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23 September 2008, 13:07

IBM reconsiders cooperation with ISO

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IBM has put a new company policy into place that lays out the conditions under which it will contribute to work on open standards in future. It includes a review, effective immediately, of all of the company's memberships in associations, organisations, and groups – including the International Organisation for Standardisation, ISO. IBM intends to set out the criteria it will use to decide whether to work on any particular standardisation process. The company has taken this step in response to the controversial standardisation of Open Office XML (OOXL) by ISO and its sister organisation, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

IBM vehemently opposed certification of the Microsoft-developed document format in Geneva and in ISO member states. According to IBM, the comprehensive specification contains major errors. IBM also wanted to prevent competition with the Open Document Format (ODF) document standard, which was became an ISO standard in 2006. Developing nations also repeatedly protested against the OOXML standardisation process. But ISO has rejected all accusations against it, despite there having been many reports about irregularities surrounding the approval process.

For its participation in future standardisation processes, IBM will be taking into account the quality and openness of the procedural rules, membership regulations, and organisations' intellectual property policies. IBM is also encouraging developing countries to adopt open global standards and to take a more active role in developing those standards. IBM believes that oversight structures in standardisation organisations should be developed to ensure that technological decisions, approvals, and arbitration procedures are both fair, by involving independent participants, and carried out without improper influence peddling.

IBM also appealed for more cooperation with developer groups to make open standards freely available and implementable for better software interoperability. The company believes that intellectual property rules ought to be clear and simple and that all interests, including the open source community, should be included on an equal footing. IBM called on other members of standardisation groups to develop similar principles and to join it in reforming standardisation organisations. These considerations are based on an online probe that IBM conducted last summer in which 70 independent experts from the scientific community, legal community, government, and other political bodies participated. Another invitation only summit is planned for November under the auspices of Yale University.

(Stefan Krempl)


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