Failed Microsoft Diplomacy

by Peter Spiro

Guess what this is. It’s modern day international democracy at work, in this case Microsoft’s winning effort to have the US vote “yes” to extending ISO approval to its OOXML file format as open-source software. Sounds arcane, but apparently tens of millions of dollars in government contracts are at stake with the question.

Alas, Microsoft failed to garner sufficient support of other participating state delegations. Here’s the story in Wednesday’s NYT. The vote formulas and balloting are complicated. Here’s the ISO press release; here’s a Linux-sponsored blog with some details, including what sounds like a “vote early and often” situation among Microsoft corporate partners in the Swedish national process and the suspiciously late sign-up of several small states (Malta, Azerbaijan, and Ivory Coast among them) for the obscure ISO committee handling the matter (perhaps reminiscent of small landlocked states joining the International Whaling Committee at the behest of either Japan or Greenpeace).

I won’t pretend to have a handle on this, but it looks like a demonstration of a) how important the ISO is, in this posture working as a hybrid state/non-state entity, and 2) how we are still very much in the Wild West days of new international processes.

4 Responses

  1. I used to be in to this stuff when I followed the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and was thinking about how XML could be used as part of Online Dispute Resolution. These technical standards setting entities are very very important battlegrounds for industry groups. Microsoft has usually tried to take some open standard and then build into it “spikes” (that is not a technical term as I am not a technical person) that made the stuff run better with MS stuff then other architecture. A way of sucking the oxygen out for competitors. This sounds like the classic ham-handed way they try to get their way and they were slowed down.

    There is another very interesting standards debate in the battle to have the ICANN work transited to the International Telecommunications Union. ICANN is a contractor of the Department of Commerce. ITU is a specialized international governmental organization.

    Huge war.



  2. […] Linux-sponsored blog […]

    Your characterization seems incorrect.

    Linux® is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries. The Linux® trademark is exclusively licensed through the Linux Mark Institute.

    On the other hand, ConsortiumInfo is sponsored by Gesmer Updegrove LLP.

  3. Okay, so I should say Linux-connected blog — this lawyer has served as counsel for the Linux Foundation. I don’t want to get in the crossfire of these wars (assuming nedu is involved in some way). The blog’s description of the voting process seemed useful and not overtly biased to me.

  4. I don’t want to get in the crossfire of these wars […]

    If someone was shooting at you, then I’d suspect you’d know it 🙂

    Beyond that, just from a journalistic perspective, perhaps Andy Updegrove should be credited for his blog?

    If you think it’s necessary to alert your readers to the possibility of bias in a blog you’re recommending, then perhaps you could flesh out your description of Andy Updegrove’s blog with a word or two about his work for the Free Standards Group and the Linux Foundation. That would help jam your story into a Microsoft vs. Linux narrative.

    Food for thought, anyway. As I started out by saying, if someone was shooting at you, then I’d suspect you’d know it.

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