Buy, Cheat, Steal, and Lie: The OOXML Story
Today is an international day of mourning, mourning for the loss of the standardization process and for the fate of those who will suffer under OOXML and whatever other standards Microsoft decides to strong-arm through the ISO.
Despite overwhelming evidence that the process had been corrupted, the ISO officially acknowledged yesterday that DIS 29500, better known as OOXML, has been adopted as an ISO standard. The news leaked Tuesday after what appeared to be an official voting record was posted to an email list. Some reportedly believed the announcement to be an April Fool's Day joke — unfortunately, the only joke involved was the maligned and manipulated standards process that produced the result.
The OOXML adoption process has been rife with questionable and downright corrupt activity since the first vote in September. After stuffing committees , they earned themselves an investigation by the European Commission, quite possibly the only government body in the world they haven't bought off. They've blamed IBM for the initial defeat, borked the BRM, slandered well respected men and women alike, planted wolves in sheep's clothing — pretty much everything short of resurrecting Machiavelli, and we wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they tried that too. Linux Journal's Glyn Moody has an excellent commentary on the scandalous events which goes into far greater detail than we can in Breaking News.
Where does the mess go from here? A few places. The European Commission is, as we said above, already investigating Microsoft's conduct, and are rumored to be looking into voting irregularities in Poland and Denmark. A formal protest has been filed in Norway seeking an annulment of the vote, and a complaint over the UK's about-face is reportedly in the works. At the ISO, there is a two month window for appeals to be filed, though there's nothing to suggest the same tactics won't be used against an appeal. There's hope — albeit faint — that the adoption of a second standard could be ruled a violation of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, an international treaty to which the United States is a party.
A 2007 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit may end up coming back to haunt Microsoft in their ongoing U.S. antitrust battle. The case revolved around claims by Broadcom that Qualcomm had deliberately included its patents in the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System standard in order to create a monopoly for its products. The appeals court held that if a company acts deceptively to gain adoption of a standard that then results in a monopoly to their advantage, they can be held to have violated anti-trust laws, irrespective of their right to determine the use of their patents. Interestingly enough, the Court of Appeals ruling relies on a Federal Trade Commission ruling which in turn relied on — drumroll, please — United States v. Microsoft, the very case that put MS under supervision in the first place.
All we can say is, we hope that with this many available avenues, something is done to rectify the farce acted out over the last several months.