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Microsoft Bought Sweden's ISO Vote on OOXML? 340

Posted by Zonk
from the and-here-i-am-buying-stuff-like-food dept.
a_n_d_e_r_s writes "The vote on OOXML looked fairly secured. Most in the Working Group in Sweden was against the vote to approve OOXML. The day of the vote, though, more companies showed up at the door. Some 20 new companies — each one payed about $2500 to be allowed to vote — and vote they did ... for Microsoft. Most of the new companies were partners from Microsoft who suddenly out of the blue joined the Working Group, payed membership fees and voted yes for approval. From the OS2World story: 'The final result was 25 Yes, 6 No and 3 Abs and this would from the start be a done deal of saying No! Jonas Bosson who participated in today's meeting on behalf on FFII said that he left the meeting in protest and so did also IBM's Swedish local representative Johan Westman.'"
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Microsoft Bought Sweden's ISO Vote on OOXML?

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  • by Stanistani (808333) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:55AM (#20383319) Homepage Journal
    Never has the old phrase been so accurate.

    • by Octopus (19153) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:57AM (#20383341) Homepage
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:11AM (#20383537) Journal
      It's a tactic that's unfortunately too common, but easily defended against, with either of these options:

      A) Don't let new members vote for any issues until they've been members for a certain period of time, or

      B) Don't let new members vote on any issue that had already been opened for debate (or perhaps officially proposed) prior to their joining.

      It's as simple as that.
      • by garcia (6573) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:39AM (#20383829) Homepage
        It's a tactic that's unfortunately too common, but easily defended against, with either of these options:

        A) Don't let new members vote for any issues until they've been members for a certain period of time

        It's an issue that we dealt with before even approving bylaws for our organization. Someone in the proposed membership mentioned that they wanted protection against this and we decided to require 6 months in the org before allowing voting membership (or 7 days following the Spring Meeting). This was eventually lowered to 3 months by the membership by vote.

        We don't charge dues so anyone could have walked into a meeting and maliciously taken it over with no intentions on doing anything but spend the few dollars we have.

        The only reason an organization like this could allow that is because they wanted the money for their coffers and couldn't care less about the actual "standards" being approved.
      • From the summary: ...each one payed about $2500 to be allowed to vote...

        So, there are about 2500 * 20 = 50000 reasons they should be allowed to vote.

      • by stonecypher (118140) <> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:59AM (#20384111) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, because nobody has ever thought of planting people ahead of time, and there isn't already a cadre of Microsoft employees, and indeed from every other major computing organization, on every major standards body. All that means is that Microsoft submarines half a dozen people onto any committee they want to work on for some up-front amount of time. It's the Price Is Right Conundrum: any amount of time you put up there on the board, Microsoft will add one dollar - pardon, day - and bid there. Why do you think Netscape, a tiny company, had so many people on the various W3 standards? Why do you think Opera does today? It's the exact same thing, and this is just how these boards work. There's no particular way around it; you can't set time limits, price limits, count of people from a company, because they're all trivially easily gamed.

        Any time you make a plutocracy, it will be commercially exploited. If they want to be immune to this crap, they need to move to a meritocracy or an election. Next time you have a solution, put your black hat on and see if you can break it in under 15 seconds of honest thought. (You could have, this time, several different ways.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Cyclops (1852)
        That would mean Microsoft would be able to silently buy Portugal's vote, since they were able to buy the TC *before* it was formed by privately gathering puppets that would support their position, and who proposed to become "founding" members.

        Instead I was able to join in and bring transparency to the meeting, even though the NB's representativy unilaterally decided to give less than 48h before refusing new members, as it saw that Microsoft's control would be wrestled out.

        They don't give that excuse, of cou
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:57AM (#20383339)
    First the movie studios and HD-DVD, and now standards committees are being purchased.

    Why can't Microsoft compete without buying the outcome of the game? Are their products that poor?

