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April 03, 2008 10:33 IST

After nearly 14 months of discussion, debate and controversies surrounding them, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has finally declared that Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) file format has received the necessary number of votes for approval as an ISO/IEC international standard. Approval required at least two-thirds (i.e. 66.66 per cent) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in the joint technical committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1), to be positive; and no more than one-fourth (i.e. 25 per cent) of the total number of (ISO/IEC) national body votes cast to be negative. ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (the technical name for the draft proposal) was originally disapproved in the “fast-track vote” which ended in September 2007, when 3,500 comments were received. India too had said ‘no’ with comments.

However, the comments were addressed at a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) from 25-29 February, after which the national bodies had 30 days to modify their votes if they wished. India maintained its ‘No’. By eliminating redundancies, the comments had been reduced to 1,000 individual issues to be considered. However, there will reportedly be a two-month period to allow national bodies to lodge any formal appeals before the standard proceeds to official publication. There are already protests over votes cast by Norway and Germany.

There has, perhaps, never been a more intense global industry debate over standards since OOXML is backed by Apple, Novell, and closer home by Wipro, Infosys, TCS, and Nasscom. The rival Open
Document Format or ODF is supported by IBM, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, Google, and in India, by the Department of Information Technology (DIT), National Informatics Centre (NIC), CDAC, IIT-Bombay and IIM-Ahmedabad.

ISO approval means government business for Microsoft since governments worldwide, including India, prefer standards that are ratified from bodies such as the ISO. Governments are wary of holding digital data in proprietary formats, which could make them hostage (vendor lock-ins) to a software vendor. States such as Delhi, Kerala and others from the North-East are heavy adopters of ODF file formats which are open and free (excluding maintenance and support).

“With 86 per cent of voting national bodies supporting ratification, there is overwhelming support for Open XML. This outcome is a clear win for the customers, technology providers and governments that want to choose the format that best meets their needs and have a voice in the evolution of this widely adopted standard,” said Tom Robertson, general manager of Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft, in a press statement.

Venkatesh Hariharan, co-founder, Open Source Foundation of India, said: “Standards in a crucial area like document formats impact the lives of all computer users daily. Therefore, the manner in which OOXML has been pushed through ISO to support the monopolistic aims of a single corporation is a matter of serious concern. The European Union is investigating the numerous irregularities on the
voting around OOXML and we will support their investigations.”

Meanwhile, the debate around OOXML and ODF appears to be a proxy for product competition in the marketplace, note observers. It is significant in part because it will have a major influence on the future success of Microsoft Office – one of Microsoft’s largest and most profitable product families. Non-governmental and legacy Microsoft Office users, on the other hand, are most likely not to bother
about which file formats their office applications use, given that Microsoft Office still has an over 90 per cent market share in many countries. In developing nations also the software major aggressively competes by subsidising its offerings for governments and students.


Source: http://www.rediff.com/money/2008/apr/03ms.htm

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Hi All

A bit of good news for Microsoft and its fan and the developers in favor of Office Open XML to become an ISO Standard. Let me brief the history.

Microsoft gave out the Open XML standard as its weapon in the war of Open Source Vs Open Standards. More information about Open XML is available here. The overview of the Office Open XML describes the complete specification. And the developers can consult the Microsoft sponsored OpenXMLdeveloper.org!!

Open XML is already a standard under the  European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA), article no. 376. Here’s more information about it!!

And here’s the current news about it:


Amid lobbying, Microsoft is seen winning an international open standard vote
By Kevin J. O’Brien

Monday, September 3, 2007


Amid intense lobbying, Microsoft is expected to squeak out a victory this week to have its open document format, Office Open XML, recognized as an international standard, people tracking the vote said Monday.

Supporters and opponents of the move, which would help Microsoft maintain its competitive advantage in the burgeoning field of open-format documents, said they believed that the company, the world’s largest software maker, would receive a global standard for Office Open XML.

“After what basically has amounted to unprecedented lobbying, I think that Microsoft’s standard is going to get the necessary amount of support,” said Pieter Hintjens, president of Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a Brussels group that led the opposition. The underlying code of an “open” document is public, allowing
developers to improve and derive new products without having to pay royalties. The first open format to become an international standard, in May 2006, was OpenDocument Format, developed by a group led by International Business Machines.

Microsoft sought a similar status for Office Open XML so it could also sell software with “open” characteristics increasingly demanded by national and local governments in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil, as well as Massachusetts in the United States. Up to 104 countries of two global standards bodies, the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC, both based in Geneva, have since April been casting national votes on whether to
designate Office Open XML as a global standard.

The issue has split the groups, with some members asserting that the ISO and IEC should not be endorsing the commercial product of a single company. Others say a standards designation would reflect reality, since more than 90 percent of electronic documents are on Microsoft format. Electronic voting closed Sunday. Roger Frost, an ISO spokesman in
Geneva, said his organization was tallying the votes and expected to announce the results on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The European Computer Manufacturers Association, known as ECMA, a standards group based in Geneva, endorsed Office Open XML as a European standard last December and nominated it for fast-track consideration by the ISO. “It is really impossible to say what the outcome is going to be,” said Jan van den Beld, a former secretary general of the manufacturers’ group. “Basically, Office Open XML was a form of catch-up standardization,” said Van den Beld, who was ECMA’s secretary general from 1992 until last April. “Politics aside, there are 400 million users of the Office Open format, and we basically just recognized reality.”

Erich Andersen, Microsoft’s associate general counsel in Europe, said, “We are encouraged by the positive support the Open XML standard has received, and over the next phase of the process we will work closely with ECMA and the committee to address the many constructive comments that have been submitted.” Hintjens, a Brussels software developer whose group ran the opposition Web site called noooxml.org, said Monday that he believed Microsoft had managed to curry just enough support to win passage for its standard. According to Hintjens, whose group has been tallying the votes of participants, countries including Japan, Canada, India, China, Brazil, France and Britain voted against Microsoft’s proposal. France and Britain made their “no” votes conditional, meaning they could later change them to “yes” should Microsoft alter its 6,500-page standard to allay technical and liability concerns.

Microsoft’s bid was supported, Hintjens said, by countries including Switzerland, the United States, Portugal and Germany, as well as smaller ones like Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya and Ivory Coast, some of whom became active late in the voting at Microsoft’s urging. To win passage, Microsoft’s standard must gain support from at least two-thirds of 37 countries on an information technology panel of the ISO and IEC called the Joint Technical Committee 1. Also, Microsoft’s standard cannot be opposed by more than 25 percent of all countries
casting ballots. Van den Beld said 80 of 104 eligible countries have cast ballots, more than any previous standards vote.

Under ISO and IEC rules, a so-called ballot resolution meeting will be held Feb. 25 to 29 in Geneva, where Microsoft and national voting groups will attempt to iron out differences, leading to a broader consensus behind the standard. If Microsoft prevails in voting this week, it is under less pressure to make changes it opposes. Should it lose, however, it would be under more pressure to make changes, van den Beld said.

Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

After all this war, I think soon Office Open XML will be an ISO Standard.

What’s your comment on it??