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Microsoft's Open XML hits snag in standards process

An ANSI committee created to formulate the United States position on ISO standardization does not recommend Open XML.

Note: an update to this blog includes official comment from Microsoft and comments from a Microsoft employee who attended this same meeting.

A committee formed to devise the United States' position on Microsoft's Open XML document format voted against recommending it as an ISO standard on Friday, according to one participant.

Rob Weir, an IBM employee and advocate of the rival OpenDocument format, on Sunday detailed in his blog the proceedings of a three-hour meeting of the committee, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Despite a number of Microsoft partners joining the committee in recent weeks, the committee did not approve recommending Open XML as an ISO standard, Weir said. He said that it failed to pass an "approval" vote by one committee member.

The ISO is in the process of considering whether to certify Office Open XML--the default XML-based document formats in Microsoft's Office 2007--as a standard. Open XML has already been approved by European standards body Ecma International, but ISO ratification is expected to carry more weight, particularly with government customers.

Weir noted that the ANSI committee vote of Friday does not indicate the final United States position on Office Open XML in the upcoming ISO vote. An executive board will review the position and read comments before the ISO vote, which is scheduled for September.

Weir participated in the committee and voted against approving Open XML as a recommended standard. But he noted that his report of the proceedings was not an official communique from ANSI.

Update: A Microsoft employee who attended the same Friday meeting called the results of the meeting a "deadlock."

Doug Mahugh, a technical evangelist at Microsoft specializing in the Office Open XML file formats, gave a detailed accountingof the voting, which showed that Microsoft did not achieve the two-thirds "approval with comments" vote it was seeking.

"This means the matter passes on to the INCITS Executive Board, where they'll try to reach a decision on how to proceed. They have until September 2 to decide on a position that the US will take," Mahugh said.

Microsoft's general manager of interoperability and standards, Tom Robertson, said Microsoft will continue to work with ANSI on developing its position.

"In addition to receiving rapid uptake among users and across the IT industry, a clear majority of the participants in the V1 (committee) process voted to recommend ISO ratification of Ecma Open XML, recognizing that this is the path to take to enable choice," Robertson said in a statement.