[pp.int.general] Good news: Microsoft loses Standards Battle!

machado at sociologia.de machado at sociologia.de
Wed Sep 5 09:22:28 CEST 2007

September 4, 2007
Microsoft Is Rebuffed by Standards Body


Microsoft’s bid to extend its dominance in digital documents to the new field of open-format documents was unexpectedly rebuffed today when a global technical panel refused to designate its Office Open XML as an international standard.

The underlying code of an open document format is public, allowing developers to improve upon it and create new products that use it without having to pay royalties.

Microsoft is seeking to have its format declared a standard so it can sell software with open characteristics. Such software is increasingly being demanded by national and local governments in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil, as well as by the state of Massachusetts.

Microsoft failed to meet two criteria for a standards designation under voting rules of the Geneva-based technical bodies, the International Organization for Standardization, known as the I.S.O., and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

In five months of electronic balloting that concluded on Sunday, only 51 countries, or 74 percent of the 87 that had participated, supported Microsoft’s bid, said Tom Robertson, Microsoft’s general manager for interoperability and standards, in a statement. Under the group’s rules, Microsoft needed at least 75 percent.

Microsoft also failed to get the required 66 percent support from countries on an I.S.O./I.E.C. panel called the Joint Technical Committee 1. Instead, Microsoft won 58 percent of the panel’s votes, according to a person close to the procedure who did not want to be identified because the votes of individual countries had not been made public as of late today.

One opponent of Microsoft’s bid said the software maker’s own aggressive lobbying — carried out in the voting countries and often pressed by local Microsoft executives — had backfired on the company.

“I think many countries simply resisted what they considered undue pressure from Microsoft,” said Pieter Hintjens, president of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a Brussels group that opposed Microsoft’s request. “In Europe our standards processes are sophisticated and Microsoft simply lobbied too hard.”

In its statement, Microsoft pledged to work with opponents to amend its proposed 2,500-page standard for Office Open XML ahead of a February meeting in Geneva where the software maker has the chance to confer with participating countries and win back enough votes to secure victory.

Mr. Hintjens said Microsoft will have a hard time winning over countries that opposed its standards bid because to do so, Microsoft would be forced to officially put into the public domain the secret coding for many of its proprietary document formats that already dominate the global market, like those in its Office software suite.

“I think they are going to stick to their strategy, which is to try to simply get companies to turn their ‘no’ votes into ‘yes’ votes,” he said. “But I don’t think it is going to work.”

It is a really good new!

Best regards,

Jorge Machado

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