Microsofts Office OpenXML has been approved as an Ecma standard and will now also be submitted for consideration as an ISO international standard.
Ecma International announced the approval of the new standard on Dec. 6 following a meeting of its general assembly.
Ecma will also begin the fast track process for adoption of the Office OpenXML formats as an ISO international standard in January 2007.
The work to standardize OpenXML was carried out by Ecma International through a technical committee, which includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba and the U.S. Library of Congress.
"The broad spectrum of sponsors from the industry and public institutions ensure the creation of an open standard that can create a wide range of possibilities for document processing, archival and interoperability," said Jan van den Beld, secretary general of Ecma International, in a statement.
"The OpenXML standard recognizes the benefit of backward compatibility preservation of the billions of documents that have already been created while enabling new future applications of document technology," he said.
But criticism of the new OpenXML standard was quick, particularly from those who support the competing OpenDocument Format, which has already been approved as an ISO standard.
Bob Sutor, the vice president of Open Source and Standards at IBM, said in a blog posting that IBM "voted no today in ECMA on approval for Microsofts OpenXML spec. I think we have made it clear in the last few months why we think the OpenDocument Format ISO standard is vastly superior to the OpenXML spec," he said.
"ODF is what the world needs today to drive competition, innovation, and lower costs for customers. It is an example of a real open standard versus a vendor-dictated spec that documents proprietary products via XML. ODF is about the future, OpenXML is about the past. We voted for the future," Sutor said.
But Ecma clearly disagrees with that view, saying in a statement that an increasing number of organizations around the world are interested in achieving document processing interoperability and creating digital archives using open formats.
"The Office OpenXML (OpenXML) formats provide an international open standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets that can be freely implemented across multiple applications and platforms, both today and in the future," it said.
Earlier in 2006 Microsoft also set up an open-source project to create a series of tools that allow translation between the OpenXML format and the ODF format, and which will be developed with partners.
Vendors, including Corel, Microsoft and Novel, have already announced implementations of the OpenXML standard in their applications, such as WordPerfect, Open Office and Microsoft Office 2007.
"After more than a year of work, the technical committee produced the OpenXML formats to be interoperable by design, and produced over 6,000 pages of documentation on the formats, to provide developers all the technical details needed to ensure predictable results and high fidelity interoperability when working with the standard," the Ecma statement said.
"Thanks to the depth of the technical resources the technical committee created, the OpenXML standard covers the full set of features used in the existing corpus of billions of documents. The OpenXML standard addresses as well the international language needs of organizations by supporting all the major worldwide languages, and also includes information for assistive technology products to properly process documents," Ecma said.
Developers can use subsets or the full feature set of the Office OpenXML formats, while the format lets organizations integrate productivity applications with information systems that manage business processes by enabling the use of custom schemas within OpenXML documents, it said.
The Ecma technical committee will continue to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the standard, and for enhancing the standard with new features while preserving backwards compatibility, the standards body said.