OOXML appeal possible, but looks unlikely

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)  has not received a formal appeal of its approval of Office Open XML as a standard, but it looks more unlikely with each day that passes.To date, there have been "no appeals and I have no way of predicting whether there will or will not be," said ISO spokesman Roger Frost, who was kind enough to respond to several inquiries this week from ZDnet blogger about a possible appeal.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)  has not received a formal appeal of its approval of Office Open XML as a standard, but it looks more unlikely with each day that passes.

To date, there have been "no appeals and I have no way of predicting whether there will or will not be," said ISO spokesman Roger Frost, who was kind enough to respond to several inquiries this week from ZDnet blogger about a possible appeal.

On April 2, ISO announced that the controversial, Microsoft sponsored OOXML document format specification, known as 29500, had received the necessary number of votes to be approved as an ISO standard. The final results: 61 countries approved, 10 disapproved and 16 abstained.

At that time, ISO said opponents would have 60 days to file a formal appeal of ISO's decision.

Following that announcement,  many backers of the rival Open Document Format (ODF) ISO standard (used in OpenOffice) protested the vote and called for ISO to examine alleged "voting irregularities" in select nations including Norway.  At an Oslo, Norway meeting on  April 9 to discuss the maintenance of ISO 29500, more than 100 protesters (shown below, photographed, posted and described by one Microsoft blogger as "geeks) gathered outside the meeting hall with signs and shouts of protest to picket OOXML's approval.

protest.jpg

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux and outspoken opponent of OOXML, said he holds ISO at least somewhat responsible for not addressing what he claimed were  unscrupulous lobbying efforts by Microsoft to win votes.

Still, in a recently issued memorandum, ISO defended its process and maintains that proper procedures were followed.

"We reviewed the process before it started, all the while during its course and afterwards as well. While the voting on ISO/IEC 29500 has attracted exceptional publicity, it needs to be put in context," the document reads. "ISO and IEC have collections of more than 17 000 and 7 000 successful standards respectively, these being revised and added to every month. This suggests that the standards development process is credible, works well and is delivering the standards needed, and widely implemented, by the market. Because continual improvement is an underlying aim of standardization, ISO and IEC will certainly be continuing to review and improve its standards development procedures. "

Andrew Updegrove, a Boston-based attorney at Gesmer Updegrove LLP who has been involved in the case, is none too pleased with ISO's response. 

"To my mind, this is a bit like the FAA stating that there would be no investigation following reports that the wings of a 747 fell off just before it crashed, because the vast majority of flights land safely.  But not to worry, because the FAA is always looking for ways to improve flight safety," UpDegrove quipped.

"Unfortunately, here as with so much else with the traditional standards infrastructure, the rules don't really relate to the current challenge," Updegrove said. "The appeal procedures don't really seem to address a situation such as this, and ISO/IEC does not appear to be taking the situation seriously in any event."

Chris Maresca, founding partner of Olliance Group, an open source consulting firm, was doubtful about an appeal based on what he heard. "I've heard that ISO said an appeal was DOA [Dead On Arrival], but that's about it," he said. 

Outspoken OOXML opponents Sun and IBM have not commented on possible plans for an appeal. But at least one spokesman for the ODF Alliance said it's too early to tell.

"I wouldn’t be surprised, given the number of documented irregularities, if an [national standard body] formally appeals. ISO rules require that an appeal be fully documented so I would expect an NB considering such a appeal to use more of the time (two months) allotted," said Marino Marcich, a spokesman for the ODF Allliance, in an e-mail to ZDNet.