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ISO Approves Open XML


Despite alleged voting irregularities, Microsoft’s OpenXML format for office documents seems on its way to standardization.

According to multiple observers, Microsoft’s OpenXML is on its way to becoming an ISO standard.

The three sites that have been following the International Organization for Standardization re-vote on the OpenXML standard—Command Line Warriors, Open Malaysia and ConsortiumInfo—are all reporting that, barring some unforeseen circumstances, OpenXML will become an ISO standard.

Since none of the authors at these sites is pro-OpenXML, it seems a foregone conclusion that Microsoft was successful in its OpenXML standardization efforts.

Voting on the standardization effort closed March 29. More than 80 national standards bodies had the opportunity to vote on the matter.

The ISO already had one vote on OpenXML standardization. In this vote, concluded on Sept. 4, 2007, Microsoft was defeated. However, ISO rules require that groups voting against the adoption of a draft standard also give technical reasons for disapproval. The ISO then edits the standard to reflect those concerns and holds another vote on the revised draft.

In the weeks before this second vote, the corporate fighting between Microsoft and supporters of the ODF (Open Document Format), including IBM and Sun, reached new highs. ODF is a rival document format that has already won ISO approval.

Rob Weir, an IBM performance architect, for example, pointed out that the OpenXML specification stood at 6,045 pages when first presented, which he said was simply too much for any kind of reasonable review. Weir wrote in his blog, “I don’t know anyone who really thinks the five-month review was sufficient for a technical review of 6,045 pages.”

Be that as it may, Andrew Updegrove, in his ConsortiumInfo Standards Blog, predicted on March 29, “Unless thus-far unannounced votes that were formerly ‘approve’ or ‘abstain’ switch to ‘disapprove,’ it appears that OOXML will be approved.”

There is bound to be continued controversy over the OpenXML standardization vote. Pamela Jones, editor of Groklaw, an IP (intellectual property) news site, has reported on numerous accounts of voting irregularities that favored Microsoft. So far, complaints have been raised about how the standardization vote was handled in Norway, Germany and Croatia.

As of the evening of March 30, neither the ISO nor Microsoft has issued a statement about the OpenXML vote.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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