IBM Threatening to Leave Standards Bodies

It appears that IBM is feeling a little ‘left-out’ when it comes to organizations that set the standards for software interoperability with concerns that their processes are not always fair.IBM has published its own set of guidelines that it would like follow. The new guidelines include encouraging standards bodies to have rules to protect their decisions from what IBM refers to as ‘undue-influence’ – apparently a clear stab at Microsoft.

Microsoft had submitted OOXML to the ISO under a ‘fast-track process’ which some competing opponents believed was too rushed and resulted in a poor quality standard. Ranging from end users, corporate users to technical experts – questions have been raised many times regarding the need for another standardized electronic document format.

IBM was one of the first entities to chime in with opposition over the file format created by Microsoft and approved by the International Organization Standardization. Part of the specification (OOXML) is used in Microsoft’s latest Office 2007 productivity suite, but is not 100 percent implemented either.

IBM’s new guidelines were drawn up from recommendations from a six week, Web-based consultation held back in May and June of this year. The consultation involved more than 70 experts which discussed how the creation of standards could be improved to better suit everyone.OOXML has been criticized for being too complex of a format. Microsoft has also been accused of pressuring other countries to support and adopt the standard, which left companies such as IBM in the dust. IBM has remained a long time supporter of the OpenDocument Format (ODF).

IBM believes that the guidelines it has set forth are based on the belief that open standards increase the range of software products that are interchangeable. Standards prevent one software vendor from capturing a large part of a market by locking users into a proprietary format which hinders their ability to easily switch to another products

Call me crazy, but this is what Microsoft pressed to do with the OOXML. If Microsoft didn’t want to get a standardized playing field, they wouldn’t have done this in the first place. It seems as though IBM is just a little angry that they didn’t get to it first – thus the public threats to leave the standards bodies.

Experts believe that if IBM were to make good on its threat, withdrawing from a standards body wouldn’t cause one to fall apart. IBM would also suffer. Quoting Andrew Updegrove of Gesmer Updegrove in Boston who studies standards and intellectual-property issues:

If they decided to drop out of ECMA, that kicks away from them that ability to push its favored standard through the system.

  • 'It seems as though IBM is just a little angry that they didn’t get to it first'

    OK, you are crazy. ODF did get there first. This observation of yours appears to be factually inaccurate as well as irrelevant to the subject.
  • jsloan
    Microsoft is not rushing standards. What do they want for Microsoft to delay their release for a decade while some standards committe debate what the third element should be named, ie LAST_DATE or LastDate or lastDate or ldate! It's just that for some years nows IBM has failed to provide leadership. Microsoft moves at business speed. IBM and many standards organizations move at glacier speed. Also, IBM is a cry baby, they once dominiated the computer industry. They lost to Microsoft and now they are IBM who, who out nuys anything from IBM anymore. When you buy an IBM PC you by a Lenovo. The computer industry has come to Microsoft vs N.O.I.S.E (Novell, Oracle, IBM, Sun and Everyone else)
    or better (No bodies, Oracle, IBM, Sun and Everyone else)
  • I am not an expert on this matter, but I recall reading about the OOXML standards process on

    Seems that when it came time for the vote to approve (and it appeared that OOXML would not pass), a bunch of countries that have never voted before on anything suddenly registered to be voting members. They did this without setting up technical committees to actually evaluate whether it was a good standard, they simply wanted to vote for it. And by some strange coincidence, these new voting countries received financial incentives from Microsoft. Not that there was anything unethical happening here.....
  • bf2gameplaya
    HeadMasterT'It seems as though IBM is just a little angry that they didn’t get to it first'OK, you are crazy. ODF did get there first. This observation of yours appears to be factually inaccurate as well as irrelevant to the subject.
    Author Aaron Heibert has no business offering such baseless editorializing.

    As I see it all of IBMs complaints are perfectly valid and adopting ODF, if any new format has to be adopted at all, is a superior solution for everyone everywhere, not just Microsoft and Microsoft customers.
  • itadakimasu
    who.... wut is ibm?
  • jsloan
    re: who.... wut is ibm?

    I.B.M.,, is a dinosaur, a living fossil, that which will not die, the American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, but don't take my word for it, read Edwin Black's book "IBM and the Holocaust",, which tells "the story of IBM's conscious involvement-directly and through its subsidiaries-in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe."

    Basically "IBM's CEO Thomas J. Watson used overseas subsidiaries to provide the Third Reich with unit record data processing machines, supplies and services that helped the Nazis to efficiently track down European Jews, with sizable profits for the company."

    If that is not bad enough, they gave us computer languages such as COBOL wwhich gave us Y2K.

    Now a facade for Communisit China takeover of the U.S.

    Other than that they are nice bunch.
  • mitch074
    This article is pointless, strongly influenced, and misrepresents the facts.

    ISO/IEC 26300 (currently known as OpenDocument format) was first created by OASIS, a consortium that included Sun, IBM, originally Microsoft, and which created a multipurpose office document format based upon Sun StarOffice's XML-based format. It was expanded and cleaned up by the consortium for a few years (2002 to 2005) before being fast-tracked to ISO, where is was corrected a bit and then accepted. A new revision, correcting some omissions and dark areas, is currently pending ISO fast-track.

    OOXML was drafted and proposed by Microsoft at ECMA, where it was accepted as-is, without outside intervention, and then was fast-tracked to ISO - where it was rapidly booed for:
    - redundancy (tables were defined in 3 different ways, with no discernible advantage to any)
    - non-compliance with existing standards (ISO page formats, ISO date formats, VML instead of SVG, a bunch of others)
    - visible lack of revision (glaring mistakes)
    - inconsistency (at one time VML is declared in-spec as deprecated, at another time it is used to the exclusion of anything else)
    - tie-in with closed formats and patented elements (OLE)
    - irrelevance (ODF was already there)

    This is why it was then extensively revised by ECMA and submitted again with a lot of chair stuffing (countries that voted once then disappeared, committees including 80% of MS staff).

