Unofficial vote tallies show Open XML being ratified as an ISO standard

Microsoft claims victory after second round of voting; official word is due Wednesday

Members of the ISO standards body have voted to approve Microsoft Corp.'s Office Open XML document format as an international standard, according to unofficial tallies being circulated on the Internet.

ISO doesn't plan to announce the results of a second round of balloting on the Open XML standards proposal until Wednesday. But the organization sent the results to national standards bodies yesterday. And Microsoft claimed victory today, issuing a press release saying that Open XML appears have won approval as a standard in the voting, which ended on Saturday.

Microsoft based that claim on "publicly available information" — presumably a reference to a message sent earlier today to members of the OpenDoc Society by Michiel Leenaars, who is a member of the Netherlands' national standards committee.

In addition, the Open Malaysia blog posted what it said was a list of all the votes cast by national standards bodies during the balloting process, showing that the Open XML proposal met ISO's criteria for approval.

According to the unofficial tallies, 61 of the countries that submitted ballots voted in favor of the draft standard, which is officially known as DIS 29500. Ten "no" votes were cast, while 16 countries abstained.

Under ISO rules, a standards proposal must be supported by 75% of all the national standards bodies that cast ballots and 67% of the ones that actively participate in discussions on the proposal. If the unofficial counts are accurate, Open XML met both of those requirements.

A second round of voting became necessary after the Microsoft format failed to win approval during initial balloting last summer. A majority of the votes cast then were in favor of approving Open XML as a standard, but the proposal fell short of the required percentages.

The file format was proposed as an ISO standard under a fast-track approval process by Ecma International, a Geneva-based standards group that previously had ratified Open XML as a standard. After the initial defeat last summer, Ecma modified the specification for the file format 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 in late February, despite complaints from some ISO members and Open XML critics that there wasn't enough time to fully discuss the amendments.

The OpenDoc Society is a backer of the rival Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF, which was approved as an ISO standard two years ago. In the message that he sent to the OpenDoc Society's mailing list today, Leenaars contended that Open XML had "literally crawled through the needle's eye" in the latest ISO balloting, receiving "the very minimum of support" required for approval as a standard.

"It would have been better for the world, probably, if it had gone back to the drawing board and come back as an ISO standard in two years, with all the work done," Leenaars said separately.

But Tom Robertson, general manager of interoperability and standards at Microsoft, said in a statement that with 86% approval from the national standards bodies that cast "yes" or "no" votes in the second round of voting, Open XML had won "overwhelming support" as a standard.

Craig Stedman of Computerworld contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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