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Proposal to Recognize the Need for 'Civil ICT Standards'

Andy Updegrove replies to the open letter recently released by Patrick Durusau, in which he suggested that it was time to acknowledge progress made and adopt OOXML. Updegrove's essay is also an explanation of why he has for the first time in his career become personally involved in supporting a standard. The reason is that he believes that we are at a watershed in public standards policy, and that there is much more at stake than ODF and OOXML.


As I write this entry, hundreds of people from around the world are converging on Geneva, Switzerland. 120 will meet behind closed doors to hold the final collaborative discussions that will determine whether OOXML will become an ISO/IEC standard. When their work is complete, not everyone will be pleased with the changes agreed upon, but all will acknowledge that the specification that eventually emerges will be much improved from the version that was originally submitted to Ecma two years ago.

Most will also agree that Microsoft’s customers and independent software vendors (ISVs) will be far better off with OOXML publicly available than they would if Microsoft had not offered the specification up at all.

To reach this final draft, hundreds of standards professionals in many nations have spent a great deal of time and effort, including many at Microsoft. And while Microsoft, working with Ecma, has not agreed to all of the changes that have been requested, my impression is that it has agreed to many that will, if implemented by Microsoft, require a substantial amount of work and technical compromise on its part.

Leaving aside whether Microsoft has made sufficient concessions, it has also made substantial accommodations on the intellectual property rights (IPR) front along the way as well. Today, it makes important IPR available under covenants not to sue that are more broadly available, and far less burdensome than the licenses that it required two years ago.
When I first began to write about ODF in September of 2005, none of these developments had been anticipated, much less promised by Microsoft. And while the interoperability promises made by Microsoft as recently as last week still fall short of those that would be required to meet the needs of (for example) open source software developers, it is only fair to acknowledge that there are other proprietary software vendors that have not promised as much, and that the vast majority of information and communications technology (ICT) standards are still adopted under IPR policies that are primarily based upon RAND declarations.

Read the complete essay by Andy Updegrove. Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
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