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ISO votes to reject Microsoft's Open XML as standard

Vendor expects second vote next year will result in approval of file format

By Peter Sayer
September 4, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Microsoft Corp. has failed in its attempt to have its Office Open XML document format fast-tracked straight to the status of an ISO standard.

The proposal must now be revised to take into account the negative comments made during the voting process, which was completed by the Geneva-based ISO standards body on Sunday.

Microsoft said Tuesday that it expects a second vote early next year will result in approval. But that is by no means certain, given the objections to the proposal raised by some national standards bodies.

A proposal must pass two voting hurdles to be approved as an ISO standard: It must win the support of two-thirds of voting national standards bodies that participated in work on the proposal, known as "P" members, and also of three quarters of all voting members.

Open XML failed on both counts, according to figures provided by Microsoft and by other sources with knowledge of the voting process. ISO has yet to officially announce the results.

According to Microsoft, there were 51 votes in favor of adopting Open XML, giving it 74% approval among the voting countries -- just shy of the required percentage.

Many of the national standard bodies voting against the proposal accompanied their votes with comments on what must be changed before they will vote in favor. ISO's Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC-1),  which is in charge of the Open XML submission, now must reconcile those objections with the text of the proposal and find a compromise that can win enough votes to get through.

That could be difficult. For example, the French Association for Standardization, known as Afnor, wants to tear the proposal into two pieces: a "core" part, which it hopes will be converged over the course of three years with the competing Open Document Format (ODF) for Office Applications, and an "extensions" sections dealing with compatibility between Open XML and proprietary document formats.

The French group isn't alone in suggesting modifications to the standard: Brazil's standards body raised more than 60 objections, including issues of support for different languages and date formats, while India's was concerned that Open XML is incompatible with ODF, which was already approved as a standard by ISO.

Microsoft could miss out on revenue from the lucrative government market if Open XML is also rejected next year. Some governments, worried that the need for access to electronic archives held in proprietary formats leaves them hostage to their software vendor, have mandated the use of document formats that comply with open standards.

Others are considering such a move, which could put Microsoft at a double disadvantage against open-source products such as OpenOffice.org that not only store files natively in the ISO-approved Open Document Format for Office Applications, but also are free.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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