Feeds

Microsoft spins standards defeat into victory

Fast track to nowhere

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Microsoft's PR machine is spinning a major setback into a minor victory for ratification of its proposed OOXML specification as an international standard.

The software giant has been left to draw comfort from the high level of voter turnout by standards aficionados across the globe, rather than applaud the hoped for, speeded up adoption of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an ISO standard.

Microsoft claimed participation in the ISO vote was higher than that for the rival Open Document Format (ODF) or even PDF, which Microsoft is also trying to displace.

With OOXML due for one final vote next February, before getting kicked off the fast-track entirely, it fell to Microsoft's general manger for interoperability and standards, Tim Robertson, to say through gritted teeth: "Given how encouraging today's results were, we believe that the final tally in early 2008 will result in the ratification of Open XML as an ISO standard."

Microsoft's statement focused on the fact 51 national bodies had participated in the process and that OOXML claimed 74 per cent of qualified votes.

To be ratified, though, OOXML needed two thirds of the national bodies that participated in the proposal to vote "yes" - however, OOXML scored 53 per cent. Ratification also required no more than a quarter cast a "no" vote - OOXML scored 26 per cent.

Calling the vote a milestone in OOXML adoption, Roberson said: "We are extremely delighted to see that 51 ISO members, representing 74 per cent of the qualified votes, have already voiced their support for ISO ratification of Open XML, and that many others have indicated they will support ratification once their comments are resolved in the next phase of the ISO process."

The vote is certainly a milestone - an unwelcome one, which follows months of hardball politics and PR intended to ensure OOXML is ushered through the ISO process.

Drafted by Microsoft and backed by a strange troop of supporters, OOXML was first adopted by the European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA), which has a convenient, fast-track arrangement with the ISO. That process saw a one-month consultation period and five-month ballot process for national standards bodies on OOXML end on September 2.

Microsoft has been repeatedly accused of giving national standards bodies insufficient time to digest its long (6,000 pages), complicated and technically deficient spec. Lately, complaints have turned to accusations Microsoft has packed out national standards bodies with supporters who will vote on, and approve, OOXML.

National standards bodies are now re-visiting their votes. The Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) invalidated its OOXML vote after it was reported Microsoft bussed in supporters who had not participated in the pre-voting process. The SIS claimed one member had broken its rules by voting twice. Hungary, too, is seeking clarification on the Hungarian Standards Institute's OOXML vote after it emerged that the group's rules were changed to favor a "yes" vote, and that new members had signed up who had "tight relationships with Microsoft".

Microsoft has tried to play the "people's champion" card against standards elitists. Commenting on the Swedish vote, Robertson told The Register: "We reject the assertion that the document standards process should be closed to new voices."

The ISO now plans a meeting next February on possible modifications to OOXML. National bodies can use that meeting to withdraw their "no" votes should their criteria for changes and modification be met. Should enough change, then the standard can move towards publication.

If not, then OOXML's fast-track acceptance will be over. Microsoft will, though, be able to resubmit OOXML using the usual standards acceptance process, the OSI said

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.