UK may make last-minute U-turn on OOXML

The UK may be poised to vote in favour of Microsoft's Office Open XML becoming an ISO standard, after previously voting against
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

The British Standards Institution could change sides, days before voting closes, and register a vote in favour of Microsoft's Office Open XML becoming an International Organization for Standardization standard — having previously voted against.

If the British Standards Institution (BSI) registers a vote in favour, Office Open XML (OOXML) would pass one of two criteria to becoming a standard, but fail the other.

A technical group formed to make a recommendation to the BSI's policy panel has voted five-to-one in favour of OOXML being accepted as an international standard, a source close to the process has told ZDNet.co.uk. There was intense lobbying by interested parties before a meeting on Tuesday, in which IBM was apparently the one remaining dissident. IBM uses the competing OpenDocument Format (ODF), which is already an international standard.

The committee — whose members are not made public — voted against OOXML in September, criticising it, among other things, for failing to take account of existing international standards, including ODF.

The BSI policy panel is not obliged to follow the technical group's recommendation and can simply note it, leaving its vote unchanged. If it does approve OOXML and other votes remain the same, the specification would be approved by 59 percent of the 32 eligible organisations, or "P-members". However, OOXML would still fall short of the two-thirds majority that is required and would not, therefore, become a standard.

The complex ISO standards process does, however, have a second criterion: OOXML has to be disapproved of by less than 25 percent of a larger group of 69 standards bodies, known as "O-members". A switch by BSI would take this figure down from 26 percent to 24.6 percent (17 out of 69). Without a majority of the P-members voting in favour, this would not allow OOXML to become a standard, but it illustrates the knife-edge closeness of the ballot.

It appears that OOXML needs another four of the P-Members, including the UK, to change sides before it becomes a standard.

Editorial standards