The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has agreed to put Open XML, the document format created and championed by Microsoft, on a fast-track approval process that could see it ratified as an international standard by August.
That's despite lingering opposition to Open XML by several key voting countries, including New Zealand.
The main objection put forward by those countries, and the sole basis on which New Zealand objects, is that the the ISO has already approved the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF) and having Open XML as a standard is unnecessary.
According to Lisa Rachjel, the secretariat of ISO’s Joint Technical Committee (JTC-1) on Information Technology, the Open XML proposal, along with comments and criticism by nations, will be put on the ISO’s five-month balloting process.
Rachjel did not give a date when the proposal would officially be put on a ballot and distributed to all 157 countries represented in the ISO.
Microsoft did not immediately return an emailed request for comment. IBM, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
IBM has consistently opposed Open XML’s approval, and Microsoft has accused IBM, which is supporting ODF in its applications such as Lotus Notes and Workplace, of inappropriate meddling in Open XML’s approval process.
Rachjel says she decided to move Open XML forward after consulting with staff at the International Technology Task Force. She did not mention that the 6,000-page proposal, submitted by another standards body, Ecma International, had garnered comments and criticism from 20 out of the 30 countries sitting on the JTC-1 -committee.
When first reported in mid-February, parties opposing Open XML’s ratification had speculated that enough of the then-unrevealed comments would identify fatal “contradictions” in Open XML that would scuttle its bid for fast track approval.
But according to a tally conducted by Computerworld US in early March and based on ISO documents, only six countries — including New Zealand — formally opposed Open XML’s fast-tracking, with another five nations showing strong doubts to the Open XML proposal in its current form.
Additional reporting by David Watson