In France April fool’s day gives rise to « 1st of April fishes ». But this post is not one. Until yesterday, media announced (link to an article in French) that France was to vote no in the ISO (International Standardization Organization) vote on admitting or not OOXML (the format proposed by Microsoft for office documents) as a standard. This extremely complex format is criticized as not fulfilling the requirements for an open standard useful for interoperability. Many analysts see it as a move to slow down the growing adoption of Open Document, an international standard implemented in offices suites running on all operating systems (in particular free / open source software office suites). AT a first vote last year, many countries had voted « yes only if satisfactory answers are given to our comments ». The French vote is casted in AFNOR (the French standardization organization). After displaying its firm defense of interoperability and open standards and judging Microsoft answers to comments as not convincing , France changed its mind at the last minute. Friday evening, Microsoft sent a new document pretending to contain new significant information, offering thus a pretext for possible retreats (that did take place in several countries, sometimes further to manoeuvres that are giving rise to judicial actions, such as in Norway). Who changed his mind in France? Two representatives of governmental administrations made the decision: the Direction Générale des Entreprises and the Direction Générale de la Modernisation de l’Etat, both departments of Ministry of Economy known for their positions in favour of interoperability and open standards. Why did they change their mind? On instruction from someone higher up or because they were convinced by the new Microsoft document? If it is the former, whose instruction? If it is the latter, please provide information of which precise and new contents convinced voters to switch to abstention.
The adoption of OOXML as a standard will not stop the growing adoption of OpenDocument and F/OSS office suites. It will just slow it down. Just enough to pump a few tens of billions of euros from the pockets of the planet citizens into the profits of one company. Your eyes were not mistaken: it is tens of billions of euros (the net profit of Microsoft on office suites was 10.7 billions of US dollars in 2007).
L’adoption d’OOXML ne stoppera pas l’adoption croissante d’Open Document et des suites bureautiques libres. Elle la ralentira seulement. De quoi transvaser quelques dizaines de milliards d’euros supplémentaires des poches des citoyens de la planète vers les profits d’une société. Vous avez bien lu : quelques dizaines de milliards d’euros (les profits nets de Microsoft sur les suites bureautiques se sont élevés à 10,7 milliards de dollars en 2007).