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Open XML appears to clear ISO standard vote

Amid complaints over Microsoft influence at national standards bodies, tallies from official and unofficial sources show that Office Open XML will pass as ISO standard.

Early reports Sunday indicate that Office Open XML (OOXML) appears to have enough votes to be certified an ISO standard. An official tally is not expected until Monday.

As the votes come in from the 87 national standards bodies, so have a number of complaints of irregularities and strong-arm tactics in different countries, including Poland and Norway.

The OpenMalaysia blog, run by openness advocates and students, found that the ballot, which closed Saturday night, had the necessary combination of more than two-thirds approve votes and less than a quarter for disapprove.

Lawyer and standards expert Andrew Updegrove, an advocate for rival standard OpenDocument, found the same conclusion, based on official statements and reports from participants.

If confirmed by the ISO, the vote is a victory for Microsoft and other industry backers of Open XML at Ecma, the standards body that submitted Open XML to ISO/IEC (International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission).

ISO certification will make products that use Open XML, officially called DIS 29500, more attractive to government customers concerned with long-term archives of digital documents. It could also be more appealing to developers who want to build products based on those file formats.

Calls for review?
However, people are already speculating on blogs that there will be challenges to some of the votes from national standards bodies.

The vote, which closed Saturday, followed a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in February that was meant to address outstanding technical issues with the 6,000-page document and move to consensus.

In some cases, however, standards bodies did not change their vote to yes following the BRM. France, for example, has maintained its no vote, according to a newspaper report.

Some countries, including Venezuela, even changed from supporting the standardization to opposing it, an unusual move that underscores the political nature of the process.

In the run-up to this vote, there have been accounts of Microsoft employees or partners having undue influence on the results of national standards bodies, including Norway. Groklaw has a translation of a Computerworld Norge article, as well as accounts of close votes in Germany and Croatia.

Even before the end of voting on Saturday, participants and technology enthusiasts complained that Microsoft and other Open XML backers have exposed flaws in the ISO process. Ecma chose an accelerated fast-track process, which many view as inappropriate for a weighty technical specification that has what some consider unresolved legal questions.

Earlier stages of the multiyear standards bid reportedly raised questions with European Union antitrust regulators. The Wall Street Journal in February reported that the EU has looked into whether Microsoft misused its desktop software dominance in influencing the first attempt to certify Open XML at ISO in September, a measure which did not pass and precipitated Saturday's follow-on vote.