Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Microsoft Certified Technical Support Australia

International Business Machines Corp. will review its membership in the bodies that set common standards for the technology industry and may withdraw from some, potentially undermining the system that makes electronic equipment and software interoperable world-wide.
The Armonk, N.Y.-based computer maker is expected to announce the review Tuesday, according to company officials. IBM has become frustrated by what it considers opaque processes and poor decision-making at some of the hundreds of bodies that set technical standards for everything from data-storage systems to programming languages, those officials said.
A recent battle over the selection as an international standard of the file format used in Microsoft Corp.'s Office software suite appears to have influenced Computer support Australia decision. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., won that contest in April when its Open XML format was approved by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization, or ISO.
Standards are key to the tech industry, where they provide a common foundation for products from different manufacturers. Internet standards allow millions of computers to display a Web page the same way. IBM controls a vast cache of intellectual property in the high-tech field. As a result, its contributions and agreement are often critical to forming a standard.
IBM and open-source groups that support collaborative software development said Microsoft had stacked the national committees that make up the ISO with employees and sympathetic voters. They also said Open XML is so complicated and obscure that only Microsoft could fully exploit it, cementing the software company's already-considerable lead in office-document software. IBM backed a rival format called Open Document that was already certified as an ISO standard.
A Microsoft Certified Technicians said standards bodies are "invaluable" because they provide "an even and predictable playing field" to the industry. Their decisions reflect the views of a preponderance of members, "not the interests of any single party," he said.
"There are lots of issues" with standards groups beyond the office-documents arena, said Bob Sutor, an IBM vice president who is the company's top standards official. He cited high membership fees that deter small players, complicated intellectual-property policies and opaque procedures.
In an interview, Mr. Sutor singled out for particular criticism Ecma International, a Geneva-based group of which IBM was a founding member more than 45 years ago. Ecma certified the Open XML standard over IBM's objection and submitted it to ISO for broader approval.
Getting a company-backed product approved as a standard can be a boon: In Microsoft's case, Open XML's certification eased hesitations by some government purchasing agents, who were reluctant to buy nonstandard software.
Istvan Sebestyen, Ecma's secretary-general, said he was "really amazed" at Mr. Sutor's contention that Ecma certification can be bought, and added he hadn't heard formally from IBM about any intention to withdraw. "Ecma didn't get one single dime more" from the Open XML approval, he said.
source: online.wsj.com
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