Microsofts Open XML Format Advances in ISO

Microsoft's Office Open XML Format has officially been put on the fast track and opened up for five months of technical review and balloting.

Microsofts Office Open XML format moved a step closer to becoming an ISO standard on April 2, when it was opened up for five months of technical review and balloting, which ends Sept. 2.

This is the latest in a string of developments over the past four months, which started when the Office Open XML format was approved as an Ecma standard last December.

Ecma International then began the fast-track process for the adoption of the Office Open XML format as an International Standards Organization standard in January 2007, which was followed by a contradiction period, during which ISO members had 30 days to submit contradictions or objections to the format.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about roadblocks Microsofts Open XML Format hit in the United States and abroad.

Twenty member countries submitted comments, or "contradictions," to the bid to get ISO fast-track approval of the standard, and Ecma responded to those objections.

Andy Updegrove, a partner with Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove and editor of the standards blog, said that 14 of 20 responses were clearly negative, two indicated divisions of opinion, three were inconclusive or neutral, and one offered no objections.

The ISO has accepted Ecmas response and on April 2 put the format on the fast track for technical review and balloting.

A Microsoft spokesperson would only say, "We were delighted to read on Ecma Internationals site that the ISO has advanced the Open XML Formats to the next phase of the ISOs fast-track process for further consideration," referring eWEEK to Ecma for further comment.

While eWEEK was not able to immediately contact Ecma directly, its new secretary general, Dr. Istvan Sebestyen, said in a statement issued in Geneva that Office Open XML will move immediately to the next phase of the ISO/IECs review of the Ecma standard.

"We look forward to working with ISO/IEC and their Member Bodies and National Committees to address any technical issues that they may have about Office Open XML and look forward to Ecma-376 Office Open XML becoming an ISO/IEC standard," he said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifMicrosoft accuses IBM of limiting choice for interoperability and standards. Click here to read more.

The work to standardize Open XML has been carried out by Ecma as part of a cross-industry collaboration via Technical Committee 45 (Ecma TC45), which includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba and the United States Library of Congress, Sebestyen said.

But the latest move is not sitting well with everyone, especially those who support the alternative Open Document Format, which has already been approved as an international standard by the ISO.

A source close to the ODF Alliance told eWEEK that, in spite of the objections of 18 national standards body members of the ISO, the organization decided to put Microsofts format up for a vote in five months, which he said is a relatively short period of time for a standard with 6,000 pages of documentation.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead here about Suns ODF plug-in.

But there is a possible upside to the move, the source said, speculating that putting the Open XML Format to a vote without meeting with the ISO national bodies could actually improve ODFs chances of remaining the sole document format recognized internationally as an open document standard.

"Only 10 top-tier ISO members, also formally known as JTC-1 members, need to object at the ballot box for a proposed standard to be struck down, which could happen if all or most of the 18 members who objected feel ignored by having the Microsoft format go straight to a fast-track vote over their objections," the source said.

In related news, Updegrove reports that Oregon has become the fourth U.S. state this year to see an open document format bill introduced in its legislature. The others, in order of bill introduction, are Minnesota, Texas and California.

"Taken together with pioneer Massachusetts, which led the way with an administrative rule adopted in 2005, this means that individual legislators in 10 percent of all U.S. states have thus far taken steps to require that governments must be responsible stewards of public records," he said.

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