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02 June 2008, 14:15

Brazil and India lodge appeal against ISO standardisation of OOXML

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Following the South African appeal, Brazil and India have now lodged formal appeals against the controversial fast track procedure for certifying Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva. This was confirmed to US media by a spokesperson for the ISO's sister institute, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), according to whom a total of three official protests from national standardisation institutions had been received by the ISO and IEC by Thursday evening's deadline. He noted that this is the first time the ISO/IEC's JTC 1 committee for document formats has ever received an objection.

The letter from the Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT) has been released by bloggers at Groklaw and by standardisation expert Andy Updegrove. The reasons given by Brazil are similar to those cited by South Africa. The South Americans complain that, at the ballot resolution meeting at the end of February, following the preliminary rejection of OOXML standardisation in the first round of voting in 2007, no consensus on the changes required to the extensive specification was achieved. Specific technical objections were not discussed individually due to lack of time. Instead, member states came to an across-the-board agreement, en-masse, on details which had not been dealt with. These were preceded by half-hour discussions. The Brazilians also lament the fact that the ISO has still not published a final version of the specification adopted as ISO 29500 in the second round of voting.

The ISO and IEC boards now have a month to weigh up the objections and negotiate a compromise with the national standardisation bodies. Should this fail, the dispute will go for arbitration by the IEC's Advisory Committee or the ISO's Technical Management Board (TMB). In view of the disputes and the increasing support for Open Document Format (ODF), previously certified by the ISO, whether or not OOXML will ever be of any great significance, even for Microsoft, remains doubtful.

The German standards institute, the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN), which despite reported voting irregularities, voted for OOXML, has yet to form its opinion on the appeals. A spokesperson told heise online that a majority of the steering committee of the IT and Applications Standardisation Committee (NIA) has recognised that there has been no serious breach of JTC 1 and ISO rules. He stated that this is also the position of the DIN as a whole. At the same time, however, the conclusion has been reached that the rules for the fast-track procedure need to be amended, as documents of the scope of ISO/IEC 29500 can hardly be dealt with within the current framework. According to the spokesperson, the DIN has initiated corresponding discussions in Geneva.

(Stefan Krempl)


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