Tuesday, September 04, 2007

OOXML Fails to Win Fast Tracking Approval

The International Organization for Standardization has voted against a proposal to fast-track Microsoft's Office Open XML format as an international standard. Here's how the vote went: all 41 of the of the countries that had worked on the proposal participated in the vote. There were 17 "yes" votes, 15 "no" votes, and 9 abstentions. Without counting the abstentions, that works out to 53.12 percent approval, far short of the two-thirds majority needed. Of the 87 national standards bodies voting, 18 voted against OOXML, leaving OOXML just shy of the 75 percent threshold for that vote.


Microsoft Corp. failed to win approval for its Office software file format to be considered an international standard, losing a closely watched vote that reflects the software giant's broader battles in Europe and around the world.

Voting on the file format, called Open XML, closed Sunday at the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO. To become a standard, Open XML needed to meet two criteria; it missed both -- albeit narrowly in one case. File formats are the rubrics used to turn bits of data into business letters, spreadsheets and presentations.

A spokesman at ISO, the primary international body that ratifies standards on everything from the size of nuts and bolts to the technical specifications of computer codes, declined to comment, saying the group was preparing an announcement about the vote.

The standards struggle -- which has pitted Microsoft against open-source advocates and traditional rival International Business Machines Corp. – is important because it speaks to the issue of who should control the digital codes used to store billions of documents. Microsoft sought to have its document formats adopted as a standard in part to allay concerns that it keeps rivals from developing competing office software.

The vote isn't the end of the line for Microsoft. The standards issue now enters another phase during which the company has a chance to convince disapproving countries to change their minds. In a statement, a Microsoft executive, Tom Robertson, said he was "extremely delighted" that 74% of the countries voted to support Open XML as a standard. Microsoft needed 75%. Microsoft fell shorter in the other requirement, that two-thirds of a key group of countries vote yes. According to people familiar with the matter, 53% in the key group did so.


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