Microsoft Employee Offered Incentives for OOXML Support

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"Have we been speaking to our community of companies about this issue? Yes, we have," he said. "They needed to know. They, in many cases, decided to participate. [But] there is no basis to allegations that we are gerrymandering the process."

Andrew Updegrove, a well-known backer of the rival OpenDocument Format for Office Applications (ODF) and an attorney at Gesmer Updegrove in Boston, said Microsoft's tactics make the outcome of the Open XML vote crucial to the future of the technology standards process.

"I personally believe that this result is essential, due to the severe impact that the events of the past several months have had on the integrity of the standards development process," he wrote in an e-mail.

Others say that Microsoft's efforts, which include lobbying senior U.S. government officials to vote against Open XML, could backfire.

"There has been a positive outcome to the process," said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group in favor of the OpenDocument Format. "Some of the comments that have been received from the countries shine a light on [Open XML] defects. Governments will think long and hard after viewing some of these comments before using the format."

Moreover, countries such as Brazil and China have said publicly that they plan to vote against Open XML. India is also close to finalizing the same position.

Despite the little time that remains before Sept. 2, Open XML opponents are continuing to encourage undecided countries to vote against the standards proposal.

In a statement, the Linux Foundation said the length of the Open XML specification—about 6,000 pages versus ODF's 600—has made it difficult to ensure that it meets quality standards sufficient for ratification. Countries reviewing the specification have raised numerous technical issues about the spec that have not been resolved, and the process hasn't given ISO a fair chance to make sure the spec is in top shape before it gets voted on, the group said.

One negative vote among the 20 member nations in ISO's technical committee will force the group to move to a ballot resolution meeting next February to address the "comments" and other concerns that prompted the vote.

If those problems aren't resolved during that meeting, the specification won't be approved in a revote later that spring. If that happens, the Ecma International standards group—which approved Open XML and submitted the standards proposal to ISO—would have to resubmit the specification for a new round of voting.

Robertson, however, is confident that the problems can be resolved next spring.

"We're happy to see all of the attention paid and all of the constructive feedback," he said. "It will help Open XML turn out to be a better standard."

This story, "Microsoft Employee Offered Incentives for OOXML Support" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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