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U.S. Likely to Reaffirm OOXML Vote

It was about as predictable rain in Seattle.

The committee that advises the U.S. delegation to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which last fall voted to approve Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) bid to make Office Open XML (OOXML) an ISO standard, has decided not to change its vote to 'disapprove.'

Duh.

"The U.S. technical committee that I chair … has recommended approval of DIS 29500 [OOXML] as an ISO standard," read a recent blog post by Patrick Durusau, who is chairperson of the technical committee advising the U.S. governing board.

It's not quite as simple as that, of course, but then neither are Puget Sound rain storms, which can be a deluge one minute and sunny skies the next. In this case, there is one more level of approval that the U.S. vote needs to go through before its final position is formalized.

"The final U.S. position will be determined by the INCITS Executive Board," Durusau, said. That is short for the International Committee for Information Technology Standards, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

However, the original INCITS vote last summer – which determined the U.S. delegation's vote to "approve" OOXML at ISO – was 12 to 3 with one abstention. Among the naysayers were IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL).

So it appears highly unlikely that the U.S. vote would change between now and March 29, the cutoff date for ISO members who voted on the standardization proposal to change their votes.

While Microsoft won the U.S. delegation's yes vote during balloting in September, however, it did not garner enough votes from the other ISO member nations to meet the ISO's requirements for certification as a standard.

Two weeks ago, the ISO held a so-called "ballot resolution meeting" (BRM) in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the concerns – referred to as "comments" -- that were raised by voting ISO members in September. The main outcome of the BRM is that it started the clock running for all of the national delegations that voted on the standards proposal.

They have 30 days from the end of the meeting – which was February 29 – to change their vote from last summer's balloting. That means those delegations that choose to change their votes only have less than three weeks to make up their minds and notify ISO.

Microsoft has said that it only needs five voting nations to change their "disapprove" votes to "approve" for OOXML to achieve ISO standards status under the accelerated ratification process referred to as "fast tracking."

At the same time, however, no countries' delegations have yet announced that they are changing their votes one way or another. Given the enormous amount of resources and time Microsoft has put into trying to get OOXML ratified, company officials must be on pins and needles watching the time tick away.

At stake may be billions of dollars in lost revenues to the software giant should government customers – especially – decide that ODF is the only format they'll support.

One Standard or Two?

OOXML defines the default file formats for Microsoft's Office 2007. The company convinced European standards body Ecma International to grant OOXML standards status in December 2006. Early in 2007, Ecma (with Microsoft's backing) submitted OOXML to ISO and requested it be evaluated using the fast track process, which cuts the time down between submission and ratification from years to five months.