Standards New Zealand is objecting to a proposal to fast-track approval of Microsoft’s controversial Open XML file format. According to a Standards New Zealand spokesperson, the objection is that “the ISO [The International Organisation for Standardisation] has already developed a standard for XML open format [that is, Open Document] and the committee does not believe that there is a need for another standard, and that Microsoft’s [standard] is in conflict with the existing one.” Canada, the UK, the Czech Republic, Finland and Kenya have also objected. The objections were lodged after another international standards body, ECMA International, ratified Open XML in December and then pushed for it to be put to the ISO. Under the ECMA proposal, the usual ISO standards ratification process would be sped up and a vote on making Open XML a standard would be taken in August. However, New Zealand and the five other countries object to this. Another five nations have identified problems with the Open XML proposal but have fallen short of objecting to it. The objections, or “contradictions” in ISO-speak, centre around the fact the ISO has already ratified the Open Document file format but also include alleged patent violations by Open XML, and some issues relating to how Open XML operates technically. As mentioned above, Standards New Zealand, our representative organisation in dealings with the ISO, objects on the grounds that Open Document has already been approved. The 11 nations that have either openly objected to or expressed reservations about Open XML being ISO-approved are all members of the ISO’s 30-member JTC-1 Committee on Information Technology. For a proposed standard to be approved by the ISO two-thirds of the committee must vote in favour. What happens now is unclear, but JTC-1 secretary Lisa Rajchel told Computerworld US she will “consult with the ISO’s ITTF (IT Task Force) staff regarding the next steps to be taken with the Fast Track submission.” A source close to the proceedings told ComputerworldUS that ECMA International can either formally submit the proposal (which is 6,000 pages long, another bugbear for some of the nations objecting) as it is, or address the objectors’ concerns by changing its proposal.
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