OOXML adopted as a new standard by ISO

By EDRi · April 9, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Open Office XML has been approved as an international recognized standard by
the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), despite the open
source community voices that have raised a number of problems with the
standard as such and with unfair practices during the process with such as
committee stuffing in several countries and political interventions of
ministers in the standardization process.

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 – Information technology – Office Open XML file formats is
a XML-based file format specification for electronic documents, developed by
Microsoft and adopted as ECMA 376 standard in December 2006. After that, it
was promoted by Microsoft and ECMA in the ISO fast-track procedure, but has
initially failed in September last year, when only 53% of the votes from the
national bodies part of the ISO/IEC JTC 1 were positive and 26% of the
national votes were negative.

However, after the meetings in Geneva in February this year where the 3500
received comments were debated in the ballot resolution meeting, Microsoft
has succeeded in convincing the majority they needed, with some of the major
European countries such as UK, Ireland, France or Denmark changing their
initial vote. The joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information
technology, had 75 % of the JTC 1 participating member votes cast positive
and 14 % of the total of national member body votes cast negative, therefore
the standard has been adopted. Not even one of the standardization bodies
from a European country voted against the standard.

As suspected, Microsoft was happy with the adoption of its 6 000 page set of
specifications as an international standard: “With 86 percent of voting
national bodies supporting ratification, there is overwhelming support for
Open XML. This outcome is a clear win for the customers, technology
providers and governments that want to choose the format that best meets
their needs and have a voice in the evolution of this widely adopted
standard” stated Tom Robertson, General Manager of Interoperability and
Standards at Microsoft.

But the supporters of the ODF victory claimed that the victory is a loss of
credibility of the standardisation: “The result could well prove a
hollow victory for Microsoft. It comes at a considerable cost to the
reputations of Microsoft, ECMA and the International Standards Organisation
(ISO)”, explained Graham Taylor, the chief executive of OpenForum Europe.

The opponents of the OOXML highlighted the technical problems of the new
standard and the rush of adopting such a large technical document without a
proper documentation. But the main focus of the challenge was made to the
politics behind the scene. The NO-OOXML campaigners explained:
“The technical review of the format was strongly obstructed by its
originator and its political interference in the ISO process.
Presence of Microsoft Business Partners has been reported in the following
countries: Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Italy, Ivory Coast,
Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the
United States of America. Furthermore, it has been reported in several
countries, such as France and Malaysia, that Microsoft has lobbied the
government and the responsible ministers to override the decisions of the
technical committees, which spoke out against an approval of the format.”

The problems are also investigated by the European Commission, as confirmed
by a spokesman for the Commissioner for Competition, Neelie Kroes. He said
that the Commission continues to scrutinise “interoperability issues related
to Microsoft’s products following complaints from the Committee for
Interoperable Systems (ECIS) group.” In this action, the Commission has
asked several national standards bodies, including the Norwegian Standards
Institute (NSI), on alleged irregularities in the OOXML standardisation

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 receives necessary votes for approval as an International
Standard (2.04.2008)

Microsoft wins key standards battle (3.04.2008)

Press Release: ISO captured by vendor Microsoft (2.04.2008)

Office Open XML Officially Approved As International Standard (1.04.2008)

EC probes OOXML standards-setting process (4.04.2008)

EDRi-gram: OOXML – negative vote at International Organization for
Standardization (12.09.2007)