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Proudly South African: South Africa takes the lead in appeal against OOXML process

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

In the midst of grim and troubling news about outbreaks of violence against Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, there is a good reason to be proud of being South African today.

The South African Standards Bureau, which is the South African authority which both deals with standards nationally but also represents South Africa at the International Standards Organisation (ISO). SABS has appealed against the process which led to OOXML (or DIS 29500 in ISOspeak) being designated as an ISO standard.

It has been a controversial process, with the resignation of the chairperson of the Norwegian Committee, allegations of interference with the committee in France, and legal review in the United Kingdom. South Africa has taken the lead, as the first country to appeal against the outcome of that process.

SABS made the appeal in a letter in which the standards authority expressed South Africa’s “deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone of the success and international acceptance of the ISO and IEC standards. The ability of large multi-national organization to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting over-riding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern.”

The result of a flawed process is a flawed standard. The letter concludes: “we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyze far too much information in far too little time, involved a BRM [BRM = Ballot Resolution Meeting] that did not remotely provide enough time to preform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite the Directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration.”

Local and international media have already picked up the significance of the appeal.

first step on a long road: Microsoft Office to support document conversion to ODF

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Microsoft has announced that it intends future versions of Office to support Open Document Format, the international open XML document format used by other developers so that documents produced by Office will be intelligible to other document processing software including systems supported by Novell, IBM, Canonical etc.

In other words, it is intended that future Microsoft Office software will be able to convert files to and from ODF.

That seems to suggest that Microsoft have finally come to the realisation that inter-operable formats are an important feature of desktop software.

However ODF will not be the default format of Microsoft Office Microsoft Office will not make documents created in office automatically a A user of Microsoft Office will still have to take an extra, intentional step to save a document in ODF, either by deliberately setting the application to default to ODF or by selecting ODF as the format for saving an individual document.

It is good news for people who use Microsoft products since they will, when this is implemented, and depending on how it is implemented, be able to expect to generate documents which the users of other document processing software can read, and be able to read documents generated by others . The changes to Microsoft Office to enable it to save into ODF, obviously enhances the value of Microsoft’s product to its users.

However this mustn’t be mistaken for a commitment to a global open XML standard. If Microsoft wanted to ensure a single open XML document format used around the world it would request ISO to withdraw the controversial OOXML specification.