Document doldrums for Microsoft

The battle over the status of Microsoft’s OOXML document format is still far from over as South Africa lead the attack last week to have the recent ISO decision to accept OOXML as an international standard reviewed.

The week closed out with the South African Bureau of Standards filing the first formal appeal against the decision to make OOXML an international standard. Having OOXML declared an international ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standard will give Microsoft a boost as it opens the way for governments and businesses to adopt the format. The concern for Microsoft is that the competing open source Open Document Format (ODF) is already approved by the ISO.

The software giant will now be hard pressed to prove that it’s OOXML format is workable, although it has already admitted that OOXML is too complicated to include in current versions of Office, the company’s flagship product.

Ironically, the company announced last week that it would be including support for the ODF format in Office Service Pack 2. By doing Microsoft will be giving users the ability to edit and save documents into the Open Document Format while support for its own OOXML format will have to wait for Office 14, due out next year.

The appeal from the SABS could well be the first of many appeals against the ISO process which many have questioned. SABS CEO Martin Kuscus says in his letter to the ISO that the standards body is concerned that there is an increasing trend of international organisations being able to circumvent the consensus-based decision making of the ISO and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

The SABS lists three primary concerns over the process. Kuscus said that the SABS was not satisfied that conflicts with other standards were adequately addressed. The Open Document Format already provides for an XML-based document format.

Kuscus also said that ISO standards are meant to be resolved by consensus wherever possible but that at the ballot resolution meeting only 67 of 1027 issues raised around the standard were discussed, which undermined possible consensus.

The third objection is that despite obligation to publish a final version of the standard within a month of the meeting it is almost two months since the ballot resolution meeting and no standard has been published, suggesting the OOXML format is indeed too complicated.

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Document doldrums for Microsoft