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Norway seeks to reverse Open XML vote at ISO

Citing "serious irregularities," the head of Norway's standards body lodges a protest and calls for the country's yes vote to be suspended.

Norway's national standards body has lodged a formal protest over the country's vote on Office Open XML (OOXML) at the ISO.

The chairman of the Norway's standards committee said there were "serious irregularities" with the voting process and that the vote should be changed to oppose ISO certification of Open XML.

In the letter, sent on Monday to the ISO, Steve Pepper asked that Norway's vote be suspended pending the results of an investigation.

Here is the text of what Pepper wrote in the letter (PDF):

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman (of 13 years standing) of the Norwegian mirror committee to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34. I wish to inform you of serious irregularities in connection with the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) and to lodge a formal protest.

You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway's vote from No with comments to Yes.

Because of this irregularity, a call has been made for an investigation by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry with a view to changing the vote.

I hereby request that the Norwegian decision be suspended pending the results of this investigation.

Reports of the voting process surfaced on Friday at Computerworld Norge. In a translation of the article at Groklaw, participants said that representatives from Microsoft and Statoilhydro on the Standards Norge committee voted for approval of Open XML. But the other members of the committee were opposed because their comments on the specification were not addressed. Yet the overall vote changed from changed from No to Yes.

The text of Pepper's letter to the ISO was posted by Gere Isene, an IT professional in Norway.

An official announcement from the ISO on whether Open XML received enough votes to pass is expected Wednesday. It's not clear how an appeal to the process from Norway, or potentially other countries, will delay that communication and whether potential changes in votes will affect the decision.

Based on a tally from Open Malaysia and standards expert and advocate Andrew Updegrove, it appeared on Sunday that Open XML had the required voting to pass.

Update 6:57 a.m. Pacific. Microsoft employee Stephen McGibbon posted an English translation of a statement from Standards Norge responding to the criticism of the process. The statement calls for "critically evaluate the Fast-Track procedure at the ISO," the accelerated process for standards submission and consideration.

Regarding the actual vote, the statement reads:

"In the committee there is a clear majority that is opposed to making OOXML into a ISO/IEC standard. Standard Norge must however in its overall assessment also consider the result of the formal hearing, and thus there is a majority of yes votes. There was greater number of end-users of document standard formats among those in favor, than those who were opposed to the standard.

ISO spokesperson Roger Frost on Tuesday said the ISO will have a response to the issue later.