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Has ISO already rejected anti-OOXML appeals?

Standards ain't what they used to be

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The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) is refusing to discuss a leaked paper that suggests it has already rejected appeals against the ratification of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as an international standard.

A leaked Joint Technical Committee No.1 (JTC1) paper (Groklaw has a pdf) recommends the appeals from national standard bodies from South Africa, Brazil, India and Venezuela “should not be processed further”.

According to the leak, the committee, consisting of leaders of the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), dismisses the protests, on grounds that the voting process conformed with ISO/IEC directives.

Complaints from the national bodies forced the ISO/IEC to delay official approval of Microsoft’s contentious file format, which carries the technical name of DIS 29500.

According to the leaked document – dated 4 July – ISO’s technical management board was given until 4 August to decide if it was to take on the appeals. But ISO secretary-general and CEO Alan Bryden and IEC general secretary and CEO Aharon Amit appear to have already made up their minds on the ratification of OOXML.

ISO refuses to discuss the leak.

Our indecision is final

“ISO and IEC prefer not to comment on whether internal documents said to originate from the two organisations and posted on Web blogs as ‘leaked information’ are authentic or not,” ISO communications manager Roger Frost emailed us yesterday.

”No decision on the appeals has been made. The current situation is that the ISO secretary-general and the IEC general secretary have submitted the appeals, with their analysis, to the ISO Technical Management Board and the IEC Standardisation Management Board who will decide by mid August whether the appeals should be further processed or not.”

This is Microsoft’s second attempt to fast-track OOXML as an international standard – last year the document format was rubber-stamped by Ecma International. This time around, the company has been greeted with a storm of protest from many camps who oppose the software giant’s file specification. Some argue that Microsoft should stand aside because the industry already has an international standard – Open Document Format (ODF) – which won ISO/IEC approval last year.

The process has been a very bumpy ride for Microsoft. National bodies gathered together in Geneva in February this year, where they were given the opportunity to reverse their decisions on OOXML. The format was rejected in autumn last year.

Results of that ballot meeting were released in early April: Microsoft grabbed enough votes to see OOXML arrive on the global stage.

Groklaw founder Pamela Jones this week denounced the recommendation and the entire OOXML standards process as a farce.

"ISO thinks there's not a thing wrong with the job they did on OOXML," she wrote. "They do not countenance criticism, and if we don't like it, we can lump it. Or, ISO has decided to go down with the ship. Anyway, stay tuned. It ain't over 'til it's over." ®

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