Microsoft Favored to Win Open Document Vote

Turns out I am but one of many trying to navigate the murky waters of OOXML. Our squadron has been joined by Kevin J. O’Brien, who has sent in a report that can be found in the Business Section of the New York Times, September 4, 2007: Microsoft Favored to Win Open Document Vote

Kevin’s report says in part:

Amid intense lobbying, Microsoft is expected to squeak out a victory this week to have its open document format, Office Open XML, recognized as an international standard, people tracking the vote said Monday.

The move would help Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, maintain its competitive advantage in the expanding field of open document formats.

“After what basically has amounted to unprecedented lobbying, I think that Microsoft’s standard is going to get the necessary amount of support,” said Pieter Hintjens, president of Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a Brussels group that led the opposition.

The underlying code of an “open” document is public, allowing developers to improve and derive new products without having to pay royalties. The first open format to become an international standard, in May 2006, was OpenDocument Format, developed by a group led by International Business Machines.

Microsoft sought a similar status for Office Open XML so it could also sell software with open characteristics, which are increasingly being demanded by national and local governments in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil, as well as by Massachusetts in the United States.

The issue has split the groups, with some members asserting that the I.S.O. and I.E.C. should not be endorsing the commercial product of a single company.

Others say a standards designation would reflect reality, because more than 90 percent of electronic documents are in Microsoft format.

According to Mr. Hintjens, whose group has been tallying the votes of participants, countries including Japan, Canada, India, China, Brazil, France and Britain voted against Microsoft’s proposal. France and Britain made their votes conditional, meaning they could later change them to yes, should Microsoft alter its 6,500-page standard to allay technical and liability concerns.

Switzerland, the United States, Portugal and Germany supported Microsoft’s bid, Mr. Hintjens said, as did some smaller countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya and Ivory Coast, some of whom became active late in the voting at Microsoft’s urging.

Trinidad and Tobago? Kenya? Ivory Coast? With the support of such powerhouses as these in the international standards arena, Microsoft may indeed coast home to victory.

It’s too bad that Trinidad and Tobago’s support only brings with it one vote. If they could split the country, that could yield two votes …

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