ISO rejects Microsoft OOXML

The software maker's Office Open XML document format failed to receive enough votes to gain ISO certification

Microsoft's Office Open XML document specification has failed to achieve ISO certification for now.

The software giant's bid to push Office Open XML (OOXML) through the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) fast-track process has suffered a serious setback, as OOXML failed to receive enough votes to gain approval, the ISO announced on Tuesday on conclusion of the balloting process.

National standards bodies from 104 countries have been casting votes over the past five months to decide whether OOXML should receive ISO certification, including standards bodies from 41 countries that participate in ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1).  ISO procedures demand that a specification must receive a "Yes" vote from at least two-thirds of JTC1 to gain approval. Microsoft received "Yes" votes from just 53 percent of the committee.

OOXML also fell at a second hurdle. ISO procedures require that a specification receives "No" votes from less than 25 percent of JTC1, but OOXML received 26 percent, as revealed in an ISO statement.

However, OOXML may yet achieve ISO ratification. The next stage of the process will be a ballot resolution meeting in Geneva in February 2008, where comments that accompanied the past five months of votes will be discussed by a sub-committee of JTC1.

"The objective of the meeting will be to review and seek consensus on possible modifications to the document in light of the comments received with the votes," said the ISO's statement. "If the proposed modifications are such that national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes and the acceptance criteria are met, the standard may proceed to publication," said the ISO statement. "Otherwise, the proposal will have failed and this fast-track procedure will be terminated. This would not preclude subsequent re-submission under the normal ISO/IEC standards development rules."

Acceptance of OOXML as an ISO standard would pave the way for governments to use the document format.

Critics of the specification say it contains proprietary components that could lock governments into perpetual commercial relationships with Microsoft. The OOXML specification is currently a draft ISO standard, ISO/IEC DIS 29500, and it has been recognised as a standard by ECMA, a standards organisation within which Microsoft participates.

Microsoft drew attention to the countries that had voted for OOXML. "We are extremely delighted to see that 51 ISO members, representing 74 percent of the qualified votes, have already voiced their support for ISO ratification of Open XML, and that many others have indicated that they will support ratification once their comments are resolved in the next phase of the ISO process," said Tom Robertson, general manager for interoperability and standards at Microsoft, in a statement. The figure of 74 percent is the total of the "Yes" votes and abstentions.

Microsoft has sought to influence the vote in some countries by encouraging its partners to join the voting bodies shortly before the voting process kicked off.


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