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Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Microsoft likely to win vote on open document standard

COMPETITIVENESS Members of two Geneva-based standards groups have been voting on whether to designate Office Open XML as a global standard for electronic documents


Amid intense lobbying, Microsoft is expected to squeak out a victory this week to have its open document format, Office Open XML, recognized as an international standard, people tracking the vote said on Monday.

The move would help Microsoft maintain its competitive advantage in the expanding field of open document formats.

"After what basically has amounted to unprecedented lobbying, I think that Microsoft's standard is going to get the necessary amount of support," said Pieter Hintjens, president of Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a Brussels-based group that led the opposition and has been tallying the votes of participants.

The underlying code of an "open" document is public, allowing developers to improve and derive new products without having to pay royalties. The first open format to become an international standard, in May last year, was OpenDocument Format, developed by a group led by IBM.

Microsoft sought a similar status for Office Open XML so it could also sell software with open characteristics, which are increasingly being demanded by national and local governments in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil, as well as by the state of Massachusetts.

Member countries in two global standards bodies, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), both based in Geneva, have been casting votes since April on whether to designate Office Open XML as a global standard.

The issue has split the groups, with some members asserting that the ISO and IEC should not be endorsing the commercial product of a single company.

Others say a standards designation would reflect reality, because more than 90 percent of electronic documents are in Microsoft format.

Electronic voting closed on Sunday. Roger Frost, an ISO spokesman, said his group was tallying the votes and would announce the results yesterday or today.

The European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA), a Geneva-based standards group, endorsed Office Open XML as a European standard last December.

Hintjens said countries including Japan, Canada, India, China, Brazil, France and Britain voted against Microsoft's proposal. France and Britain made their votes conditional, meaning they could later change them to yes, should Microsoft alter its 6,500-page standard to allay technical and liability concerns.

Switzerland, the US, Portugal and Germany supported Microsoft's bid, Hintjens said, as did some smaller countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya and Ivory Coast, some of which became active late in the voting at Microsoft's urging.

To win passage, Microsoft's standard must gain support from at least two-thirds of 37 countries on an information technology panel of the ISO and IEC called the Joint Technical Committee 1, and cannot be opposed by more than 25 percent of all countries casting ballots.

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