Norway asks to suspend its 'Yes' vote on OOXML

Members of Norway's technical committee who voted to ratify Microsoft's OOXML document format as an ISO open standard are protesting that decision.

Members of the Norwegian technical committee that voted to ratify Microsoft's OOXML document format as an ISO standard are protesting that decision even before the full results of the standards body's vote on the technology have been announced.

Some members of the Norwegian committee that participated in the International Organization for Standardization's Office Open XML vote are calling on Norway's Ministry of Trade and Industry to suspend the country's "yes" vote pending an investigation, according to a letter to the ISO from the Norwegian committee's chairman.

"You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot," Steve Pepper, chairman of the SN/K185 committee that voted on OOXML for Norway, said in the letter. "This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee. I hereby request that the Norwegian decision be suspended pending the results of this investigation."

Pepper cited "serious irregularities" in connection with the vote, although he did not provide details in his letter.

The letter was posted on a blog by Geir Isene, a member of the Norwegian technical committee and the owner of FreeCode International in Oslo.

Isene said that 80 percent of the SN/K 185 committee was against Norway changing its original vote of "No, with comments," cast in September, to a "Yes" vote. However, "the administrative staff of Standard Norge (the Norwegian Standards Institute) retreated to a room after the meeting [about OOXML] and decided Norway's vote -- effectively steamrolling a roomful of experts," Isene said via e-mail.

He said he has been "one of the most active in speaking out against this farce." Isene joined Norway's technical committee about a year ago, he said.

The OOXML standards process has been dogged by reports that Microsoft put representatives who shared its interests on countries' voting committees so that the standard would pass muster with the ISO. Critics of the specification, which many believe will be passed when the official ISO vote comes out Wednesday, said it's extremely difficult or even impossible to implement in practice, and that many of the problems that various technical committees had with OOXML were not resolved at a Ballot Resolution Meeting last month.

Norway's protest likely means that the debate over OOXML won't end when the ISO announces the results of the final vote.

"Things are getting weirder and weirder," said Andrew Updegrove, a supporter of ODF, a rival to OOXML, and an open-source and open-standards attorney with Gesmer Updegrove in Boston. "I think OOXML is going to be in the news for a while."

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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