Letter from Standards NZ Chief Operating Officer

Before this decision came out I had been saying how much I appreciated the process that SNZ were going through and how whatever the outcome there could be no cause for complaint from any quarter. I think this letter from Grant Thomas is an indication of just how seriously they take their role.

The COO of Standards NZ sent the following letter to stakeholders explaining their "No" vote. For me the most interesting comment was this one:

"Joint Technical Committee (JTC1) directives also specifically state that a ‘no’ vote should be submitted if there are technical problems that need to be fixed pior to publication. "

ECMA and Microsoft both indicated there are technical deficiencies that would need to be fixed.

Full text below:

30 August 2007

Dear Stakeholder

New Zealand vote on Open XML

After considerable discussion and input from key New Zealand stakeholders, the Standards Council have concluded that the New Zealand vote will be ‘no’ with technical comments on the draft ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Information technology - Office Open XML file formats Standard. This ‘no’ was cast this morning.

The Standards Council believe that the decision to publish a Standard, be it a New Zealand, Joint or International Standard should be based on having stakeholder consensus that the document should be published. If that stakeholder support is insufficient, the Standards Council contend that the document should not be published. Joint Technical Committee (JTC1) directives also specifically state that a ‘no’ vote should be submitted if there are technical problems that need to be fixed prior to publication.

The Standards New Zealand and State Services workshops, and written submissions received raised philosophical concerns such as whether there should be two international Standards covering the same subject area. They also questioned whether there should be an attempt to merge the open XML draft standard with the existing XML international Standard.

Significant concern was expressed about proprietary content that is embedded in the document. Microsoft made commitments not to sue for breach of patent. However, there was still general concern about the protection these commitments offered.

Considerable concern was also expressed about technical omissions, errors and inconsistencies within the draft Standard. Whilst some workshops participants stated that they believe these technical omissions, errors and inconsistencies could be corrected prior to publication, others were of the view that this could not occur within the time available.

On this basis, and in considering the outcomes of the two workshops, submissions and comments received, the Standards Council instructed that the New Zealand vote be ‘no’ with technical comments. This instruction allows JTC1 to attempt to resolve the technical comments. If the comments are resolved New Zealand will have the opportunity to change their vote to ‘yes’ at a ballot resolution meeting in February 2008.

JTC 1 directives describe a range of document types other than full international Standards. The Standards Council has also made a recommendation the document be considered for publication as an ISO/IEC Type 2 Technical Report. This is an alternative path should the comments submitted with the ‘no’ vote be unable to be resolved. Publication as an ISO/IEC TR would elevate the status of the document, as well as bring the document under the control of JTC1 and therefore facilitate consideration of merging the document with the existing ISO/IEC 26300.

I have for your information attached a PDF of the technical comments submitted with New Zealand’s ‘no’ vote. These comments, we believe, capture the key themes raised by stakeholders that are relevant to New Zealand. Submitting detailed comments on key themes allows better understanding, and ultimately resolution of the issues by JTC1.

Once again, on behalf of Standards New Zealand and the Standards Council I would like to thank you for your input which has contributed to our being able to make an informed vote on behalf of New Zealand.

Yours sincerely

Grant Thomas
Chief Operating Officer