Microsoft Gets OOXML Certified By ISO – A Case of Bully, Barter, or Bribe?

Early this morning, an announcement was made that Microsoft’s OOXML has gained certification as an ISO standard. After being soundly trounced in the first couple of rounds, the standard that nobody wanted (save for Microsoft) gained ground quietly.

The specification needed a two-thirds majority to be ratified, and the vote count quoted this morning was a win of 75%.

from ZDNet this morning

While ISO isn’t set to announce the official voting tally until tomorrow, the OpenDoc Society has posted to a mailing list what it claims are the final results indicating that Microsoft will be granted ISO approval for its Office Open XML (OOXML) document format.

According to the alleged results page, OOXML received a 75 percent “approve” total. It needed 66.66 percent to become an ISO standard. Here is the alleged ISO ballot information on OOXML (zipped PDF file).

ISO officials aren’t commenting on the leaked ballot tally. Nor is Microsoft. ISO officials said on March 31 that they planned to notify privately the national bodies who participated in the standards vote before publicizing the final results on April 2.

Update: Microsoft is now confirming (in a rather long-winded way) that OOXML won the vote for ISO standards approval. From the company’s April 1 press release:

“While the final vote has not yet been announced formally, publicly available information shows overwhelming support for Open XML. According to documents available on the Internet, 86% of all national body members support ISO/IEC standardization, well above the 75% requirement for formal acceptance under ISO and IEC rules.  In addition, 75% of the Participating national body members (known as P-members) support standardization, also well above the required 66.67% requirement for this group.

“Open XML, IS29500, now joins HTML, PDF and ODF as ISO- and IEC-recognized open document format standards.

“The ratification of Open XML is proof that the consensus-building process worked.”

OOXML is currently an ECMA standard. Microsoft has been advocating for OOXML to receive ISO standard status, as that is seen as more of a “gold” standard by many governments when evaluating standards compliance of new software.

The article doesn’t have anything to say about the methods used to convince the voters, but in the first and second rounds allegations of payoffs and ‘deals’ were leveled at the Redmond giant. The resultant investigations proved nothing about outright bribery, but details of dealing were shown. Since the ‘standard’ could not garner a simple majority before, yet amazingly achieves a 75% share of the votes this time, with few changes to the standard, it does make the thoughtful person wonder.

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[tags] ISO standardization, OOXML, Microsoft, Open Standards, IEC standardization, April 1 announcement [/tags]