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OOXML Approved, but Battle with ODF Begins

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Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format was accepted as an international standard, according to an announcement issued Wednesday by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The world now has two international standards for sharing office productivity suite files. OOXML is used in Microsoft Office 2007 for sharing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file information. The rival standard, Open Document Format (ODF), is currently used in Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice.org and IBM's Lotus Symphony open productivity suites, among others.

The ISO/IEC decision was determined last Saturday, but leaked yesterday. Official final vote percentages corresponded exactly as leaked: 75 percent of participating international bodies voted positive and 14 percent of participating international bodies voted negative.

ISO's announcement still left room for at least two months' delay in implementation due to appeals: "Subject to there being no formal appeals from ISO/IEC national bodies in the next two months, the International Standard will accordingly proceed to publication."

The vote for ISO/IEC DIS 29500, as it is officially called, was far from messy. Microsoft's proposed specification wasn't approved by ISO/IEC on its first try during a "fast-track" process. There were 3,500 comments on it received at that time. It was subsequently reconsidered during a ballot resolution meeting in February of 2008, with comments reduced to "just over 1,000," according to ISO's announcement.

Outside the process, allegations swirled about voting improprieties, particularly with regard to participating country Norway's vote. A Groklaw article summarized some of the questions about the ISO/IEC voting process, as well as issues unaddressed by the participating international bodies.

Microsoft blogger Jason Matusow attributed much of opposition to OOXML's approval to IBM, which backs the rival ODF standard.

"In some countries, IBM was responsible for more than 90% of the submitted comments, and everywhere they added essentially the same comments to their work in national bodies," Matusow wrote. "They got their wish--their comments, indeed, 87%+ of all comments, were resolved in the disposition process and the national standards bodies felt that the process had been successful."

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About the author: Kurt Mackie is Web editor of RCPmag.com and ADTmag.com. He can be reached at kmackie@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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