There is an article in today’s Irish Times about OOXML in which I am quoted. I was asked for a comment on this in the afternoon yesterday. A number of people have asked me about the position I took this morning. Basically, the slightly longer story is that the reason we are abstaining is because there was not a large enough majority in favour of voting for conditional approval (there was a simple majority, but not the two thirds majority we had agreed would be required). The other people voting wanted to express approval without any reservations whatsoever.
The ad hoc group spent a lot of time working on coming up with a recommendation – we met for at least 20 hours in total and got input from both Microsoft and IBM, as well as taking into account submissions made by a large number of contributors. My position was that this is basically a good standard and it is a good thing that the Office world is becoming more open. It might have been better if Microsoft had adopted ODF, but they didn’t, and we have to work with reality, not ideals.
However, there are certain issues with the standard that need to be addressed. For example, there is no table of normative references, and this makes it very difficult to implement the standard consistently (as well as causing other legal/admin difficulties). The situation with dates is pretty unsatisfactory, because it would mean that it would be impossible for OpenOffice Calc (which allows pre-1900 dates) to accurately save dates in the new format. This can easily be dealt with, without causing reverse-compatibility problems. The definition of formulae is also an issue. In order for this new format to allow interoperability, formulae (even simple things like long division) need to be defined with great care.
Not all parties shared the position that these issues were important and needed to be dealt with, and as a result, the committee recommended an ‘abstain’ vote rather than a positive message of support for the standard.