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18 August 2008, 10:53

ISO rejects appeals against OOXML standardisation

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The ISO and IEC have announced that the four appeals against the controversial standardisation process for Office Open XML, OOXML, will not progress any further. The International Standards Organisation and the International Electrotechnical Commission said that the appeals by Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela did not reach the required two-thirds majorities in the respective management bodies - the ISO's Technical Management Board (TMB) and the IEC's Standardisation Management Board (SMB). The two standards institutions also announced that because of this, the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 - Information technology – Office Open XML formats standard will be published as an international ISO/IEC standard in the coming weeks.

In July, the ISO and IEC's general secretaries had recommended a rejection of the appeals against Microsoft's document format, saying that no procedural inadequacies had been found when reviewing the ratification process. Numerous reports about irregularities in the standardisation process had been alledged, prompting the Geneva institutions to put the specification temporarily on hold. Both standards bodies now concede that the process of ratifying OOXML as an ISO standard generated "significant debate" both about technical and about procedural issues. The questions raised have been addressed, according to the ISO/IEC, under ISO and IEC procedures adding that the experience gained is regarded as important input in improving the policies and procedures for the future development of international standards.

The four emerging countries made official appeals against the standardisation process at the end of May. Among the issues raised was that no results meeting was scheduled before the first round of ballot voting in autumn 2007. In addition, no consensus about the required changes to the specification was reached at the ballot resolution meeting after the first round of the OOXML standardisation process in September 2007 was temporarily put on hold. Many suggested changes were agreed by block voting and complained that the ISO had not circulated a final version of the specification that was ratified in the second round of voting. Microsoft has announced it is supporting ODF, the Open Document Format ISO standard, from 2009.

Jomar Silva, a representative of the Brazilian standardisation committee, expressed his disappointment about the announcement from Geneva, accusing the ISO and the IEC of being inadequate for a modern information society. "It is clear to everyone involved on the DIS 29500 (OpenXML) analysis process that it was distorted by commercial and business interests" he said questioning the legitimacy of the process. Silva believes the time has come for developing countries to join forces and set up an international standardisation institution that is appropriate to their needs.

Stefan Krempl


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