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Proprietary past looms over Microsoft OOXML hopes

More than 30 member countries of the ISO have attended a ballot resolution meeting in Geneva to prepare for a final ruling on Microsoft's OOXML document format
Written by Marcus Browne, Contributor

More than 30 member countries of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) have attended a ballot resolution meeting in Geneva to prepare for a final decision on Microsoft's contentious OOXML document format.

The formal scrutiny process for the OOXML format will conclude on Friday, when the five-day ballot resolution meeting comes to a close ahead of a final ruling on its status.

Once the meeting is over, a communication on its outcomes will be sent to members. There will then be a 30-day grace period for further submissions of comment to the ISO, before votes for and against OOXML becoming an international standard are re-tallied, and a final decision is reached.

"There's a lot of collaboration going on between the various national bodies attending the meeting at the moment, so we can expect to hear an announcement on the outcome of the meeting from its convener by the weekend," said Sarah Bond, platform strategy manager for Microsoft.

Bond told ZDNet.com.au that over 3,500 comments had been submitted since the preceding ballot on the format in September last year — where Microsoft was narrowly defeated in an attempt to fast track the decision on OOXML becoming a standard — and leading up to this week's meeting.

While OOXML is already an Ecma worldwide standard, an ISO approval is considered to be the final word on the status of a format, and the prolonged anticipation over the outcome the vote has generated heated debate both for and against Microsoft's open document platform.

Among a number of criticisms of the format is that it represents an unnecessary intrusion by Microsoft into the open document marketplace, which already has its own international standard in the form of IBM and Sun's Open Document Format (ODF).

According to Bond, it is a debate that doesn't affect the greater community of users. "It's being played out in circles that don't involve normal participants," she said, adding that Microsoft's proprietary legacy may have galvanised users from the start.

"Perhaps Microsoft hasn't communicated as best as it could have about the openness of OOXML," she said.

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