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Microsoft accused of ballot stuffing in standards vote

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Microsoft has been accused of rigging a vote on the ratification of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an international standard at a government body in Sweden.

Swedish internet pioneer Patrik Falstrom has accused Microsoft of bussing in local partners to a Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) meeting on OSI ratification of OOXML. The specification is already used by Microsoft in Office 2003, 2007 and XP

The partners had not participated in the SIS's earlier OOXML discussions but paid their admission fee and gave OOXML a resounding 25 "yes" votes compared to six "no" votes and three abstentions. It was believed OOXML was heading to a certain defeat had Microsoft's supporters not turned out en masse.

Microsoft was unable to comment on the vote at time of going to press.

Falstrom has objected to technical shortcomings in OOXML and asked the OSI to go through Microsoft's proposed specification and mandate changes before signing off. A list of OOXML's issues has been provided here and here.

Falstrom's concerns were echoed in Brazil, where - in a similar vote this weekend - OSI representatives voted "no, with conditions" to ratification of OOXML.

Brazil's Technical Standards Association flagged up 63 problems, but could change its vote to a "yes" should Microsoft actually fix these problems.

These are just the latest controversies in a process that's seen Microsoft accused of attempting to railroad OOXML through the ISO to counter Open Document Format (ODF), and of OOXML supporters trying to change the voting process.

The news of the Swedish and Brazil votes came as Russia's government has become the latest national institution to throw ODF a lifeline and potentially trip Microsoft up in the corridors of power.

The Russian Government has taken a step towards endorsing ODF through an e-government program that would mandate use of software that conforms to "widely used standards" in all government contracts.

According to the Russian Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications "within the project to form an e-government concept in the Russian Federation, support of ISO/IEC 26300: 2006 is planned."

The move has been welcomed by the Open Document Format Alliance, which said in a statement that Russia is "sending a message worldwide that software should be affordable, innovative and accessible, now and for the foreseeable future."®

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