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ISO: Office Open XML ratified as standard

The Microsoft-backed file formats are now an official standard, despite objections from those who feared that the status would give Redmond yet more market power.

As expected, the ISO on Wednesday announced that Office Open XML (OOXML) has been approved as a standard, marking the end a long and sometimes contentious path.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued a press release with the details of a vote that showed Open XML receiving 75 percent approval and 14 percent disapproval. It needed two-thirds approval and not more than 25 percent disapproval to pass.

News of the vote results circulated on Tuesday when open-document advocates released a document showing the results. Microsoft confirmed the information later in the day.

The effort to make Open XML an ISO standard did not pass a ballot in September, which precipitated a follow-on Ballot Resolution Meeting in February where, after redundancies were eliminated, over 1,000 issues were considered, according to the ISO.

Following the BRM, delegates from participants had the option of changing their position from No or Abstain to Yes--something that enough did to have the effort pass.

Microsoft originally submitted the Open XML file formats to standards organization Ecma International in 2005. Ecma then proposed the specification to ISO in its Fast Track process, which many considered to be too fast for a complicated specification.

ISO standards status means that software that uses Open XML, notably Microsoft's Office products, will be more attractive to governments and large corporate customers that prefer to purchase ISO-certified goods.

It also means that development of the specification will be done through the ISO, which counts members from over 100 countries. There were 87 countries which participated in the Open XML vote.

Microsoft and other software companies that support Open XML in their products, such as Apple and Novell, are expected to conform to the standard as it changes over time.

The entire endeavor was opposed by many, although certainly not all, open-source advocates who feared that standards status would give Microsoft more market power.

The run-up to the vote was marked by intense lobbying from Microsoft, IBM, and their business partners.

There were reports of what have been called irregularities in the vote which ended Saturday. The head of the committee which formed Standards Norway's position lodged a complaint saying that the yes vote did not reflect the opposition of the majority of the committee.

However, ISO spokesperson Roger Frost on Tuesday said that the organization has not received a complaint from its Norwegian ISO member, referring the matter to Standards Norway.