US organization edging to Microsoft's Open XML support

August 29th meeting last chance for INCITS' executive board to change its mind

In a reversal, the American representative to the ISO standards body is now tentatively supporting the approval of Microsoft's Office Open XML document format as an open standard this year.

The executive board of the Washington D.C.-based International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) voted Thursday to approve a "Yes with comments" motion for Open XML, the native document format in Office 2007.

Twelve members voted yes, three voted no, and one abstained. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass.

The vote still does not finalize INCITS' position, acknowledged Jason Matusow, Microsoft's senior director for intellectual property and interoperability, in a blog post Friday.

According to the group's drawn-out bureaucratic process, the INCITS executive board will meet one last time on August 29th before it must submit its final vote to the International Organization for Standardization on Sept. 2nd.

Calls and e-mails to Jennifer Garner, director of the standards programs for INCITS, and Frank Farance, an INCITS executive board member, were not immediately returned.

Still, the latest result is a bit of a surprise, as Open XML had failed to overcome opposition during two earlier stages of deliberation by INCITS.

In mid-July, the V1 technical committee advising the executive board of INCITS failed to approve Open XML, which was put onto an ISO fast track approval process in March.

Then earlier this month, the executive board of INCITS failed to pass a resolution in favor of Open XML.

This time around, the motion, which indicates support for Open XML while allowing the attachment of non-binding criticism and comments, won the support of vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, EMC, Intel, Sony Electronics, Lexmark International, Apple, which is supporting Open XML in its just-released iWork '08 productivity software, and Microsoft.

Other supporters include governmental bodies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, semi-governmental standards groups such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and GS1, and a trade association, the Electronic Industries Alliance.

Members voting against the motion include IBM, Oracle, and Farance.

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Eric Lai

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