INCITS finalises US 'yes' vote on OOXML

US approval of the proposed document standard is reaffirmed, according to sources

After several rounds of voting and internal debate, the committee that represents US interests on technology issues within the ISO standards body has reaffirmed its support for approving Microsoft's Office Open XML document format as an open standard, according to sources close to the process.

The sources say that in the end, the executive board of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) decided not to change its position from last summer, when it also voted in favour of approving the OOXML standards proposal during an initial round of balloting within ISO.

At that time, the INCITS board voted 12-3, with one abstention, to back OOXML as a standard. But the Microsoft format wasn't ratified in the ISO-wide balloting, getting a majority of the votes that were cast by national standards bodies but not enough to meet the requirements for approval.

The shortfall prompted Ecma International, the Geneva-based standards body that nominated OOXML within ISO, to edit the file format's specification in response to thousands of comments and criticisms submitted by vendors and members of national standards bodies. Those changes were approved at a so-called ballot resolution meeting held by ISO in Geneva last month, despite complaints that there wasn't enough time to fully discuss the amendments.

That was followed earlier this month by a favorable recommendation on the OOXML proposal by the V1 Technical Committee, which advises the INCITS executive board on text-processing standards issues.

Then, several days after Microsoft chairman Bill Gates did some lobbying for OOXML in Washington, the INCITS board last Friday voted via a mail ballot in favour of maintaining the "yes" vote on the standards proposal.

The vote count on Friday was 11-4, with one abstention. Voting against OOXML were IBM, Oracle, Adobe Systems, and IT consulting firm Farance. Because that vote wasn't unanimous, more debate and discussion was required this week.

"Attendees were asked if anyone would be willing to change their vote based on the submitted comments, and no one responded," says one of the sources familiar with the situation at INCITS.

The American National Standards Institute, of which INCITS is a subsidiary organisation, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the OOXML deliberations.

With the US position now solidified, interest turns back to the second round of voting within ISO as a whole. National standards bodies have until March 29 to submit their new ballots on the OOXML proposal.

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