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South Africa Challenges the Validity of OOXML Standardization Vote



South Africa, one of the so-called “P” members of JTC 1 – meaning it’s got enough clout to delay ISO’s standardization of Microsoft’s precious OOXML file format – along with a bias against OOXML to begin with – having recently made the rival OpenDocument Format its national standard – has formally objected to the fast track process used to get OOXML to the brink of ISO standardization. 

In a letter to ISO’s secretary general, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has lodged an appeal claiming that “an important question of principle” is involved and that “the reputation of ISO/IEC is…at stake.” 

SABS says it “cannot accept the outcome of a process” that blatantly ignored the rules. And it challenges the legitimacy of the vote agreeing to ISO’s standardization of OOXML. 

In its letter SABS says it objects to the JTC 1 processes being used “to circumvent consensus-building” as well as the “ability of large multinational organizations to influence many national bodies with the resultant block-voting overriding legitimate issues raised by other countries.” 

It takes particular exception to the ballot resolution meeting (BRM) held from February 25 to 29 when only 67 of the thousand-odd comments attached to the OOXML specification were aired – let alone resolved – for lack of time, winding up in a blanket vote to accept the thing pretty much as is and clean it up later. 

SABS complains that national bodies were required to “write a blank check approving the proposals of the authors of the proposed standard, which is inappropriate for any standard, never mind one that has generated considerable controversy.” 

It tells ISO that it has to look no further than the magnitude of the spec and the number of edits required to realize that what was “submitted by ECMA and…modified by the BRM is not ready for fast track processing.” 

Even before the BRM was held no mandated discussion of contradictions with other ISO standards (like ODF) was allowed and no copy of the final standard was circulated within the prescribed 30 days of the BRM because it doesn’t exist. 

So since the rule book was thrown out, SABS “challenges the validity of a final vote [on April 1] that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM.” 

By the way, Microsoft itself isn’t planning to fully support OOXML until Office 14, whenever that vaporware deigns to show up, but surely it will be after Office 2007 Service Pack 2, set for the first half of next year. Microsoft said last week that Office SP2 would support ODF.


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