    • by tgcid (917345) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:03AM (#20383405)
      Buying the outcome is more cost-effective.
    • by peterprior (319967) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:03AM (#20383409)
      Are their products that poor?

      Yes ?
    • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:05AM (#20383433)
      Why should they?

      Poor products or not it looks like they invested $50k to cement their format as a standard. Considering they stand to make billions from that, it was a wise investment. It is the people who designed a system that could so easily be bought who should be ashamed, if that wasn't their intended outcome in the first place. A company can't deny its nature.
      • Yeah - big babies crying over a little candy they weren't using anyway. /sarcasm
    • by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:33AM (#20383777)
      Because they don't have to. It's not about poor products, but why leave something to chance when you can seal the deal by splashing some cash around? I'm not defending them, it just makes a lot of sense.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by edxwelch (600979)
      > Why can't Microsoft compete without buying the outcome of the game? Are their products that poor?

      Yes. ive-by-design.html []
    • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:51PM (#20386111) Homepage Journal
      Why can't Microsoft compete without buying the outcome of the game? Are their products that poor?

      Yeah, mostly, but that's irrelevant. They do have a few good products, but that's also irrelevant to sales.

      Microsoft's entire history, and IBM's for the previous decodes, demonstrates quite well that sales in any computer-related field are determined almost entirely by marketing budget. Quality is nice, but it doesn't add materially to sales, so if you have the marketing clout, there's no financial reason to also invest heavily in quality.

      Sorry to break the news to you. The best product doesn't win. The best-marketed product wins.

      There's no (financial) reason that MS should care whether OOXML is good or bad. Their primary concern is that people use it, and this only requires that it be minimally usable. Investing what is for them a small amount to get their encoding declared a "standard" is just a (standard;-) marketing approach, and it would be puzzling if they didn't do it.

    • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @01:42PM (#20386979)

      Why can't Microsoft compete without buying the outcome of the game? Are their products that poor?

      Well, it's pretty obvious they're "that poor." What's interesting though is that these sort of tactics show that it's obvious not just to us but to them as well. They have far more confidence in their ability to game the system than they do in their ability to produce products that are competitive on a level playing field (though fortunately, they're often poor at gaming the system as well).

      It's simply their corporate culture. I expect it may have to do with the fact that a large number of their programming workforce were hired right out of college without a lot of real-world experience, combined with the fact that their management style is apparently, management by intimidation. Combined, those factors make a pretty lousy recipe for producing quality products on time.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <{ellsworthpc} {at} {}> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:58AM (#20383347) Homepage
    Repeat after me "money buys influence money buys influence money busy influence...."

    Too bad the truth gets lost when the money starts talking. *sigh*

    We all know that M$ doesn't play fair in terms of open standards, and never will. Why are we surprised?

  • Ahh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zatchmort (1091857) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:58AM (#20383351)
    ...good old-fashioned democracy at work. Seriously, though, what kind of organization are they running, here? Any company, from anywhere, can suddenly be a member just by paying 2500-- a nominal fee, for many large companies. That seems like asking for trouble to me.
    • Re:Ahh... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hoppelainen (969375) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:03AM (#20383407)
      Any Swedish company can become a member of SIS buy paying somewhere around $300-$500 per year. To be allowed to vote in this particular issue an extra 15 000 Sek ($2500) was needed. So yeah, it is open for anyone with cash (but they had to be members of SIS since before.
    • If you are going by a majority of companies, then MS will probably win everytime because of all their partners.

      Letting any company vote is probably not the best way to go about this, but at a certain level you do have to take into account to some degree what the majority of the IT industry thinks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PinkyDead (862370)

      Seriously, though, what kind of organization are they running

      I think this is the nub of the problem. ISO standards are used all around the world to protect people - and they're certainly used for far more important things than document formats.