    End result: OXML is an ISO standard that is much cleaner, but implemented by nobody (MS will implement ODF before OXML, oh the irony); no new resolution can be done by ISO because half of its members don't return calls anymore; IBM's only office suite is based off a Sun product.

    This article is a stack of dung.
  • jsloan
    re: This article is pointless, strongly influenced, and misrepresents the facts.

    this coming from a pinguin, a aquatic, flightless birds.

    first what is a standard... is somesthing a standard because everyone has it and is using it or is something a standard because some group of malcontents get together put something different out and call it standard.

    everyone has microsoft office, shouldn't microsoft be able to document its format, however bad or good it is, and get the definition out there, like they did with .NET so people can create things like MONO. or should wwe say something other that what is being commonly used is a standard because we dont like the folks who create the software that most everyone uses.

    or is Sun Office a standard, how ever good in somes oppinion their format is, something that very few people will ever have or use...

    here read about it

    here read about Sun pure motive for it's free office product, which they bought by the way.

    "In the past was criticized for an increasing dependency on the Java Runtime Environment which was not free software. That Sun Microsystems is both the creator of Java and the chief supporter of drew accusations of ulterior motives for this technology choice."

    also you don't want to know what Sun's own executve staff, which by the way has and uses nice laptops running Microsot Windows and Microsoft Office, yes you heard me and I worked there, think's about OpenOffice and StarOffice, or even Solaris, ect...

    if they can't eat their own dung, why should we.

    my point was and is, how ever much N.O.I.S.E cries, and however mighty they once were, they are bunch of losers and cry babies now. maybe if they would get together and show some leadership they would improve their position, but all i see is n flavors of the same thing. what do they think they are a baskin-robbins ice cream store.

    did you failed to notice the execellent articles, Sun Solaris is in eclipse (let me make it clear dead, the sun is setting), IBM AIX and HP-UX, not much future there.

    here read all about it

    its got to be true even in the inquirer, next to the aliens with two heads that is running the country into the ground:

    Linux remains, but how many people use it... Ok, servers, buch less and less even there. Sure their market share is growing, but now as fast as Microsoft's os, so relatively they are shrinking...

    but don't take my word for it, google:

    i know you will say that is for the desktops, ok read about what is happening on the servers.

    oh by the way i've been developing on linux since minux, xinu, unix, zenix...
  • mitch074
    @jsloan: I haven't used 'Linux' even once in my post. is currently the main ODF-supporting application, and the second most used office suite family out there. It is not the only one though, as not only it has forks (StarOffice, go-OOo, NeoOffice, current Lotus), but also competitors (Koffice, Google Docs, Corel Office) that already support ODF, and Microsoft has announced support for ODF in Office 2007 SP2.

    Just to remind you, for those suites that are local software, runs on:
    - Windows (that one ain't going away yet, as you said)
    - Solaris (going away, but there's still some OpenSolaris)
    - Mac OS X + X11 (this one is quite marginal)
    - Linux (this one is found on many netbooks, did you know?)
    and version 3 (right now in Release Candidate) will run natively on Mac OS (which is rising).

    As such, market share (OS or office suite) is irrelevant to the topic: the format itself is getting broadly accepted when not simply mandatory.

    Remember, we're talking OFFICE FILE FORMATS, and IBM being pissed off at ECMA and ISO for submitting to Microsoft's tactics in having OOXML made standard. Thing is, I repeat, IBM has only one office suite, itself a fork of a competitor's product - not even IBM's, and the resulting fork is Free too.

    As far as I know, ISO/IEC 29500 'OXML' is a standard, but it hasn't even been published, and is supported by... errr... Nobody (Wait for Office 14 for OXML support, dixit Jason Matusow) 2.0 relied heavily upon Sun Java 1.4 when it came out. Fast forward a few years, to now (versions 2.4 and 3.0):
    - most Java-only functions have been rewritten in C++
    - other Java VMs can now be used instead of Sun Java, including IcedTea (GPL v3, free) and GCJ (GPL v3, free), for those functions (now pretty much limited to the Base module, and the Java macro interpreter, for obvious reasons) to work.

    I attacked the article because it misrepresented facts (OOXML was accepted due to heavy lobbying by Microsoft, otherwise it wouldn't have been accepted before its refined form was merged with future revisions of ODF, as is currently the plan - even at MS). I didn't mention OSes, mentioned because the project's file format was used as a basis (it wasn't even compliant with the validated IEC 26300 standard, Koffice supported the standrad better for a while), and reacted strongly to an obvious bias by the author.

    Now, pray tell, how is Linux market share (either the kernel, or GNU/Linux, the OS) relevant to a discussion of IBM protesting standard bodies' acceptance of lobbying practices, when they have little interest in selling software that use those standards, apart from a protest against such a precedent?
  • TwoDigital
    How is it that Microsoft always ends up on the shaft end of 'standards' discussions? When they have a closed standard (one probably efficient and closely tied to their products' feature set) people scream and complain that Microsoft isn't embracing the open-source community.

    When they create a new standard (OOXML) and present it to ISO for certification, people scream and complain that Microsoft isn't taking enough direction from the ISO members to change the standard... I don't think it was ever Microsoft's intention to replace ODF, PDF, or any other common standard. I think what they really wanted was to start selling copies of Office 2007 that was already using this standard and they wanted people to know how the format is set up so they could leverage that in 3rd-part add-ons.