ISO to Fast-Track Office Open XML Process

As reported first by Computerworld's Eric Lai this afternoon, the head of the International Standards Organization committee JTC 1 has given her official approval to giving consideration to Microsoft's Office Open XML document standard under a fast-track process. This approval comes as opposition to the standard's discussion, which at one time was believed to have been fierce and widespread, may actually have been much more limited and tempered, according to Lai's own survey of JTC 1 members.

While ISO officials had earlier confirmed reports of as many as 19 nations opposing Microsoft's and ECMA's move for the world's largest standards body to ratify OOXML, the response to Lai's survey -- a kind of exit poll, using ISO-approved questions -- indicates that only six nations may have lodged their formal disapproval of fast track consideration, while another five may have expressed concerns but not objections.

Under a fast-track process, OOXML could become ratified in five months or less, which would enable states such as California to continue to use Microsoft Office under proposed new legislation which would mandate them to use only open standards approved by international bodies.

The apparent reversal of fortune in Microsoft's favor has some perennial advocates of open standardization crying foul, having reversed their stance from faith in the open standards community to doubts as to its integrity.

As Groklaw writes this afternoon, "So the objections process is an elaborate waltz with no purpose? Why even have such a process if Microsoft can push its will forward anyway?...Assuming we are projecting the future correctly, we'll have some of the world driving on the ODF side of the road, so to speak, and the rest on the Open XML side, with inevitable traffic jams, which is exactly what a document standard is supposed to prevent. Wow."


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5:38 pm March 12, 2007 - Late this afternoon, Microsoft declined comment on the matter, indicating that it doesn't have a hand in the standards process at present, deferring the matter to ECMA International, which already approved OOXML as one of its standards last year.

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