      But in the case of car manufacturers or construction engineers or whoever else, the ISO protects the companies by providing highly quality standard by which to work. If Ford etc follow the standards for manufacturing their cars yet one of them still crashes or explodes or whatever, then Ford is covered (somewhat) by its adhe

  • Who paid? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordEd (840443) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:04AM (#20383429)

    One would think that SIS would not accept new companies to participate in the vote since they haven't been part of the earlier discussions and meetings. But according to SIS they didn't see any problem that new companies wanted to take part in this vote without prior notice. So what happened here is that Microsoft gather together a bunch of loyal partners that would vote yes to their standard without any questions.
    Did Microsoft pay their fee? If yes, then they stuffed the box. If not, then 23 companies with a common interest with Microsoft joined an organization to vote for something in their own interests.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jhhdk (1120433)
      The sad thing is its probably not in their best interest, but they are too stupid to see it.
      - OOXML gets rejected by ISO
      - Public procurement policies dictate ODF
      - Microsoft supports ODF
      - Customers are free of lock-in
      - Larger percentage will choose F/LOSS
      - costs shift from license fees to training / consulting
      - more money for local companies.
  • by courtarro (786894) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:06AM (#20383451) Homepage

    Kudos to Google for being one of those to "suddenly" join, but on the "No" side. Most of the other companies on the list of new arrivals [] are unfamiliar to me, excepting Google and HP, and we don't officially know how HP's vote went.

    Shame on the others for having no sense of decency.

    • I assume that HP voted YES because they voted YES in the recent US vote that took place on 08/24/2007, the results of which were YES 12, NO 3, ABSTAIN 1, which was enough to approve OOXML.
      You can see how each party voted here:
      US OOXML VOTE 08/24/2007 []

      Notable YES votes include MS, HP, APPLE, INTEL, SONY.
      Notable NO votes were IBM.

      It's amusing that slashdot carried hugh headlines for the NO vote, but hasn't covered the YES vote at all (unless I just missed it).

      BTW, the US YES vote is a reversal of the 08/10/200
  • Interesting ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gerddie (173963) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:06AM (#20383453)
    ... in Germany, Deutsche Telekom and Google would have voted "no". However, both were not allowed to vote because they came in late. And another guy left the voting session early, but his "yes" was counted although before it was said that only votes count that were given in presence. (according to Heise (german) [])
    • Re:Interesting ... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:15AM (#20383583)
      Hmm.. Interestingly enough, the german IBM delegate then somehow managed to join the Kenyan delegation, and managed to write the objection. How can someone be both a german and kenyan delegate? nexed-kenyan-iso-national.html []

      Sounds like both sides aren't playing fair.
  • by Tipa (881911) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:07AM (#20383465) Homepage
    Step 1 - allow votes to be bought.
    Step 2 - take money from companies who wish to buy votes.
    Step 3 - Profit!
    Step 3a - Complain about the unfairness of it all, all the way to the bank.
  • irrelevant (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:37AM (#20383805)
    irrelevant in a way because ODF looks to be fast becoming a de-facto standard regardless. out numbering OOXML something in the order of 250 to 1.

    see: ll-ooxml-documents.html [] 0813-1201 []

    of course, the MS tactic is to get OOXML recognized and then default to it across the windows suite.

    but as I remember they have tried this was a number of formats before - but once a file format is recognized as a de-facto standard (MP3, HTML, JPG) they are notoriously hard to shift.

    irrelevant as it may be its still a damn depressing indication of the way business is done and sensible, rational decisions are perverted to line company pockets. this sort of thing annoys me.
  • by RelliK (4466) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:44AM (#20383881)
    I'm surprised it has not been covered on slashdot, but similar things have occured in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Australia, etc. Microsoft is determined to push its proprietary "open" format through by any means neccessary: 23112581 [] 25524759 [] 35113424 []
  • "Corporate Democracy In Action" protects defenseless corporate, government, and religious institutions from the ravages of the viral public infestation attempting to managing national interest, markets, and resources. Corporatism estates include the public contained within which can be bought, sold, spent ... as the owning corporatism estate finds most beneficial to sustainment.

