Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Microsoft: Mistakes Were Made in Sweden

Microsoft has admitted that a rogue employee sent a letter to MS partners in Sweden advising that they were expected to join the recent OOXML-as-ISO-standard meeting and vote "yes" in return for "market subsidies" (like paying for their advertising) and "additional support in the form of Microsoft resources." [Article is translated here.]

Microsoft has said that it was unauthorized, improper and quickly corrected. On his blog, Microsoft's Jason Matusow noted yesterday that "The whole point of the process is that organizations with an interest may participate."

He is right. Unfortunately.

In most countries, the technical committees considering how to vote on OOXML have created a process that invites (even relies on) companies -- all of whom have huge commercial interests in the decision -- to vote.

Such a process invites games, and abuses - as I noted here.

Why are governments enabling this? Why are governments abdicating their responsibility for decisions that affect public interests? Yes, technical issues are involved. But they are technical issues with big impact on public interests.

So blame the companies for their underhanded actions, and blame governments failing in their duty to serve the public interests.

[Quick Update: After revelations of improper actions by a Microsoft employee and concerns that it tainted voting on OOXML, the Swedish Standards Institute has declared its vote invalid and decided to abstain in the ISO vote.

Apparently, Sweden is not alone. Hungary's Minister of Economy & Transport instructed the Hungarian Standards Institution to re-do the OOXML voting due to ballot stuffing, arbitrary changing of rules, and exclusion of "no" voters.]

Categories: OpenStandards, OOXML, Sweden, Microsoft

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Microsoft Stuffs OOXML Ballot Box in Sweden?

Sweden is the stage for the latest games being played as the ISO vote on OOXML approaches. Last minute arrivals (listed here) at the meeting of Sweden's technical committee tipped the vote in favor of OOXML.

Is this Microsoft's fault? The real problem is that countries like Sweden (and Portugal before this) never established clear, transparent rules on who and how votes take place.

And companies exploit this. Why? Because huge business interests are at stake, and they can. Microsoft gets its business partners to vote. Microsoft's competitors also show up to vote. They all pay their admission fee and vote.

This is what happens when a vote that should be based on technical and public interest grounds is left to companies to decide.

The basic question: why should companies vote at all on a country's position on a standard?

Whether one standard or another best serves the public interest of a country is not an issue that should be decided by companies, which all have huge market and business interests at stake. This is a decision for government -- weighed by technical experts and decided in a transparent process by politically accountable officials.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Categories: OpenStandards, OOXML, Sweden