OOXML fate to be revealed on Wednesday

OOXML fate to be revealed on Wednesday

Microsoft's Office Open XML on cusp of ISO approval

The official fate of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format standard will be announced tomorrow, according to parties responsible for the voting process.

National standards bodies had until 29 March to submit their votes on whether to approve OOXML as an ISO standard. However, according to statements from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an official announcement will not be issued until Wednesday 2 April to allow the ISO and IEC time to first inform their membership organisations of the outcome.

Details of the final vote of several national standards bodies have already been released or leaked, indicating a positive outcome for Microsoft.

Late last week, Denmark’s standards body announced it had changed its vote from "Disapproval with comments" to "Approval", while the Czech Republic also announced its change to a yes vote earlier in March.

According to a tally on the Consortiumininfo.org web site, another four countries have changed their vote from no or abstain to yes - the UK, Ireland, South Korea and Finland. Only two countries have changed their vote to swing against Microsoft: Venezuela and Kenya, changing from approve to disapprove and abstain respectively.

During the previous round of voting on whether to grant OOXML fast-track approval as an ISO standard, the format failed to meet the acceptance criteria. Only 53 per cent of national standards bodies voted in favour of the standard, falling short of the two-thirds majority required; while 26 per cent of votes were negative – one per cent above the acceptable number. However, the latest vote changes indicate that OOXML has now achieved, or is at least nearing the required levels.

Many others national bodies maintained their previous vote, including New Zealand, which announced yesterday that it is still against OOXML being approved as an ISO standard.

"Our role is to ensure that overall New Zealanders will benefit from publication of a particular standard and in this case it was clear that while some would benefit, there would be others who would be disadvantaged," said Debbie Chin, chief executive at Standards New Zealand. "A major concern is the expected increase in costs for government agencies that would result from the specification being adopted as an ISO/IEC international standard. Cost increases for government agencies ultimately impact all New Zealanders."

OOXML was developed by Microsoft as a standardised format for creating and accessing files such as documents, spreadsheets and presentations. But critics point towards the existence of the rival Open Document Format standard, arguing that two competing standards are not required and that OOXML will tie users into Microsoft applications.