Chicago (IL) – Rumors about a possibly “shocking” announcement by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) scheduled for this week began spreading across the Internet on Monday: Office Open XML format could finally reach the end of its standards odyssey and become a global industry standard.
The speculation is apparently a result of the organization’s vote on Office Open XML (OOXML), officially referred to by the ISO as DIS-29500, last Saturday and first results having leaked out this morning. An ISO spokesperson told Reuters today that a press release revealing the result will be issued on April 2, since ISO “needs first to inform its worldwide membership of national standards bodies of these results.”
Microsoft has aggressively pursued the ISO certification, a status the rival format ODF obtained in May of 2006 . While Microsoft was able to quickly get OOXML approved as a standard (“Ecma-376”) by the Assembly of the European association for standardizing information and communication systems, short Ecma, the ISO process has seen several hiccups and disputes. In September of last year, Microsoft failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority in a key vote to get an OOXML ISO fast-track certification approved.
As a result, the ratification process went into a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) that was held at the end of February. The purpose of this meeting was to address 3522 comments from 87 national bodies, which were grouped by Ecma into 1027 subjects. According to Brian Jones, Office program manager at Microsoft, the meeting resulted in 43 resolutions that resolved 1014 issues, while 13 remained open. Jones wrote in his blog that issues concerning accessibility, better organization, better XML, document conformance and standards reuse, internationalization and multi-platform were addressed by the BRM.
Several Microsoft employees have complained in recent weeks about “anti Open XML lobbyists” and their “tactics” to “distract” from the technology in the standardization process. For example, Doug Mahugh, senior product manager for Office client interoperability at Microsoft wrote in his blog:
“Whereas the work of evaluating a standard is technical, these proposed distractions tend to be emotional topics that are easy to convey quickly but don’t shed any light on the core issues. And as the clock winds down on the DIS29500 process, some of the people who have vested interests in the outcome are really turning up the heat on the emotional topics. A couple of supporting tactics are also used to add a multiplier effect to these efforts to derail the process. One is the tactic of dragging non-combatants into the debate without their permission. Another tactic is the longstanding Groklaw tradition of deleting comments that disagree with their statements, to reduce the risk of their claims being debunked publicly.”
Google, which uses ODF for its own productivity applications, and IBM have been one of most prominent opponents of an ISO certification of OOXML.
Recent news indicated that OOXML was attracting support, for example from the U.S. Microsoft blogger Jason Matusow recently posted some information that the format was gaining international support: “I have been pleased to see the fact that countries around the world are either sustaining their “yes” votes or moving to “yes” from either “abstain” or “no.”
We will find out on April 2, if OOXML received enough support.