The weekend has brought about a frenzy of blog activity surrounding the BRM last week. The comments section of my last blog post makes for very interesting reading as you see a number of points of view expressed. I really don’t want to repeat the points I made in that post, so I would suggest reading it to make more sense of this one.

I’ll enumerate to make this easier to go through. Also, for those of you inclined to insult me in the comments, please remember that you are required to use this tool for that purpose. Seriously though, this is a heavy discussion and I appreciate the points made on both sides of the discussion. Please understand that my going after any one point is not a reflection of my respect for the individuals involved. Also, I will continue to wait on analysis of the actual numbers until they are public from ISO. To many of the senior standards people I have spoken with, respect of the confidentiality established for the meeting is important. I will endeavor to stick to that.

Ok – to the meat of the discussion:

1. There is a simple fact coming out of the meeting. More than 98% of the proposed/modified resolutions were adopted by the BRM. Full stop. 

  • The majority of delegations in the room had voted no on the Sept. 2, 2007 ballot. Thus, it is an even stronger statement of the success of the comments and disposition process (remember, it is a 5-month process, see previous blog posting, not just the week-long meeting).

2. Andy Updegrove titled his blog posting that is getting widely discussed using the phrase that “Most Open XML Dispositions Fail To Meet Majority Approval At BRM” – the very title of his blog is a misrepresentation of what the BRM is about. Andy knows that the BRM is NOT about approving the specification. Any consensus decisions (or votes during the meeting) are about making text changes to the specification, not about approving the specification. The national bodies present are not re-casting their vote in March. This is an important distinction – the NSBs have a chance to reconsider their September vote. The “success” or “failure” of the BRM is about whether changes were made that improve the specification.

  • If NSBs do not like the final specification, they have an opportunity to express their viewpoint in March by their final DIS voting position. Do not confuse this action with BRM decisions to make technical text changes to the specification. The Opponents are spreading confusion this way.

3. The choice of a delegation to abstain from a vote within the BRM is not anything other than a choice to abstain on that vote within the BRM. Whether or not it was a protest or simply a decision to refrain from participating on that issue is something that each delegation chooses on each issue raised for consideration. In Andy’s blog, and in many of the comments people are placing their own opinion as an overlay to the decision. I have no doubt that some abstentions were done as a form of protest in disagreement over a point, but making assumptions about all of them is a serious reach. Of course, in the game of “spin” that is under way (yes, by all parties…I know, shocking isn’t it?) far be it for people to make claims in order to paint a certain picture.

4. There were delegations that vote in favor of all 1027 resolutions outright. Again, when the numbers are published we can dig into the results more closely. Their choice to do so is a reflection of that country’s belief that DIS 29500 should be an ISO/IEC JTC 1 standard.

5. Statements in Andy’s blog about the inclusion of the O-members in the voting should be understood in context. BEFORE the meeting commenced, ISO/IEC informed the heads of delegations that they did not want to disenfranchise the O-member countries from the consensus-driven process of the BRM. To make this more clear, if the O-member countries did not have the right to vote during the BRM, P-member delegations could have suggested that the O-member delegations not be allowed to speak during the meeting. That would have been an unacceptable result. I do understand that the JTC 1 directives, in section 3.1 and 3.2, state that “normal JTC 1 voting” would be P-member only. But I believe the decision of the convener (Alex will speak for himself I’m sure) was looking to determine “consensus” in the room.

  • There is irony in the insinuation from Andy (using his name as proxy for a few folks I have heard making this argument) that the decision from the ISO/IEC leadership and convener for greater inclusion was a problem. These are the same folks proclaiming a need for greater transparency and openness.


I contend the BRM was successful. Not due to some whim or fancy. But based upon what I hope is a rational view of the facts. After 5 months of ongoing communications about the dispositions with NSBs around the world, the constructive, positive adoption of changes to the specification was the outcome of the BRM. I won’t speculate on the outcome of the politicking that will happen over the next month.

Marketplace adoption of Open XML will continue, and product competition between Microsoft, IBM, Google, Adobe, Sun, Corel, and others will continue as well. When the just announced API is released that allows developers to more easily manipulate document formats within Office, I predict that there will almost immediately be use of it by those producing ODF and other formats. And all of that will continue to underscore the importance of openness in document formats particularly as the formats evolve to keep up with the far more important factor of innovation in the application space.



I do have one correction I’d like to make based on an erroneous response I made to “Carlos” in my last blog post comments section. Thanks Jim for catching this.

Only ITU is a treaty-based international standards body. Thus, the United States State Department controls the US representation there. ISO and IEC are NOT the same animal. Thus, the American National Standards Institute has the seat for ISO and the US National Committee for IEC represents the US in IEC. My overall point still stands, and this touches on all of the comments about the fact that people are registering concern about the Fast Track process and other process concerns. If there are improvements to be made in the process, then those suggestions are deliberated and adopted (or not) in due course. It is not up to any one company or organization to make those changes.