Australia's NO vote was pivotal, so in effect the abstain is likely to win the day for OOXML.
It does seem a lot of work to go to in order to have no opinion.
As I understand it many committee members were quietly hopeful of a No vote. Australia is not the only nation where people have invested a lot of time and expressed their perspectives thoroughly and carefully through this process only to find that the final vote bears no connection to their work.
There have certainly been no shortage of concerns, published openly, expressed to Standards Australia, or to ISO directly.
Sadly given the other irregularities in the process I am not surprised about Australia's abstension. It has been an amazing process to watch.
So the abstension is likely to mean a win. That brings Australia a pre-stamped commitment to a format which:
* needs yet to be completely written and implemented,
* in its current and intended state conflicts with other standards and
* is only drafted in terms of its relationship with closed Microsoft formats
* is not considered legally safe for interoperability work.
Quoting Jan Wildeboer Red Hat EMEA Evangelist Open Source Affairs
"OOXML was created solely for use in Microsoft applications. It is not currently suitable as an international standard, because it cannot be completely implemented by anyone without access to inside information. Although it is more than 6,000 pages long, it contains various references to things that are defined only in Microsoft's software, not in the specification itself."
Needless to say the ISO stamp does not change any of the realities described below, and so the inability to express the fact that the proposal is broken through the ISO process will likely result in a change in what the ISO brand means rather than resulting in an acceptance of the proposal as something which can be relied upon as a useful tool in making interoperable data.
It will be interesting to see where nations will look to in the future in order to find whether a format can effectively serve a public function without causing vendor lockin and anti-trust concerns.
From: Peter Drummond in an Open Letter to ISO.
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2008 08:47:55 +1000
Subject: OOXML ISO proposal
Dear ISO Standards Committee -
As Australia's IUPAP representative for computational physics, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, I would like to make the strongest possible objection to the proposal that the OOXML specification be adopted by the ISO. Australia should vote to reject this proposal.
This proposal is along the lines that ‘We wish to propose an alternative standard for measurement called the Microsoft metre, which equals 3.14159 standard metres, except on leap years, when it equals 2.71828 standard metres’. Such a ridiculous proposal is unacceptable.
The simple point here is that there is an existing international standard called the ODF, just as we have an existing international standard for length (the meter), time (the second) and weight (the kilogram). The entire point of having a standard is the uniqueness of the standard!
To have two completely incompatible standards is not necessary, and would lead to the destruction of the standardization process. In the long run, this is less efficient, increases costs, and greatly reduces the chances of archival documents being readable in the distant future.
If a corporation or individual wishes to make technical improvements to a standard like ODF, there are channels and procedures for this. It is totally counterproductive and foolish to try and create a second incompatible standard, purely to afford competitive advantages to one company.
Finally, I haven't even mentioned the numerous technical problems to the OOXML proposal. This is so complex and poorly specified that there appears to be no fully compliant implementation in existence now, nor any means to verify compliance. To avoid embarrassment, please vote NO.
Peter D Drummond, FAA,
Professor of Theoretical Physics,
University of Queensland.