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Finally! INCITS finalizes U.S. 'yes' vote on Open XML standards bid

Sources say tech standards committee will again vote in favor of Microsoft's file format

By Eric Lai
March 20, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After several rounds of voting and internal debate, the committee that represents U.S. interests on technology issues within the ISO standards body reaffirmed on Tuesday its support for approving Microsoft Corp.'s Office Open XML document format as an open standard, according to sources close to the process.

The sources said that in the end, the executive board of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) decided not to change its position from last summer, when it also voted in favor of approving the Open XML standards proposal during an initial round of balloting within ISO.

At that time, the INCITS board voted 12-3, with one abstention, to back Open XML as a standard. But the Microsoft format wasn't ratified in the ISO-wide balloting, getting a majority of the votes that were cast by national standards bodies but not enough to meet the requirements for approval.

The shortfall prompted Ecma International, the Geneva-based standards body that nominated Open XML within ISO, to edit the file format's specification in response to thousands of comments and criticisms submitted by vendors and members of national standards bodies. Those changes were approved at a so-called ballot resolution meeting held by ISO in Geneva last month, despite complaints that there wasn't enough time to fully discuss the amendments.

That was followed earlier this month by a favorable recommendation on the Open XML proposal by the V1 Technical Committee, which advises the INCITS executive board on text-processing standards issues.

Then, several days after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates did some lobbying for Open XML in Washington, the INCITS board last Friday voted via a mail ballot in favor of maintaining the "yes" vote on the standards proposal.

The vote count on Friday was 11-4, with one abstention. Voting against Open XML were IBM, Oracle Corp., Adobe Systems Inc. and IT consulting firm Farance Inc. Because that vote wasn't unanimous, more debate and discussion was required this week.

"Attendees were asked if anyone would be willing to change their vote based on the submitted comments, and no one responded," said one of the sources familiar with the situation at INCITS.

A spokeswoman for the American National Standards Institute, of which INCITS is a subsidiary organization, said that ANSI is unable to release information about the official U.S. position on Open XML until ISO concludes the second round of balloting.

National standards bodies have until March 29 to submit their ballots on the Open XML proposal.

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