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10 June 2008, 15:23

ISO puts standard for Microsoft's OOXML document formats on hold

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After member states filed four complaints against the standardisation of Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in Geneva have responded by postponing publication of the revised specification. As the ISO announced, the planned ISO/IEC DIS 29500 cannot be published until these complaints have been heard. Procedure requires that they be dealt with by the end of June, when the ISO and IEC have to hand over their comments on the complaints to two management committees for a final decision.

Brazil, India, South Africa, and Venezuela have officially filed complaints against the controversial certification of OOXML in expedited proceedings in Geneva. These emerging nations are concerned that no consensus was reached about which changes need to be made to the specification, which is more than 6000 pages long, during consultation on the numerous comments submitted at the end of February, after the first attempt to adopt OOXML as a standard failed in 2007. Specifically, they complained that concrete technical objections were not individually discussed .

A member of the technical standardisation committee in India has even summarised his concerns in an open letter. He writes that it is not even clear which standard will come out of these expedited proceedings. And if a standard that has not been properly thought out is adopted, Microsoft will probably be the only one to implement it – which, he explains, is the exact opposite of an open process.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), which promotes work on the next version of the Open Document Format (ODF) already certified by the ISO, has invited interested parties to develop a new technical committee for the "implementation, interoperability, and conformity" of ODF. Collaboration could then be intensified with other standardisation institutes, such as the ISO or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Microsoft had previously announced that it would join the technical OASIS committee for further work on ODF. Skeptics from the open-source camp have therefore been calling on everyone to keep a close eye on the new alliance behind OASIS.

(Stefan Krempl)


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