OOXML appears to have won the ISO vote

The contentious second vote to accept (or reject) Office Open XML as a fast-tracked ISO standard took place on

Saturday. As of Monday, it is looking like OOXML has been accepted. ISO will not publish the official results until after its worldwide membership has been notified, Reuters reports. ISO will issue the formal press release on Wednesday, it said.

However several sites on the Internet are keeping a running tally of the votes, tracking which countries voted yes, no, and which ones abstained. According to the Open Malaysia blog, the status of the vote so far is as follows:

Yes votes: 22

No votes: 10

Abstain votes: 9

The United States voted yes. The US committee consists of 17 members from IT organizations and the government. 11 voted yes and four, no. The four no votes came from Adobe, Farance (a systems integrator), IBM and Oracle. (The IEEE  abstained and Intel didn't vote.)

Comments on the no votes were interesting. Farance took issue with the standard itself - saying it simply wasn't ready. Adobe and Oracle were more concerned about Microsoft's tactics to get the specification accepted as a standard. Adobe wrote:

"Adobe has no opposition to the standardization of OOXML, but we are concerned that using the JTC1 fast track process for a 6000 page document has not lead to adequate consideration of the comments on that document nor does it seem to be producing a quality standard."

Oracle echoed Adobe's sentiments.

"... We also have considerable anxiety about the long-term impact of this heavy-handed initiative on the formal standards process in general and the fast-track process in particular. Although we believe experience has proven that use of the Fast Track process was clearly inappropriate for DIS 29500, we would support introduction of the latest revision of the DIS 29500 specification into the normal process where the numerous outstanding technical concerns could be properly addressed."

IBM's comments struck a note almost of disgust at the goings on of this vote.

"... we observe that the INCIT V1 technical committee has been dominated by the business partner community of a single organization (in fact the original proposer of DIS 29500) and we note that this single interest has voted as a bloc on all technical and procedural questions since the DIS 29500 procedure began. The kinds of activities, such as last-minute committee stuffing, that the EC Directorate for Competition is now investigating in European standards bodies, also happened in the US. Although we are not in their jurisdiction, we should share their concern."

IBM also points out that a ridiculous number of technical issues on the specification remain unaddressed. including what IBM considers serious ones. It noted as example that the U.S. committee had requested that the OOXML standard provide a map to the legacy binary Microsoft Office file formats. This request was not satisfied, or, IBM claims, even discussed, at meetings held to resolve outstanding technical issues. If what IBM contends is true, it appears that with the current specification, other vendors' OOXML implementations wouldn't do as good a job in converting legacy Microsoft Office files into OOXML (or otherwise work as well with Office) as Microsoft's OOXML implementation.

IBM says that so many technical flags remain untouched as to make the specification unfit. It wrote in its comments:

In a random sample of only 12 pages we found 19 technical defects, including serious ones such as:

1) Storage of plain-text passwords in database connection strings

2) Undefined mappings between CSS and DrawingML

3) Errors in the XML Schema definitions

4) Dependencies on proprietary features of Microsoft Internet Explorer

Enterprises and other large users such as governments should be aware that this specification, though adopted as a standard, will not be a standard in the classic sense for a while. A standard is a specification intented to be implemented the same by all vendors in order to create interoperability. Given the history, the question remains if vendors such as IBM or Adobe will even attempt to support OOXML. Over time, and with the specification under the management of ISO and ECMA, OOXML may become something more than Microsoft's baby, but enterprises may want to stay wary of it until then.

Go to the Microsoft Subnet home page for more news, blogs, podcasts. More Microsoft Subnet blog posts:Microsoft: We won't sue over OOXML, ever New Chinese antitrust law could affect Microsoft/Yahoo dealMicrosoft and its hostile takeover of YahooSP1 standalone packages don't include updated help filesPatents schmatentsMicrosoft versus social networkingAll Microsoft Subnet blog posts  

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