Office Open XML: Microsoft loses this round

I have started to see reports that Microsoft’s Office Open XML document format was not adopted as a standard by ISO. Microsoft failed to garner sufficient support to have its controversial document format adopted as a standard alongside the OpenDocument Format which is now the only standard of its kind. This must come as quite a blow to Microsoft which has lobbied pretty hard to have its format ratified as an ISO standard. On the other hand this is a victory for open source and open standards pundits who have maintained that there is no need for another document standard.

MacWorld has reported that some countries would like to see Office Open XML split up into two parts with the core component integrated into the OpenDocument Format development work. Aside from Microsoft wanting a Microsoft logo on anything to do with office software, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a combined approach to a single, open source and open standard document format. Users would then be able to choose between Microsoft’s arguably superior and costly Office suite and free office suites such as OpenOffice and NeoOffice which will satisfy the majority of users’ needs. Users would also have more freedom to choose their operating system of choice, whether that be Windows, Mac OS or Linux because they would not be tied to a single manufacturer’s software.

This is not the end of the road for Office Open XML. Microsoft did receive 74% of the vote (it needed 75% of the vote to win fast track approval). The votes against the format included comments which Microsoft will have an opportunity address before a final vote in March 2008 when the format will have another bite at the cherry. We could still see Office Open XML ratified as a standard next year but for the time being, OpenDocument Format is the standard.

I don’t know how SA Standards voted. Hopefully South Africa voted against Office Open XML in this round. Either way, I am sure there will be a further opportunity to vote again in March.

Update:
Andrew Rens has just posted a link to the official ISO announcement on his blog. The announcement includes the following statements:

Approval requires at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative.

Comments that accompanied the votes will be discussed at a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) to be organized by the relevant subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 (SC 34, Document description and processing languages) in February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The objective of the meeting will be to review and seek consensus on possible modifications to the document in light of the comments received along with the votes. If the proposed modifications are such that national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes, and the above acceptance criteria are then met, the standard may proceed to publication.

Otherwise, the proposal will have failed and this fast-track procedure will be terminated. This would not preclude subsequent re-submission under the normal ISO/IEC standards development rules.

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Paul

Enthusiast, writer, strategist, web developer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

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