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OOXML has been Rejected as an ISO Standard

by Hartmut Wilms on Sep 05, 2007 |

Microsoft's attempt to officially standardize the Office Open XML Format (OOXML) by the ISO-Standards ISO/IEC DIS 29500 has failed. National standard bodies have been asked to give their vote on OOXML by September 2.

Microsoft's OOXML Format is rival to the Open Document Format (ODF), which is used by OpenOffice and other applications. ODF has already been approved as an ISO standard. Because Microsoft does not want to miss out on revenue from the lucrative government market, which demands the use of standardized document formats, it has been pushing the approval of OOXML as an international standard.

According to the official news approval for Microsoft's OOXML Format would have required "at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative". Microsoft on the other hand speaks of a "strong global support":

We are extremely delighted to see that 51 ISO members, representing 74 percent of the qualified votes, have already voiced their support for ISO ratification of Open XML, and that many others have indicated they will support ratification once their comments are resolved in the next phase of the ISO process.

Many voices have criticized the process. Andy Updegrove, a standards expert, is one of them. He stated his concerns about the process in the US and other countries as well as the system in general. One day before the official news he predicted the outcome to the point:

With the polls now closed and the early results in (some public, some not), think it's time to predict with assurance that ISO will announce tomorrow that ISO/IEC DIS 29500, the draft specification based upon Microsoft’s Office Open XML formats, has failed to achieve enough yes votes to gain approval at this time.  This, with all due respect to the contrary prediction of The Old Gray Lady and US Paper of Record, the New York Times.
The final vote has been a moving target for some time, and for a variety of reasons. In most cases, the dynamism in the vote has been as a result of various types of behavior by Microsoft, both alleged as well as, in some cases, admitted. In one case, that behavior led to the Swedish national vote being thrown out and replaced with an abstention, after it became apparent that one company voted more than once (Microsoft admitted that an employee had sent a memo urging business partners to join the National Body and vote to approve, and assuring them that their related fees would be offset by Microsoft marketing incentives).

Many of the negative votes included extensive comments some implying that if Microsoft is willing to alter its standard regarding technical and liability concerns, the votes might change to 'yes'. So, although Microsoft went down in the "first round", the final outcome is yet still open.

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Misleading reporting by Alex Blewitt

Actually, it hasn't failed. Rather, it hasn't succeeded going through the fast-track process. It can still be resubmitted under the slower process to achieve ISO standardisation, though no doubt with this result, there will be more attention paid to details.

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