Open XML Suffers a Setback on the Road to ISO Ratification

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.

/zimages/1/28571.gifOpen 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).

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick 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.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead 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.