Microsoft Falls Short on Open XML Standard Bid

Microsoft Corp. failed in its attempt to win fast-track ISO standard status for its Office Open XML document format, getting a majority of the votes that were cast but not enough to meet the requirements for approval.

The Open XML proposal must now be revised to take into account negative comments that were made during the voting process, which was completed by the Geneva-based ISO standards body on Sept. 2.

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

For example, the French Association for Standardization, known as Afnor, wants to tear the proposal into two pieces. That would create a core part, which Afnor hopes will be converged over a three-year period with the competing Open Document Format (ODF) for Office Applications, and an extensions section dealing with compatibility between Open XML and proprietary file formats.

Brazils standards body cited more than 60 objections, including problems with Open XMLs support for different languages and date formats. Indias ISO representatives raised concerns about the formats incompatibility with ODF, which has already been ratified as an ISO standard.

To be approved, submissions must be supported by three quarters of all ISO members that vote and two-thirds of the national standards bodies that work on a specific proposal. ISO said Open XML failed on both counts, getting yes votes from 74% of the former group and 53% of the so-called participating members.

The defeat came amidst claims by some Open XML opponents that Microsoft had taken advantage of loopholes in ISOs rules to encourage more national standards bodies to become full members of the committee working on the proposal. The number of members has increased from 30 to 41 over the past six months.

Have we been speaking to our community about this issue? Yes, we have, said Tom Robertson, Microsofts general manager of standards and interoperability. [But] there is no basis to allegations that we are gerry­mandering the process.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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