Microsoft wins format standards battle

Microsoft wins format standards battle

ISO vote endorsing OOXML ends vicious committee wrangling

Microsoft has won its battle to have the Office Open XML (OOXML) formats, used in the latest version of is office suite, accepted as a global standard.

The decision by the International Standards Organisation, which required a two-thirds majority in a vote by standards bodies from different countries, follows months of sometimes vicious wrangling with accusations of rigged votes and other skullduggery.

It means Microsoft can compete for contracts with governments that had pledged to use only open formats endorsed by ISO. OOXML had already been approved as a standard by the European industry body ECMA.

A preliminary vote late last year went against Microsoft, which then submitted amendations to its OOXML specification answering criticisms by national bodies. The objectors were then asked if they wished to change their vote.

Their decision means that there are now two ISO document standards. Supporters of the rival Open Document Format claimed OOXML is not truly open because it was not designed by an open process. They also suspect Microsoft will find ways to retain control.

Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, complained as the final vote began that many critical issues with OOXML, including intellectual property rights, had not been discussed; and a crucial decision about how an OOXML standard would be maintained had been delayed.

The battle has also been a case of corporates trying to gain market edge, with IBM and Sun backing ODF. And even if OOXML had failed to get endorsement, it could still have ended up as the most used format, making a de facto standard more important than an official ISO one.

Office programme manager Brian Jones said in a blog that the pro-OOXML vote had been around 75 percent. He added: "Now it's time to move forward and start to worek together in the ongoing development of these standards."