ISO Fails to Fast-Track Microsoft’s OOXML

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In a bit of a blow to Microsoft‘s efforts to have its Open Office XML (OOXML) document format ratified as an international standard, members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) failed to turn in enough "yes" votes to fast-track OOXML’s approval process. Of the 41 participating and observing members eligible to vote on the Joint Technical Committee 1, 17 voted in favor of fast-tracking OOXML, while 24 either voted against it or abstained. Omitting abstentions, that meant the proposal had a 53.12 percent approval; a two-thirds majority would have been required for it to pass. Microsoft also failed to get approval from the larger ISO membership, with 51 countries of 87 participating countries approving the motion: that’s 74 percent, just shy of the 75 percent required.

Microsoft has published its own press release in advance of the official ISO statement, citing "strong global support" for OOXML and saying they’re delighted with the results; however, historically, the ISO membership vote shows OOXML in a different light, with the competing Open Document Format having passed with fewer overall votes but a 100 percent approval rating with no positioning comments from members.

Microsoft will now have to revise its OOXML proposal, incorporating feedback from members’ comments. This will likely entail changes to the format—which has received significant technical criticism from the developer community—and that, in turn, could require Microsoft to revise its flagship Office productivity suite in order to support a new standard. Much of this work will take place at or before a Ballot Resolution Meeting, expected in March 2008, at which point another vote on OOXML will be taken.

The OOXML votes have been the subject of considerable debate, as the global development community felt Microsoft may have been using its power and influence in the marketplace to sway member votes. In particular, twenty software companies in Sweden, apparently promised marketing support from Microsoft along with additional resources, suddenly paid to join the Swedish Standards Institute…and all of them voted that Sweden approve OOXML, effectively changing that country’s vote. In addition, some have accused Microsoft of using its influence to sway votes from nations such as Azerbaijan, Barbados, Côte-d’Ivoire, and Kazakhstan.

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