Update: U.S. likely to maintain 'yes' vote for OOXML in ISO

Standing by the Microsoft proposal

An esoteric but key technical committee will recommend that the U.S. maintain its support for making Microsoft Corp.'s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format an ISO-certified open standard, despite controversy at a meeting last week to discuss fixes to the proposed specification.

The V1 Technical Committee advises the U.S. tech standards body, the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), on text-processing standards. It is made up of employees from 22 companies and governmental organizations, including Microsoft and its competitors, such as Oracle, Sun and IBM.

As the U.S. delegate to international standards body ISO, INCITS had supported OOXML's failed ratification last September. OOXML got a majority of votes at the time, but not enough to pass.

According to a Friday blog post by Microsoft employee Doug Mahugh, V1 voted to recommend that INCITS maintain its Approve position on DIS 29500, the name for the OOXML proposal.

Mahugh is Microsoft's representative in V1. The news was confirmed by by Patrick Durusau, the V1 chairman, who wrote in an e-mail that the vote was 17 "Yes," four "No," zero abstentions and one absent.

Durusau wrote that with the more than two-thirds consensus among V1 members in favor of passing Open XML, INCITS would be unlikely to override its recommendation and change its vote now.

"Doesn't mean that it hasn't happened, but I suspect it would be pretty rare," he wrote.

At last week's ballot-resolution meeting (BRM), an ISO committee met to approve more than 1,100 changes made to the OOXML specification in response to feedback from ISO members after last September.

A vote was taken during the BRM to approve or disapprove more than 900 minor changes in order to make time to discuss more important ones. Also, observer countries were allowed to vote.

Some critics had alleged that those changes to the established ISO protocol were significant and invalidated the outcome of the BRM, which was to have approved the changes.

That paves the way for a revote by ISO member nations, which must denote whether they plan to change or maintain their positions by March 29.

Before then, and without meeting again, the INCITS executive board will vote by letter ballot to approve or disapprove V1's recommendation.

The executive board is made up of 19 vendors and government groups, including Microsoft. It also includes natural Open XML foes such as Adobe Systems Inc., whose PDF format is an open standard, as well as Sun and IBM, which both strongly support the competing OpenDocument Format (ODF).

Despite that, the Executive Board voted for OOXML's approval in ISO last September. That was despite V1 not recommending it.

Durusau, who also happens to be an editor paid by Sun Microsystems Inc. to oversee ODF, recently changed his mind and now publicly supports OOXML's ratification (download PDF).

"As the OpenDocument editor, I think OpenDocument benefits from having a publicly debated format that MS Office software uses," Durusau wrote in his blog after the V1 vote. "I would prefer that it be OpenDocument but recognize that in a nonclone culture that opinions differ."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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