Open XML Suffers a Setback on the Road to ISO Ratification

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-07-18 Print this article Print

A U.S. vote on whether or not to support the application for ISO approval fails to pass.

Microsoft has suffered a setback in the quest to have its Open XML document format approved as an ISO standard. A vote on July 13 by the committee established to formulate the United States position on whether or not to support the application for ISO approval failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to approve the move.
Tom Robertson, Microsofts general manager of interoperability and standards, confirmed that the V1 subcommittee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards, or INCITS, fell shy of the majority needed to pass the motion.
Open XML has been approved as an Ecma standard and submitted for consideration as an ISO international standard. Click here to read more. While Robertson acknowledged the importance of last weeks V1 vote and the requirement for a super-majority, he was upbeat about the fact that "a clear majority of the participants in the V1 process thought this was the right path to take and voted to recommend ISO ratification of Ecma Open XML." Robertson also noted that this was the first stage of the process. "You have the technical review, the recommendation is then made to the executive board, which then issues the draft position, which is subject to a 30-day voting period. There may also be another period of review for the final decision in advance of the Sept. 2 deadline," he said. But the news on this front has not all been bad for Microsoft. Earlier in July the commonwealth of Massachusetts did a 180-degree turn and decided to support the Open XML format in addition to the OASIS ODF (Open Document Format for Office Applications). Click here to read more about why Massachusetts decided to embrace Open XML. Microsoft believes the matter is about choice; Robertson said the Redmond, Wash.-based company continues to hear from customers and others in the industry that they want to be able to choose the format that best meets their needs. "Open XML is an exciting choice for them. Thats not to say it will be the choice in every case—not at all—but it is going to be an important available choice and they want that recognized by the ISO ratification process," Robertson said in an interview. But Rob Weir, an IBM employee and advocate of the rival ODF, pointed out on his "An Antic Disposition" personal blog that 16 new members had joined V1 over the last month, many of which are Microsoft business partners. Six of the seven original V1 members voted against the resolution while the seventh, Microsoft, voted in favor, and 14 of the 16 new members also supported the motion, he said. Asked about the intimation that Microsoft is trying to stack the voting deck in its favor, Robertson said there is a rapidly growing community of companies and users in the space who are really interested in the technology. Read more here about how Microsoft has hit back at its Open XML critics. "They want to be a part of the discussion as to what the U.S. position is at the end of the day. The implication of that intimation is that the way the standards process worked 10 years ago should be set in stone and no new participants, no new blood and no new ideas should be allowed to be involved in the process. We are at a really important time in the evolution of the industry with the addition of these XML-based formats and many companies are working with Open XML," he said. One such company is Boston-based Xinnovation, a Microsoft partner that creates document and presentation automation tools for the financial services market. Next Page: To pass, or not to pass.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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