Microsoft’s Open Standard in Global Hands

Microsoft  is one step closer in its bid to having its
Office Open XML (OOXML) format anointed by the International Standards
Organization (ISO).

ISO informed Ecma International, the Geneva-based standards body sponsoring
OOXML, that it kicked off the voting period on Monday for the so-called
fast-track approval process. OOXML will be recognized as a standard if it
garners a two-thirds majority of the vote of ISO member countries. Balloting
ends on Sept. 2.

“We look forward to working with [ISO and its] Member Bodies and National
Committees to address any technical issues that they may have about Office
Open XML,” Istvan Sebestyen, secretary general of Ecma International,
said in a statement.

This vote is critical to Microsoft’s global ambitions, given that a growing
number of governments — including several U.S. state
governments — and educational institutions require that their documents be
produced using software recognized as an open standard. OOXML is at the
heart of Microsoft’s Office 2007 productivity suite.

Ecma approved
OOXML in December and, given Ecma’s close relationship to ISO, approval by
the larger body seemed a foregone conclusion.

But while ISO ultimately approved
Ecma’s request for a fast-track process, 19 of the 30 members of the
technical committee reviewing the proposed standard sent contradictions. That trend doesn’t bode well for Microsoft’s chances if it
were to reproduce itself during the full-member vote that has just begun.
Microsoft downplayed the importance of those contradictions, saying that the
comments weren’t necessarily pejorative.

But as internetnews.com reported last month, at least some of the
contradictions included technical reservations. One of the objections to
OOXML expressed by voters is that it seems to duplicate the Open Document
Format (ODF) standard, which is used by OpenOffice.org.

OpenOffice also released version 2.2 of its office suite, which features
improved text display, the ability to bookmark .PDF files and support for
user-definable export of form fields. Version 2.2 also improves its handling
of Vista functions like the new file dialogues.

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