    It would be a sad state of affairs if the oligarchical owners of draconian institution, whom dress in godly-patriotic and humanitar
  • by lysse (516445) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:41AM (#20384747)
    Hmm. If things continue this way, and we end up with the ISO effectively rubber-stamping OOXML on the strength of purchased votes, what effect will this have on the ISO's credibility in the long run? The ISO looks after a lot more standards than just data exchange formats; will we have to consider that every single one of those standards is potentially bought and paid for by its richest benecifiaries, despite technical flaws in the standard and opposition from peers?

    I can't help thinking that the OOXML standardisation effort should be shelved until one of two things becomes true: either at least two or more independent implementations, developed by distinct organisations from the specification alone, can be shown to interoperate to a degree that justifies the moniker "standard"; or preferably, a complete reference implementation, with full source code available under a BSD (or equally permissive) licence, is submitted with the proposal. In fact, I can't understand why this isn't, er, standard practice. Were it so, the OOXML efforts could be trivially dismissed on technical grounds, and this whole dog and pony show could be avoided.
  • conspiracytheory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:41AM (#20384751) Homepage Journal
    This story is (anonymously) tagged "conspiracytheory". I'd like to see the coincidence theorist explain how this happened without Microsoft's trademark coordinating manipulations.
  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @11:53AM (#20385015) Homepage Journal
    is not that Microsoft bought all those votes - but that the ISO let them. And that we can't do anything about it. Or can we? I'd love to know how.
  • The list (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:01PM (#20385133)
    According to Computer Sweden [] , the companies in question are:
    • Camako Data AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Connecta AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Cornerstone Sweden AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Cybernetics (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Emric AB
    • Exor AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
    • Fishbone Systems AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Formpipe Software (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • FS System AB
    • Google
    • HP (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • IBizkit AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
    • IDE Nätverkskonsulterna (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • IT-Vision AB
    • Illuminet
    • Know IT (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Modul1 (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Nordic Station AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
    • ReadSoft AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
    • Sogeti (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • Solid Park AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • SourceTech AB
    • Strand Interconnect AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    • TietoEnator (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
    If you work for any of these companies, please contact management and ask them to explain themselves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by durin (72931)
      Better yet, I resigned from the company.

      My previous employer (one of the GC partners above) has been pushing open source to be used within the company. I joined this effort thinking it could bring more focus on open formats, but I saw a while ago that this attitude did not seem to apply to top management, so I left the company. I hope others join me in doing so.
  • 6546 pages? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:37PM (#20385855)
    From the Google reply []:

    In developing standards, as in other engineering processes, it is a bad idea to reinvent the wheel. The OOXML standard document is 6546 pages long. The ODF standard, which achieves the same goal, is only 867 pages. The reason for this is that ODF references other existing ISO standards for such things as date specifications, math formula markup and many other needs of an office document format standard. OOXML invents its own versions of these existing standards, which is unnecessary and complicates the final standard. If ISO were to give OOXML with its 6546 pages the same level of review that other standards have seen, it would take 18 years (6576 days for 6546 pages) to achieve comparable levels of review to the existing ODF standard (871 days for 867 pages) which achieves the same purpose and is thus a good comparison. Considering that OOXML has only received about 5.5% of the review that comparable standards have undergone, reports about inconsistencies, contradictions and missing information are hardly surprising.
  • by Optic7 (688717) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @12:45PM (#20385997)
    I would like to know. Is there anything we can do? Write to the ISO? Anything? Or can we just sit and watch while this happens?
  • by Jerry (6400) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @01:29PM (#20386729)
    Maybe it's time for another DOJ action.

    But, probably not for another year, as long as Bush is pres.
  • MS bashing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drDugan (219551) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:36PM (#20387853) Homepage
    It is stories like this that keep me as a vocal and vehement opponent to Microsoft. In my view, this business and its practices are examples for all that is wrong with software today.

Forty two.