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IBM raises standards bar, bitchslaps Microsoft

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Big Blue has issued a thinly-veiled threat to the international standards body ISO following its approval of Microsoft’s contentious Office Open XML document format.

IBM yesterday released a new set of open standards principles in which it warned the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and other standards groups it would back out of any process it considered lacks “quality and openness”.

“IBM's new standards policy promotes simplified and consistent intellectual property practices, and emphasises that all stakeholders, including the open source community and those in growth markets, should have equal footing as they participate in the standards process,” said the company.

The policy was garnered from online “wiki” discussions over a six-week period among 70 well-known contributors and experts on the international standards process.

It followed the ISO’s controversial approval of Microsoft’s OOXML document format as an international standard in April this year. Since then the body has also rejected appeals from national standards groups that had issued formal complaints against what some lambasted as a “farcical” voting process.

Tech giant IBM has considerable muscle among standards voters. Its influence almost matches Microsoft’s in terms of how much sway it can have on individual bodies responsible for determining what IT formats should be adopted as a standard.

Despite that, proprietary software beast MS (eventually) won the day on OOXML, which many had grumbled lacked the interoperability needed to cosy up to the international standards bosom. IBM uses the open source spec OpenDocumentFormat (ODF), which was ratified as an international standard by the ISO last year.

“Advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence,” said IBM in a clear slight against Redmond.

An invitation-only event at Yale University will take place in November where influential figures will meet to discuss recommendations for improving the standards-setting process, writes Andy Updegrove on his blog.

"While IBM's standards activities are formidible, IBM still controls only one vote within any single standards organisation," he said. "As a result, it will be significant to see whether it is successful in inspiring other companies (and particularly those that were its allies in the ODF-OOXML competition, such as Google and Oracle) to make statements of active support for these same principles." ®

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