There is no doubt that the stakes in the Open Document Format (ODF) vs. Open XML standardization process are high. Microsoft and IBM have each invested huge sums of money in their version of what the standard should be. Unlike Microsoft, which is pushing its own proprietary vision of what the standard should be, IBM has been in the corner of ODF. How committed has IBM been to this? So committed that the latest release of Lotus Notes includes desktop productivity tools. These tools are free and are designed to give organizations an alternative to the Microsoft view of the world. These tools are based on ODF. However, the battle is getting ugly as the time for a vote appears, and Microsoft has really pushed the rules of the process to the limit. And even though they are playing within the rules, their actions are so transparent that anyone can read the marked cards. They are very simply using their deep cash reserves to buy the votes needed to get their way.
The adoption of a standard is supposed to be an open, transparent process. Any companies interested in participating in the standard setting process in any significant way have to pay a fee to get a seat at the table. Many companies played by the rules and participated in the process. And it was becoming clear that Microsoft was not getting there way. In the recent vote in Sweden, it looked like Microsoft was going to lose. So what does Microsoft do? They pull the cards out of their sleeve and in a way that competing interests have no time to react. . Out of nowhere, Microsoft Business Partners are ponying up the $US2,444 to get a vote just in time for the vote. The final vote was in favor of Microsoft: 25 Yes, 6 No and 3 Abstentions. And what newly paid up companies, as posted on OS/2 World, made the difference?:
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)
Exor AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
Fishbone Systems AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
Formpipe Software (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
FS System AB
HP (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
IBizkit AB (Microsoft Certified Partner)
IDE Nätverkskonsulterna (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
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)
Strand Interconnect AB (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
TietoEnator (Microsoft Gold Certified Partner)
Eighteen (18) of these companies are Microsoft Gold Certified Partners that turn up out of the blue. They had never participated in the standards formulation process, yet they were allowed to vote. Without them, it is unlikely that Microsoft would have prevailed. It is clear that something is rotten here and the standard setting process is flawed. It would be nice if each of these Microsoft Partners would sign an affidavit in a court of law stating that they did not receive the sign-up money from Microsoft or that there was no quid pro quo for their participation.
I want to make it clear that I do not have a vested interest in either standard and that I have for or with IBM since 1999 as an employee or business partner. My interest is that everyone play fairly in the process. Once again, Microsoft never lets me down...they played unfairly . Sure it may have been within the rules. But as I often say: just because you can does not mean you should, I am very happy that IBM has taken the high road in this process.
UPDATE: Apparently SourceTech AB just became a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. So please, someone at Microsoft please tell me there is no quid pro quo going on here?
OS/2 World: Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML
Consortiuminfo.org: The OOXML Vote: How Bad Can it Get? (Keep Counting)
Comment posted by Christer Eklundh08/31/2007 06:51:02 AM
Hi, SIS, the swedish institute responsible for standards in Sweden has retracts its decision about OOXML!
"SiS just published a press release saying that the decision on Monday is annulled, and Sweden will likely abstain from voting on OOXML, due to procedural issues."
Comment posted by Rolf B09/02/2007 02:07:33 AM
If you really want to be neutral you should mention that its not uncommon for companies to be partners with several technology companies. My company, for instance, is a partner with MS, but we are also a partner with IBM, Cisco, Citrix, and more.
Comment posted by bvk chaitanya09/02/2007 02:21:44 AM
Interesting to see Google voting Yes!
Comment posted by Sherlock Asimov09/02/2007 04:37:23 AM
How come Google is among the paid up partners?
Comment posted by Andrew S09/02/2007 08:52:21 AM
Money down the drain by Microsoft then? Hopefully the retraction by Sweden is an example of the process working properly. ODF is already a standard and that is what I will work with regardless. However I really don't wish to have an obviously flawed standard approved as such.
Comment posted by Anon09/02/2007 09:02:19 AM
I work for one of the companies mentioned above. Microsoft does not pay the fee for us, or in any other way provide us with money or special benefits. They just gave us a call right before he meeting and asked us to do them the favor. As a MS partner a good relationship with MS is essential for our business so, as for most partners, the choice was not hard.
We scratch their back and we hope that they in some way will scratch ours.
Comment posted by vic09/02/2007 10:39:36 AM
Are you being sarcastic when you ask if there is a "quid pro quo" going on ?
Microsoft already admitted offering monetary compensations to partners in exchange for a "yes" vote in the committee. See : http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9033701
Comment posted by Nick Branco09/02/2007 02:58:35 PM
I was also stumped on why Googles name is there but from the source article:
"Of the 23 new companies that showed up this last minute and where the majority hasn't shown any earlier interest, only Google has a clear agenda regarding OOXML and they are against it."
So it looks like the author here just listed the companies that came in later, not the ones that voted yes
Comment posted by Andres09/02/2007 03:51:03 PM
So... microsoft only asked for the favor ? only did a reminder call ?
That clarifies a lot of isssues.. It is not difficult to guess what could happen with "your" strong relation with Microsoft if you "forgot" to vote.. Maybe the also could "forgot" to foward you customers or to "apply" you some specific conditions...
Comment posted by Christopher Byrne09/02/2007 04:23:16 PM
I should have been clearer in my listing of the companies. It is the list of all of the companies that showed up at the last minute to vote, even though they had not been involved in the process in Sweden until that time. What the list was intended to show is the large number of Microsoft partners that showed up to vote, and how they vastly outnumbered anyone else (including Google). At any rate, the process should not have allowed ANY of them to vote at the last minute.
As far as Anon's comment, I only approved it because it sounded so bizarre in light that Microsoft fessed up to paying the partners off. Normally I do not approve anonymous comments.
@Rolf B, I do not need to say that to be neutral. if IBM had pulled the same stunt, I would have been just as critical of them. It does not matter if they are partners with other vendors. They took the payment and ran with it.