IBM's New IT Standards Policy: ISO Is Not Exclusive

Sep 23, 2008

IBM declared in a new corporate policy that it was establishing new IT standards and redefining its ties with the International Standards Organization (ISO). If developing countries want to develop their own standards, IBM is willing to support them. Ramifications are clear regarding the turbulent debate around acceptance of Microsoft's Open Office XML (OOXML) data format.

The new IBM standards are effective immediately, according to a recent press release. Big Blue states that its membership in the standards bodies is essentially on trial and that it will take "necessary actions." The company emphasizes the importance of open standards and characterizes them as vital for open development and worldwide trade. The press release contains five tenets for the new policy. Attentive observers of the controversy around ISO certification of Microsoft's OOXML data format should not have a hard time making the necessary inferences: the first tenet basically declares that their participation in standards bodies is questionable "based on the quality and openness of their processes, membership rules, and intellectual property policies." ISO certification of OOXML ended up in a heated battle among international delegates, with many voting against. Among the sharpest critics was IBM delegate Rob Weir, who railed against the process in his blog.

IBM’s second policy tenet encourages developing countries "to both adopt open global standards and to participate" in their creation. The ISO delegates from Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela had petitioned against ISO's decision and in favor of the OOXML standard. After rejection by the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), delegates voiced concern that the appeal would have been different coming from the industrialized nations. Ideas also circulated about forming independent standards bodies outside ISO or IEC. A thinly veiled broadside came from another of IBM's tenets on how standards should be set: to "advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence."

IBM further addressed intellectual property rights and promised to set a good example: "IBM's new standards policy promotes simplified and consistent intellectual property practices, and emphasizes that all stakeholders, including the open source community and those in growth markets, should have equal footing as they participate in the standards process."

The company states that their principles were inspired by six weeks of open discussion in the spring of 2008. In May and June, IBM invited 70 "independent, forward-thinking experts" from academia, government, industry, public policy, and standard-setting bodies to engage in a wiki forum discussion about whether the standard setting bodies have "kept pace" with today's realities.

In November, IBM plans an invitation-only summit under the auspices of Yale University to "flesh out" recommendations from the debate.

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  • Nobody needs ISO, or the german DIN

    The same is valid w.r.t the german DIN (german industry norms). They had the same problem with not enough chairs for adversaries at meetings, and the final decision in favor of M$-OOOOXS was made in a manner 'not to allow any recourse in order to acertain favorable results and not to permit prolongation of that'.

    I make an own distro - SYS - and I'm systematically throw out everything what have to do with the DIN or too much with ISO. We are open source, not privat corruption/interests.
  • Maybe we can go back to EBCDIC

    That might be a good plan, let the disgruntled members force through a batch of silly standards (like the joke RFCs) mocking the whole process.
  • W00t!


    Maybe we can go back to EBCDIC!!!!!!

  • Some one had to do it

    There is no need to destroy the whole ISO, only the area of IT standards needs to be broken away.

    All that is needed is for the EU to support this initiative from IBM and ignore all ISO IT branch totally.

    Why the EU? because the US lost its credibility and the EU has many more members and lately seems to work much better as an entity than the United States.

    The new initiative should adopt all good IT standards that are already in place and beneficial and throw away anything else that is just there for nothing.

    The whole IT industry is turning away from from MS and it will eventually be left alone to twiddle their thumbs. MS should be careful. Better behave yourself or reap the consequences.

  • good to hear!

    Now we need the international community to join in.. i also suspect once enough pressure is put on the ISO.. ( thru making them irrelevant ) they will atleast on the surface try to change... im sort of glad that this happened though... it brought the the surface or atleast to more of the public what goes on in these so called "standard" setting proceedings..
  • We don't need no stinkin' ISO

    Outstanding! This is just what it's going to take. Now if only someone else can have the courage to join in.

    Once you make ISO look vulnerable and unnecessary, I'll bet we'll see a whole different behavior.

    Good luck to IBM. I know I'll get criticized for supporting someone that's proprietary to determine IT industry standards, but how is ISO and different? We know they're owned.

    ISO. The best standards that m$... er, I mean, MONEY can buy.

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