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Microsoft Pushes OOXML over the Top

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Microsoft has gotten enough votes to make its precious Open Office XML file format (OOXML), the default file format in Office 2007, an ISO standard, theoretically saving Office from being run out of town by a lot of ODF-smitten government agencies.

There have been, as everyone must know by now, myriad accusations of chicanery, undo pressure, committee-stacking, ballot box-stuffing and other voting irregularities – on both sides of the aisle actually – Microsoft points an accusing finger at IBM, an ODF supporter, as Sun did during the aborted Java standards process for poisoning wells – and right after the results were in CNET reported that the allegations roused the European Commission – which, let’s face it, has what can only be described as a hard on for Microsoft – to investigate.

It reportedly asked Norway about any undue influence brought to bear after a Norwegian official Steve Pepper claimed Norway’s Yes vote should be thrown out as not representative of the majority opinion.

Seems the administrative group voted Aye although most of the companies it represented said Nay. However, Standards Norway, the national standards body, is hanging tough and not backing down.

Of course the EC, which openly favors ODF, is already embarked on a major investigation of Office and OOXML and has already asked ISO members whether Microsoft was using strong-arm tactics to get OOXML standardized.

Because of these accusations Microsoft may still have to survive any formal challenges made during the next two months.

Microsoft, in fact, is counting on it. Its director of corporate standards Jason Matusow blogged that he expects IBM to instigate them.

“We now see IBM/et al,” he wrote Wednesday, “driving an orchestrated process attack in hopes of overturning the ratification of Open XML, or at least to discredit what has come out of this long, global process.”

On the surface, at least, IBM VP Bob Sutor is taking the high road and calling for reform of the standards process as well as accommodation between ODF and OOXML.

Anyway, according to ISO’s official pronouncement Wednesday OOXML wound up with 75% of the vote for and 14% against, a wider margin than many expected.

However, there are many who will gag over ISO’s flat assertion that the 3,500 comments raised as issues on the way to the weekend vote were seriously addressed and resolved – even after they were whittled down to 1,000. There simply wasn’t enough time. Heck, they had to bend the rules at the Ballot Resolution Meeting last month because there wasn’t enough time to deal with the thousand comments.

See this is the second time through – Microsoft lost the first vote back in September – but according to ISO the issues were resolved enough for places like Norway, South Korea, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Philippines and South Korea to change their No votes to Yes as did Finland, which previously abstained.

Cuba and Venezuela changed their Yes notes to No, and Kenya, which previously voted Yes, abstained. New Zealand issued a statement Sunday after the vote closed opposing Microsoft.

Germany voted Yes again, India said No again and Australia and Holland continued to abstain.

The German and Polish votes may be dicey. At least that’s what some claim.

OOXML was standardized by ECMA, which put it on the fast track to ISO standardization in December of 2006.

ODF is the default format in OpenOffice and its spin-offs like IBM’s Lotus Symphony and Sun’s StarOffice.

It was made an ISO standard in May of 2006 and OOXML opponents argue that making OOXML a standard too would be one standard too many. Of course ODF didn’t get OOXML’s kind of scrutiny and may not be able to bear it.

Barring some upset, OOXML is now ISO/IEC 29500 as well as ECMA standard 376 – or will be when it’s published and Lord knows how long that will take. Further development will now move from ECMA to ISO. And it will start with issues that surfaced during the voting process.

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