Australian body defends choice to abstain from OOXML vote

Australia still has a chance to approve or disapprove the vote, says Standards Australia

Standards Australia has defended it's decision to abstain from the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) ballot to approve Microsoft's Office Open XML format as an international standard, saying Australia still has a chance to approve or disapprove the vote.

Alistair Tegart, program manager at Standards Australia, said that the Communications, IT and e-Commerce Standards Sector Board — those responsible for approving Australia's vote — will reconsider the viability of a revised position at its next meeting in October.

The next step of the ISO/IEC process, a ballot resolution meeting, will be held in Geneva in February 2008.

"Australia will be represented at the ballot resolution meeting in February, and delegates will be briefed on Australia's position as to what conditions would need to be satisfied in order for us to lodge an approval or disapproval vote," said Tegart.

Tegart stated that the decision to abstain resulted from a lack of support and commitment from stakeholders; namely software vendors, users and integrators, as well as academics and government departments.

He said that abstaining was the most responsible position to take.

"There was a clear spread of views as to whether the document should pass in its current form, with or without comments. The submissions received ranged from full support of the document in its current form, to many pages of minor technical and editorial comments, many of which were sourced from public websites," he explained.

"Due to the highly polarised viewpoints from Australian stakeholders, the CITeC Standards Sector Board was unable to reach a consensus on whether to support the document or not."

Despite some criticism Tegart stood by SA's position.

"Abstaining is a valid position to take, in no way does it exclude Australia from further or future involvement in this matter," he explained.

And was Standards Australia pressured in anyway by Microsoft on its position towards the vote?

"Absolutely not," said Tegart.

Approval of the standardisation required at least two-thirds of the votes to be positive, and no more than a quarter of the total votes to be negative. The ISO/IEC stated that 53% of the votes supported OOXML's standardisation while 26% voted against, meaning neither of the criteria for approval had been achieved.

However, should the voting nations decide to alter their votes at the ballot resolution meeting in Geneva next year and the above criteria is met, the OOXML standard could still be approved.

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