Sunday, September 28, 2008

IBM's stand for open standards

Last week, IBM announced that it was going to exit some standards bodies. The policy is the outcome a summer online discussion with various standards experts.

Analysts attribute IBM’s move Anto being upset at Microsoft’s success packing various standards bodies to win approval of OOXML, a less open format than the IBM-Sun ODF alternative. Of course, experts in standardization (including IBM’s) have long know that some Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs) are more open than others — whether in process or outcome. To say that politics influences SSO (or SDO) outcomes is like Claude Rains being shocked to hear there’s gambling in Casablanca.

IBM has published recommendations from its “independent, forward-thinking experts across the globe,” which seem to subsume best practices that have (in some cases) been debated for a decade.

Not surprisingly, the proposals took aim at the impact of patents upon standardization. Carl Cargill of Sun has been complaining about patents in standards for five years, and of course this has been a source of ongoing conflict with the open source community.

Is this more than just a press release? We all assume that IBM is hoping that making a dramatic statement will de-legitimate some standards bodies and thus their influence. But will others follow along?

Also, IBM calls for better standards education and research, but will it give universities any money up to make it happen? Will it start asking for standards education in the bench engineers that it hires?

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