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ISO rejects Office Open XML appeal (redux)

Microsoft wins the day

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The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) has rejected appeals by four countries to reject Microsoft's Office Open XML formats as an international standard. No further appeals can be made against the decision by two technical boards, so ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology - Office Open XML formats can wend its way to publication in coming weeks.

In a press release yesterday, the ISO said appeals by Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela had failed to muster the support of two thirds of the members of its technical boards.

Acknowledging the debate over the ratification of Office Open XML, the standards body noted: "Experiences from the ISO/IEC 29500 process will also provide important input to ISO and IEC and their respective national bodies and national committees in their efforts to continually improve standards development policies and procedures." This will be a great consolation for the losing side.

The ISO's decision comes as no surprise. A month ago, a leaked document, recommending that the appeals from national standard bodies from South Africa, Brazil, India and Venezuela "should not be processed further", tipped up on Groklaw (PDF).

Microsoft is delighted that OOXML is a standard at last - it's been through a lot of debates in a lot of countries over the last year. But it is not crowing in public. So let's turn to Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft UK's lead technology advisor, who has the party line down pat on his personal blog. "Users now have what they have long asked for: independent ownership and maintenance of these important document" formats," he writes.

Critics of OOXML have two main objections against the standard. First, Microsoft does not support Open Document Files (ODF), a rival ISO file format standard used in OpenOffice, among others. MS-Office 2007, for instance, uses OOXML formats but lacks native ODF support. (In the toing and froing over the OOXML standard, Microsoft said in May that it will build ODF support into SP2 of Office 2007, due out sometime next year.) Second, many in the anti-camp are against OOXML - because they are against Microsoft.

Groklaw's Pamela Jones last month denounced ISO's OOXML deliberations as a farce. We find it hard to work up a sweat, for file format squabbling be one of the worst spectator sports known to Man. But considering the efforts made by both sides, it must be a very important game, mustn't it? ®

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