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Microsoft Office Open XML rejected as standard

A US standards body has rejected Microsoft's Office Open XML document format as an international standard, which could further boost the popularity of open source standard OpenDocument (ODF)
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Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

A US standards body has rejected Microsoft's Office Open XML document format as an international standard, which could further boost the popularity of open source standard OpenDocument (ODF)

Late last week, Office Open XML (OOXML) failed to gain approval in a vote by a sub-group of the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), a standards body influential with the US government.

OOXML has strong support from Microsoft, and is a rival to the OpenDocument Format (ODF) favoured by open-source vendors and companies such as IBM. But while ODF has gained important acceptance from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), OOXML is still struggling to be seen as a truly open.

According to Rob Weir, a member of INCITS and an IBM performance architect, OOXML failed to gain the majority needed for INCITS V1 sub-group approval, which is seen by some as a step towards being accepted by the ISO.

"On Friday July 13th, INCITS V1 met via teleconference for three hours but failed to reach a 2/3 consensus necessary to recommend an 'Approval, with comments' position on Microsoft 'Office Open XML' document specification," said Weir in his blog.

Currently a group of companies is applying for ISO certification for OOXML. Microsoft is keen that OOXML gains ISO approval rapidly, as ISO is seen as an important milestone for standards.

However, Weir said that the V1 sub-group would not report consensus on the "controversial" OOXML ISO submission, which has been fast-tracked.

"The result is that V1 will report a large list of technical comments for consideration by INCITS, but will not report a consensus position on this controversial ISO 'Fast Track' submission," said Weir's blog post.

He added that an "important factor" in the voting process was the number of members new to the committee who were Microsoft business partners.

"An important factor in the V1 vote was the large number of members who joined very late in the process," said Weir. "At the start of the year, V1 had only seven voting members. But, by Friday's meeting, V1 had 26 voting members. There was a clear pattern in the voting where the long-time V1 members voted for the 'Disapproval, with comments' position, while the newer members voted overwhelmingly 'Yes, with comments'. This is not surprising since the new members were largely Microsoft business partners."

A Microsoft insider insisted that OOXML, having gained certification from another standards organisation, Ecma International, is now an Ecma concern. However, no official Microsoft comment was available at the time of writing.

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