Saturday, June 15, 2024

OOXML Stalemate May Lead to Cliff-Hanger Ending

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UPDATED: Microsoft’s bid to upgrade Office Open XML’s (OOXML) status to that of an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard is starting to look like a good old fashioned cliffhanger.

Microsoft confirmed Thursday that India’s delegation to the ISO process has voted not to change its vote from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’. That is, in the standards balloting last summer, India voted against OOXML being certified by ISO. This week’s decision means that it will maintain its No vote.

Microsoft and European standards body Ecma International lost that vote last summer – but only by five votes. After a final meeting of interested national delegations in late February, members had 30 days to decide whether or not to change their votes. If Microsoft can convince five delegations to change their votes, OOXML will become an ISO standard for document interchange.

However, with only nine days left before time runs out for ISO members to make a final decision on OOXML’s status, so far it’s still the status quo.

“While we are disappointed with the decision of the [Indian] committee, we are very encouraged by the support of IT industry players … who voted in favor of Open XML,” said a statement Microsoft e-mailed to

Additionally, as expected, the U.S. delegation voted last week to maintain its earlier ‘Yes’ vote for approval of OOXML – the default file formats for Office 2007 – as an ISO standard. That means that neither delegation changed its earlier vote.

OOXML was first adopted as an international standard by Ecma in December 2006. Ecma then submitted the specification to ISO in February 2007 for what is called a “fast track” standardization process. However, it has been bitterly opposed by competitors and critics, as well as supporters of the existing ISO standard for document interchange – OpenDocument Format or ODF – who argue that there should only be one standard, not two.

The fast track process is designed to cut the time from submission to approval for standards from years to literally months. What initially looked like a walk in the park, however, however, turned into a complicated political drama. After taking six months for Ecma and Microsoft to try to address the thousands of issues that the voting delegations raised, ISO held a so-called “ballot resolution meeting” in February.

Following the meeting, members have until March 29 to decide whether or not to change their votes. If that doesn’t happen, Microsoft will need to either give up on achieving ISO certification or resubmit the specification under the normal submission process which can take years.

Meanwhile, whether Microsoft wins or loses in ISO politics, it may still have problems surrounding OOXML. The European Commission is reported to be investigating whether Microsoft broke any European Union laws in its attempts to get as many nations as possible to vote for ISO certification.

Corrects prior version’s first reference to Office Open XML

This article was first published on

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