IBM's antic carrying on
A couple of interesting items prompt me to write a quick post about IBM.
Jack Schofield, the Guardian's computer editor has written a story for ComputerWeekly.com titled "Open battle will boost compatibility" that discusses Microsoft's recent vote to add ODF 1.0 to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) list, and contrasts that approach with IBM's negative behaviour regarding Ecma-376 OpenXML. Jack comments:
"But you still have to wonder why IBM, which usually puts a lot of effort into talking up its openness, put itself in a position where it looks hypocritical."
Well I have to admit I've burned a few cycles myself thinking through that one! But then from their public statements you'd expect IBM to support "Open Mainframe", but they clearly don't. I know from my own experience that IBM has no shortage of smart talented people, and I can't believe that some of these people can't see the hypocrisy and falsehood in their public messaging. Taking OpenXML as an example, Bob Sutor, IBM's Vice President for Standards wrote only yesterday
"OpenXML is, well, Microsoft’s personal and private XML specification for its product. As I’ve said multiple times, Microsoft has every right in the universe to have its own formats, but that is different from making private, proprietary formats into international standards that no one else will be able to implement in their entirety.
If you want insurance for the future that you will not be locked into the whims and technical decisions of a single vendor protecting its products and marketshare, go with ODF. If you are just fine with the avoidable loss of your freedoms to choose from a range of applications and are willing to commit to a single vendor, go with OOXML."
Sorry Bob but that's what Harry G. Frankfurt calls bullshit. What's more - enough people have heard both sides of the debate that you're starting to be called on it now - as the Guardian's Jack Schofield points out in his article,
"When Open XML was standardised as ECMA-376, the committee included Apple, Intel, the British Library and many others."
Hmm, the British Library - they might be considered at least as competent as Bob in figuring out how to protect our digital heritage wouldn't you think? As it happens the British Library's, head of e-Architecture recently made a presentation to the British Standards Institute about document formats - his presentation is available from the BSI here, take a look at what he has to say.
Well he clearly doesn't buy the "there can/should be only one" argument.
and he's realistic about how people in the real world use documents.
The 6000 pages are too much argument doesn't seem to hold water either. And finally, in conclusion
Exactly. It's increasingly clear to anyone who looks at this issue with any level of intellectual honesty that there's no downside to OpenXML, and that this isn't a zero-sum game. No matter how hard the ODF lobby try to pretend this is a one-or-the-other choice, it's clearly not. Look at the response from the British Government to a petition that was created on No 10's petition site.
"... No single format provides a universal solution for all types of digital information, and The National Archives therefore actively monitors and evaluates a wide range of existing and emerging formats (including OpenDocument Format). A policy on digital preservation, which includes guidance on the selection of sustainable data formats based on open standards, is being formulated by The National Archives, and will help define the standards for desktop systems. ..."
Now look at Wouter Van Vugt's post, "Legislation for open document standards". Wouter describes some of what's going on in the Dutch ISO/IEC JTC 1 technical committee responsible for analyzing the Ecma-376 OpenXML standard. Wouter writes
"I am amazed at the level of critique being raised by IBM against Office Open XML, ranging from low-blow, to plainly incorrect ... There have already been numerous occasion during the meeting where someone raised a remark such as 'even documents saved from Word do not validate against the schemas' and I ask to explain a bit further because I haven't experienced the same, only to have a reply 'I'll get back to you'."
[Update: I notice Brian Jones' has commented on Wouter's post too.]
And finally, Microsft's Doug Mahugh writes
Speaking of IBM's role in the technical committees, Rob Weir's "Documents for the Long Term" is a typical example of how IBM tries to influence the standards process. XML, Dublin Core, and Unicode are presented as fundamental components of ODF, while none of those are mentioned in the corresponding diagram for Open XML, and other standards such as XML schema are omitted from the Open XML diagram. Even the personal computer itself is presented as part of Open XML's "duct tape and bailing wire," but not included in the ODF diagram.
IBM creates posts like this and then sends emails to members of the technical committees worldwide with comments like "Check out Rob Weir's blog on a daily basis..outstanding writing and insight on ODF and OOXML." (That's an actual quote from an IBM employee's recent email to a large number of technical committee members.)
Rob Weir's blog is called "An antic disposition". Shakespeare's Hamlet adopts "an antic disposition" as a deception - he pretends to be mad. It's time for IBM to drop the antics and start supporting customer choice, open standards and interoperability.