ISO rejects national bodies' appeals against OOXML

Microsoft's document format is now almost certain to be formally published as an ISO/IEC standard within the next few weeks

The International Organization for Standardization has thrown out four appeals against its ratification of Microsoft's Office Open XML document format.

The appeals were made by South Africa, Brazil, India and Venezuela, and generally centred on perceived improprieties in the Office Open XML (OOXML) voting process, along with unresolved technical issues. According to a Friday statement from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), "none of the appeals… received the support for further processing of two-thirds of the members of the ISO Technical Management Board and IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] Standardization Management Board, as required by ISO/IEC rules governing the work of their joint technical committee, ISO/IEC JTC 1".

OOXML, more technically known as DIS 29500, will now proceed to publication as an ISO/IEC standard within the next few weeks, according to the statement, but only "subject to no further appeals against the decision".

ISO's statement acknowledged the "significant debate" that has surrounded OOXML's passage through the standardisation process, and said experiences from that process would "provide important input to ISO and IEC and their respective national bodies and national committees in their efforts to continually improve standards-development policies and procedures".

Reaction from industry observers was swift. Pamela Jones, writing on her Groklaw blog, suggested that the only remaining weapon in the armoury of those opposed to OOXML's official standardisation could be the investigation being carried out by the European Commission. The Commission is looking at Microsoft's influence in the standardisation process as part of a wide antitrust investigation into the company.

Andy Updegrove, whose ConsortiumInfo blog provides commentary on various standardisation processes, noted that the text of the final version of OOXML has still not been released, and pointed out that that text would be "substantially different" from the version that is supposedly supported in Office 2007; even Microsoft acknowledges that OOXML will not be properly supported in Office until the suite's next major release.

The details of the voting that ended up rejecting the four appeals is not yet clear. In his blog, Updegrove claimed to have received details of the IEC votes — a screenshot of the ISO votes was apparently illegible — which appeared to show that the UK had unsuccessfully voted for all four appeals to be heard. The UK's national body, the British Standards Institution (BSI), told on Monday that it would not comment on how it votes in such matters.

Meanwhile, an attempt to force the BSI to change its vote looks set to continue. The UK Unix and Open Systems User Group (UKUUG), whose application for a judicial review into the decision was rejected by a High Court judge at the start of June, still intends to follow through with its appeal against that rejection.

Alain Williams, who heads the UKUUG, told on Monday that the appeal's progress had been hindered by the fact that several relevant parties had "gone on holiday". He was hopeful, however, that ISO's decision to reject the four national bodies' appeals might spur the process on.

"One of the reasons the [High Court] judge gave for rejecting our action in the first place was because the whole [matter] was now moot, because it had been made an international standard," said Williams. "At the time he did that, the judge did not quite understand the process — he made his decision inside the two-month cooling-off period [after OOXML passed the ISO vote]. It will be interesting to see, now that ISO has said [OOXML] will go forward, whether the legal process will wake itself up."