September 4, 2007 4:48 AM PDT

British standards body mum on OOXML vote

The British Standards Institution has sent its response to the International Organization for Standardization on the subject of whether Microsoft Office Open XML should be certified with the ISO, but has refused to say whether it voted "yes," "no" or "abstain."

BSI did say in a statement, however, that it had "identified a number of technical issues in the document which need to be addressed before the U.K. can approve" Office Open XML as an international standard.

In the fast-track process to approve OOXML as an ISO standard, some sources have said, the only vote that would prevent a specification from being automatically recommended for ISO certification would be a "no, with comments."

However, BSI did not confirm or deny that this is correct. "A large number of (BSI) comments have been submitted (to ISO). Anything you deduce from that can't be attributed to the BSI," said a BSI spokesperson.

"The voting pattern is information we don't disclose," said Richard Taylor, head of market development for the ICT and electronic sectors at the BSI. "It's not our practice to share those details. We've put forward technical comments and JTC1 (Joint Technical Committee 1) will review those comments."

A subcommittee of JTC1 known as SC34 is the part of the ISO that will deal with whether OOXML will become an international standard. If OOXML is accepted as a standard, it could pave the way for its use by the government and the public sector.

"The ultimate goal is to develop a robust standard. The job of JTC1 is to arrive at that, if that's possible," said Taylor.

Microsoft has admitted attempting to influence its partners to join national standards bodies around the globe with the intention of pushing the OOXML specification through the ISO fast-track process. This has drawn accusations from the Free Software Foundation that Microsoft has tried to "stuff the ballot boxes."

The company has also been accused of offering compensation to partners in Sweden who joined committees--allegations that Microsoft said had arisen due to a "confusing" e-mail sent by one of its employees.

Microsoft partners have joined committees around the world at the last minute, which has led critics such as the Free Software Foundation to say that those partners could not possibly be voting from an informed position because the OOXML specification is more than 6,000 pages long. Partners simply would not have had time to review the document, said FSF Europe.

However, the BSI said that its OOXML technical panel had seen no members joining late, and that membership was by invitation only. The BSI refused to divulge the make-up of the committee, but it said that everyone who applied had been given a place.

"We set up the technical panel with wide industry representation, and we had no latecomers to that. We had 30 technical experts from government, industry and academia. We put out invitations, then people applied through us to become a member. Everyone who applied was given a place. In the end there has been sufficient time for us to pull together comments and give (the specification) a rigorous review," said Taylor.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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6 comments

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Why....
... should an organisation like "The British Standards Institution" recommend for ISO certification an Office Productivity Suite cannot now reveal that the CONCORDE can be manufactured operated "economically"? Is the world going to experience "falling standards" or what!

Just imagine if the Microsoft Corporation built the aeroplanes that you fly in like they built their Operating Systems... How much "data loss" (virus infection, malware...) can your company tolerate!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
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I'm no fan myself but...
I have never been a fan of ms office or, for that matter, most "office" suites. I've yet to see a spreadsheet that can readily accept time series data and I subscribe to Brian Kernighan's statement "What you see is all you get" for most word processors I have had the misfortune of dealing with. I must point out, however, that the standardisation voting taking place is not for the software but, rather, for the file format. I believe that choosing a file format has far greater consequences than that of choosing software that produces that format. That choice should be firmly rooted in questions such as whether there can only be one package that can be used to generate the format and whether the format has the capability of storing the information in a suitable manner.

In my opinion, they should also be looking at how easy it would be to extract information from the documents using common tools such as XSLT and also how easy it would be to produce such a format using the same common tools.
Posted by j.trauntvein (6 comments )
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"Microsoft partners have joined committees around the world...
... at the last minute, which has led critics such as the Free Software Foundation to say that those partners could not possibly be voting from an informed position because the OOXML specification is more than 6,000 pages long. Partners simply would not have had time to review the document, said FSF Europe..." Since it is well know that "experience" is a great teacher; then, just what working experience (with regards to the interoperability of standards format) do "Microsoft partners" bring to the international table. When were all the "testing" done that would ascertain that the OOXML Format Standards would perform as stipulated! Is this not how standards are established in the "aircraft industry" among others. Give Commander_Spock and Team that British Made "Rolls Royce" Engine that is IBM's "OPEN" LOTUS SMARTSUITE With The "SPREAD SHEET" That Will/Would Rock The World - AGAIN!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
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How ironic
that critics claim that you are not even posting from an informed position. This is actually the same thing you've posted over and over and over again without even reading the OOXML document just like every other Anti-Microsoft Zealot hasn't even bothered to read it.
Posted by Troll Hard (182 comments )
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