stuffing on the part of Microsoft and supporters to get Ecma-376 approved as an ISO standard. Trust me when I tell you that you haven’t heard the half of it yet. I feel safe in saying that you will never hear the phrase “fast tracking” again, without remembering what you are about to read.As you know, it’s been reported that both Sun and IBM were told there was no room for them to join the committee in Portugal and so they were not allowed to attend the July 16th meeting. A member of that committee, Rui Seabra, has now published his notes from the meeting and given me permission to reproduce them here for you. As you will see, he seems to have had some difficulty being heard; he confirms the Sun/IBM exclusion and shows that it doesn’t seem to have any defensible basis; and when you read the technical discussion, I think you will be shocked.
The excuse for not letting them in, according to the notes, was that the room only could hold 20 people, and it was first come, first served. But when this was said, there were already more than 20 in the room. It eventually reached 25, so it seems clear there was room for Sun and IBM. There was an auditorium available they chose not to use. If these notes are accurate, and of course there are other reports confirming some of the details already, I think you will find it disturbing.
Official objections regarding the way matters were handled in Switzerland at the recent vote over whether or not to approve MS-OOXML as an ISO standard have just been filed [PDF] by Free Software Foundation Europe. FSFE is asking that the outcome be declared invalid, and if not, it threatens legal action. There is also now an official appeal by the Swiss Internet User Group (SIUG). We’ve heard of strange events in Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere apparently to try to get approval of MS-OOXML by any means possible — here’s the latest appalling report from the Netherlands — and it does raise the question, doesn’t ISO have any standards for deciding standards? Can folks just make up whatever process they feel like? It turns out that there are indeed directives. However, getting folks to follow them seems to be a problem.
….There were no technical reasons stated and therefore the persistent block of this vote should be considered as tactical and predetermined – best characterised by the fact that Microsoft staff had already told journalists some hours before the meeting that the Netherlands were going to abstain. A prewritten press release by Microsoft sent out immediately after the meeting mentions also an “Abstain”, but was not updated to the surprising factual outcome of the meeting – which was that the technical comments and problems that were unilaterally agreed upon by the committee will not be submitted to ISO
OOXML does not buy its way in ItalyAlso in Italy we are discussing if the Office Open XML format (the XML format which replicates the working of MS Office 2007) is to be approved as an ISO standard (ISO/IEC DIS 29500), with a “fast track” procedure. For several reasons this would seem unacceptable. Many are indeed the unanswered questions on the standard.The voting in Italy was scheduled to end the 13 of July, for members enrolled on or before 8th July. Strange things started to happen, not unlike other member bodies’ situations abroad. Up and until mid-may the members of the relevant Uninfo committee (JTC1) were five: IBM, Microsoft, CEDEO (Leonardo Chiariglione), the PLIO organization (Openoffice.org in Italy) and HP. Then new members started flocking. At the last count, voters were 83 .
IDG in Sweden is reporting the contents of a leaked Microsoft memo sent to Microsoft partners there, telling them to join the Swedish Institute of Standards and vote yes on OOXML. As you know, 20+ newly registered Microsoft partner companies did so, thus switching the expected No vote to Yes at the last minute. It says Microsoft’s representative Klas Hammar acknowledges the memo was sent, but says it should not have been.
It costs money to join SIS, registration of around $150 and an additional $1,150 or so to get to vote, so Microsoft is reported to have told partners in the memo that companies that paid the fee and voted appropriately would receive “marketing support” (”marknadsbidrag”) and “additional support in the form of Microsoft resources” (”extra stöd i form av Microsoftresurser”) — that’s a translation by Groklaw member Ghost, and I also used this free computer translation tool.