Microsoft’s Office Open XML gets ISO fast-track approval

“Microsoft’s embattled Office Open XML (OOXML) document format received ISO fast-track approval today after receiving support from approximately 86 percent of the national bodies that participated in the vote. ISO approval will be broadly perceived as a sign of validation for the document format which has received widespread criticism from technical experts and standards advocacy groups,” Ryan Paul reports for Ars Technica.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple’s iWork ’08 is Office Open XML compatible.

“Failure to obtain ISO approval would have put Microsoft at a disadvantage in government software procurement processes which are increasingly mandating or favoring open standards. The trend towards standards adoption in government IT could have potentially pushed the public sector away from Microsoft’s deeply entrenched office offerings and towards a variety of alternatives,” Paul reports.

“OOXML was approved as an ECMA standard in 2006 but failed to achieve ISO approval during an initial 2007 vote. ISO’s second fast-track vote, which took place earlier this month, delivered a sufficient number of votes in favor of the format to move forward with ISO approval. The process has received heavy scrutiny from critics who claim that Microsoft has engaged in abusive practices ranging from committee-stuffing to potential vote buying,” Paul reports. “Critics have documented some evidence of various irregularities in national body internal voting processes in Russia, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, and other countries.”

More in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “RadDoc” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: Money might not be able to buy you love, but it certainly looks like it can buy ISO approval.

The ISO would do well to remember that “ISO approval” is meaningless if enough people disapprove of the ISO.


  1. Is this really a bad thing for Apple? I can’t stand M$ as much as the next (Mac) guy, and nothing would make me happier than to see them circle the bowl. But, is this going to hurt Apple in any way? Didn’t Apple support OOXML and oppose ODF?

  2. This feels like a nightmare month for consumers. First Verizon wins the bidding in the 700Mhz bandwidth, now MS is getting their inferior file format approved by an international commitee. Who will save us from this onslaught of corporate greed? Apple? Google? Is there anyone left out there that cares about the customer?

  3. @Jake

    “Is this really a bad thing for Apple?”

    Never mind Apple. It’s a bad thing for you and for anyone else who needs interoperable file formats … which means all of us.

    It’s also bad news for anyone who pays taxes, because Microsoft’s purpose in gaming ISO is so that they’ll be able to say to government bodies, “I know you now mandate open standards in products for your purchasing decisions these days, but, Sir, OOXML is an open standard.”

    Of course, OOXML isn’t open and isn’t a standard. Microsoft have just used bribery and corruption to get ISO to say it’s both things when it’s neither. A real open standards would be implementable by anyone, which Microsoft’s Office formats are not.

    This is intended to keep Microsoft’s Office lock-in maintained. That’s what keeps prices up. That’s bad if you’re buying office software — or if you’re paying taxes so that your city, state, national medical service, etc., etc. can buy office software.

    Didn’t Apple support OOXML

    They did. But they didn’t tell Microsoft to use bribery and corruption and subvert standards bodies. Microsoft came up with that bright idea all by themselves.

    Apple evidently doesn’t feel strong enough to oppose Microsoft on this one. That’s a shame. But don’t let it stop you doing so.

  4. Formal protest from the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry over the vote that was scammed on behalf of Microfilth:

    Formal protest regarding the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500
    I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman (of 13 years standing) of the Norwegian mirror committee to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34. I wish to inform you of serious irregularities in connection with the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) and to lodge a formal protest.

    You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway’s vote from No with comments to Yes.

    Because of this irregularity, a call has been made for an investigation by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry with a view to changing the vote.

    I hereby request that the Norwegian decision be suspended pending the results of this investigation.

    Yours sincerely,
    Steve Pepper
    Chairman, SN/K185 (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 mirror committee)

  5. “The ISO would do well to remember that “ISO approval” is meaningless if enough people disapprove of the ISO.”

    Excellent take MDN. The ISO’s reputation should be taking a severe beating over this fiasco. They’re in significant danger of becoming little more than a mouthpiece for any company with sufficient funds and desire to see their “standards” rammed through like this.

    If they don’t take some major corrective steps to prevent this kind of abuse from happening again, the world is going to need a new international standards organization.

  6. ISO approval of OOXML is a good thing. Now MS no longer can change the file format without publishing the changes they make to the format. This will help other office product vendors update their software and deny MS a long exclusive use of their proprietary format, which MS used in the past to force everyone to upgrade.

  7. @ s

    There are currently *no* documents in existence which conform to this new ISO “standard”. MS Office documents rely on numerous undocumented “binary spaces” and VML data and who knows what else, which are mentioned but not actually defined anywhere in the “spec”.

    MS will continue to obfuscate what they’re doing by claiming to be “open”, while still working to stifle true interoperability as they’ve always done. And now they can claim ISO “certification” on top of it all. Makes me want to vomit – the blatant corruption and hypocrisy is just sickening.

    So no, there is no way at all that this is a “good thing” – unless perhaps they’ve left a vote-buying paper trail the EU can track back to them. Considering the many reports of “voting irregularities” (which all strangely went in Microsoft’s favor), I sincerely hope these “irregularities” receive the closest possible investigation.

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