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08 October 2008, 10:59

OOXML ISO specification leaks onto internet

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The Boycott Novell blog has published what it claims is the final, 5560 page version of the specification for Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as accepted by ISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation. The blog said that in view of the many reported irregularities and protests surrounding the standardisation process, they wanted to put an end to ISO's secretive process. Even several months after announcing the standard, the Geneva institute is still keeping the OOXML specification, number 29500, undisclosed.

OOXML critics quickly learned that the ISO standard continues to allow the implementation of the known year 1900 bug in Excel spreadsheets. They also complained about a definition in the comprehensive document defining the goals of the standard. The document says that the standard is to allow the integration of OOXML formats in the widest set of tools and platforms, to foster interoperability across office productivity applications and to support the archiving of files. It adds that these goals are to be achieved in a way that is "fully compatible with the existing corpus of Microsoft Office documents".

An acknowledgement in the specification reads "The following organizations have participated in the creation of ISO/IEC 29500 and their contributions are gratefully acknowledged: Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress". According to some critics of OOXML this could be used for complaints to antitrust authorities.

In a first reaction from Geneva, Alex Brown, who masterminded the ISO's Office Open XML standardisation process, has called the publication of the specification "a brazen act of copyright violation". He says that it hasn't even been clarified whether the official OOXML standard would have been made available free of charge at all.

"The boobies have even been so good as to boast about the bandwidth requirements their crimes have occasioned (no further questions, m'lud)." he said, adding that he can "hear those Geneva lawyers licking their lips over this one". According to Brown, the illegal publication of the standard can be prosecuted in countries like the UK.

The controversy follows the reports of Microsoft trying to take control of the ODF standard through the SC34 committee of ISO. Some suggest that this view is supported by rumours from the OASIS environment in Brussels claiming that Microsoft's announced implementation of ODF in its next Office suite can not be regarded as compatible with OpenOffice. The rumour claims that files saved in Microsoft's ODF format can not be opened in the free software suite.

(Stefan Krempl)


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