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ISO puts OOXML announcement on ice

Microsoft left waiting in the wings

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Updated The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has pushed back its announcement on whether Microsoft has secured enough votes for its Office Open XML (OOXML) file format to tomorrow (2 April).

A statement was expected from the ISO today. However, a number of observers who have closely followed the ballot have already called it in Microsoft’s favour.

But the whole process has been marred by controversy with a handful of delegates from the 87 national standards groups coming out in opposition against alleged wrongdoings in the voting process.

Yesterday, the Norwegian Standards Institute’s (NSI) committee chairman needled the ISO with a formal protest against Norway’s apparent U-turn on OOXML.

In September last year the NSI voted to reject the file format. Now, that decision has been reversed, much to the chagrin of Steve Pepper, who yesterday asked the ISO to suspend Norway’s vote.

He said: "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 per cent 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."

Whether the suspension request has any bearing on the final outcome of the ballot remains to be seen, but certainly any backtrack now, after voting officially ended on midnight 29 March, will force the ISO to closely review the counting process.

The delay on making any official announcement suggests the ISO is taking a cautious approach before telling Microsoft it can pop open the bubbly.

Meanwhile, the Open Source Consortium (OSC) has bemoaned the British Standards Institute’s (BSI) own apparent change of heart on OOXML.

Last week the BSI adjusted its stance on Microsoft’s somewhat controversial file format.

OSC president Mark Taylor said: "Once the BSI finally own up to what they've done, we will be lodging a formal complaint in the UK, as will many others.

"This is an issue that goes way beyond just open source organisations, representations have been made from individuals, to opposition’s parties, to government agencies like Becta."

Earlier this year Becta said it was backing away from Microsoft’s file format because OOXML was baffling many institutions that had been saddled with Office 2007.

It also grumbled about the "limitations of Microsoft’s implementation" of Open Document Format (ODF), and concluded that government departments should opt for older formats such as .doc.

National delegates from 33 countries took part in the OOXML, or DIS29500, ballot resolution meeting in Geneva in late February, ahead of the crucial 29 March deadline.

In September last year Microsoft failed to collect enough votes to push OOXML through as an international standard with the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

The waiting game, for an outcome that looks almost a dead-cert in favour of Microsoft, continues. Of course, the ISO probably also decided to delay making any announcement today to swerve April Fools' Day. ®

Update

Netherlands-based Webwereld (pdf) has this afternoon posted a document which claims that OOXML just scraped past the finish line with ISO approval for its file format at the second time of trying.

If the alleged results are accurate, OOXML grabbed 75 per cent of the votes which is enough to secure approval as an international standard.

Microsoft has released a statement in which it agrees, based on evidence found on the internet, that OOXML has been ratified by the ISO.

However, the ISO is remaining tight-lipped ahead of tomorrow's expected official announcement.

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