OOXML: from Russia with love?

    On Thursday, a letter from an organization opposing the adoption of the Microsoft Office Open XML file format (MS OOXML) as an international ISO standard fell into my mailbox . The story with this format has been going on for many months, passing the peaks and troughs of active development. The last time the topic took off was when Microsoft was not able to convince ISO to approve OOXML in a September 2 vote following the FastTrack procedure with a squeak. This procedure is usually used to recognize the already de facto universally accepted industrial standards, a detailed examination of which is not necessary by the bureaucratic apparatus. Initially controversialThe decision to launch this procedure with respect to the frankly raw OOXML admittedly led to a natural outcome. But Microsoft does not give up : the fate of OOXML will be decided by the conference, which will be held February 25-29 in Geneva.

    Since September, an interesting persistence effect of the Redmond corporation has manifested itself : the third world countries involved in the ISO profile committee by some “invisible force” voted very vigorously for the vote important to Microsoft. However, they seemed to be not going to take part in another committee work, which practically paralyzed him.

    Russia, on the way to September, behaved outwardly almost imperceptibly. However, she voted in favor without a single comment. Why did it happen, who is responsible for this and who will decide how the country will vote in February? This is what I tried to find out.

    Askold Nikolaevich PjavchenkoA fairly short series of calls to GOST officials, whose contacts can be found on the Rostekhregulirovka’s website , led me to a conversation with Askold Nikolayevich Pjavchenko, Deputy Director for Quality, Federal State Unitary Research Institute Voskhod and Chairman of the Technical Committee 22 GOST, which deals with IT issues.

    The role of the committee is to professionally discuss the specifications proposed for standardization and make their conclusions on them for those responsible in Rostekhregulirovanie. Thus, without making a final decision in the consideration of the draft standard, TK-22 should submit all the necessary materials for an unambiguous decision “yes” / “no” or recommend continuing the discussion. In this case, GOST may delay the adoption of an internal standard or abstain from voting on international standards. “Abstain” ( English “abstain” ) is the same manifestation of one’s attitude as approval or disapproval, designed to screen out “raw” projects.

    According to Askold Nikolaevich, it is precisely such a conclusion that the TK-22 would have made before the vote in September, if it had been notified of the need for a decision. However, no interest on the part of the Rostekhregulirovanie management was shown, despite the rather active work of the OOXML project committee (ISO / IEC DIS 29500 in the official classification). Seminars were held on it at the faculty of VMiK MSU with the participation of Microsoft representatives, a subcommittee of 12 "serious scientists and specialists in electronic document management" worked. “It is not serious to think that such a voluminous document can be studied in such a short time,” Mr. Piavchenko remarks about the 6500-page OOXML specification that has become famous for its size.

    Today, the committee still has its own opinion: the discussion of DIS 29500 must continue. “A lot of” obvious remarks have already been accumulated, until the elimination of which it is simply pointless to talk about voting on it. The Russian offices of Microsoft and IBM, which stands for her as an implacable opponent in this matter, agree to continue to participate in the seminars.

    At the same time, Askold Nikolaevich notes that ODF, in comparison with the respected PDF, deserves a much more detailed discussion than what was before its adoption as an ISO standard. The TC also has many comments to it. However, he believes that the issue of competition between OOXML and ODF "is not of a fundamental nature." “OOXML,” he says, “is needed as a commercial product, well integrated into Microsoft’s popular commercial office suite.” And he adds that "the main thing is that there are no obstacles to the use of third-party packages and third-party formats."

    Evgeny Robertovich Petrosyan
    When asked who will represent our country in Geneva and who will convey the arguments of our experts to ISO, Mr. Piavchenko with a smile said that these would be those who have money for such foreign business trips, and more specifically, representatives of local offices of all those same IBM and Microsoft. For an answer to the same question, I wanted to turn to the person who made the decision to vote “for” on behalf of the Rostekhregulirovka in the September vote — to the deputy head of the department, Yevgeny Robertovich Petrosyan.

    However, as it turned out, “catching” Mr. Petrosyan on a business phone is not so simple: either an urgent meeting of the government or he is not sitting at the table on which the telephone is located and, accordingly, cannot.

    At the end of September, one of the participantsAn OpenNet forum under the nickname Alexandr still got a conversation with this high-ranking official. Then Evgeny Robertovich said that, voting “for” OOXML, he was guided by concern for progress: TK-22 did not give recommendations to vote “against”, and progress, according to him, would stop the abstention from voting.

    A persistent fog of politics and behind-the-scenes agreements shrouds the whole story. There is almost no doubt that in February Russia will say “yes” again, and there is almost no doubt that it will be “yes” to Rostekhregulirovanie officials, and not to experts who studied the draft standard ...

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