Brussels, 5 September 2007. The draft standard OOXML submitted by Microsoft and ECMA has been rejected in a vote at ISO, reaching neither the required 2/3 majority among “participating countries” nor the required 3/4 majority among all countries. However, ISO decided not to finish the procedure yet, but instead to go for a ballot resolution meeting in February, where Microsoft will attempt to present solutions to the numerous problems that have been pointed out. If enough countries change their vote, the proposal still has a chance to pass.
Several irregularities have been reported in the ISO process. These include purchasing of votes in Sweden, admitted by Microsoft; rejection of Microsoft’s competitors in Portugal because of lack of chairs; hijacking of standardisation committees in many countries, including USA, Italy, Colombia and Mexico; manipulations of the vote process by presidencies in Switzerland and Uruguay; replacement of an insufficiently Microsoft-friendly technical committee by a “more agreeable” one in Poland; non-acceptance of competition in Venezuela and Ukrania; and more. In general the process has been driven, except in a minority of the countries, by attempts to put as many gold partners as possible in the committee responsible.
Benjamin Henrion, leader of the FFII NoOOXML.org campaign, comments: “The OOXML proposal is so poor that if anyone else had submitted it they would have been laughed at. I don’t understand why the ISO secretariat has not already put it in the waste basket. The continuation of the process means more scandals hurting the public image of ISO.”
Alberto Barrionuevo, FFII vice president, agrees: “What is at stake is not so much the fate of the inappropriately named ‘Open XML’ format, but ISO’s reputation. The fact that many ISO member bodies have approved of OOXML due to severe manipulations suggests that the process needs to be overhauled. We strongly recommend that ISO reconsiders its system and regulations.”
Microsoft has been pushing for adoption of its Microsoft Office file format as an ISO standard. The format was adopted as ECMA 376, and ECMA subsequently submitted it to ISO for fast-track (six-month) approval. An unprecedented number of comments by ISO member bodies had been submitted in the first stage of the process in February 2007.
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