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India and Brazil File Appeals Against OOXML Standardization

India and Brazil have filed appeals against the adoption of the Microsoft-sponsored Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as an international standard.

Their appeals join one from South Africa, filed last Friday with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the two standardization bodies responsible for the technical committee which approved the OOXML standard.

"By the deadline last night, we had received three appeals, from Brazil, India and South Africa," said Jonathan Buck, spokesman for IEC.

"The Brazillian appeal was not lodged in the correct procedure -- it was not send to the CEOs of the two organizations -- but nonetheless it has been received," Buck said, adding that it will be treated in the same way as the Indian and South African appeals.

Members of ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1) adopted OOXML as a standard in a vote that closed on March 29.

The so-called Fast Track process leading up to that vote has been widely criticized by participants and observers as too rushed. If a draft standard going through that process is rejected in an initial vote because it requires further work, a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) is called to discuss the criticisms made and improve the draft.

Delegates at the February BRM for OOXML had just five days to deal with over 1,000 editorial changes and technical criticisms. Since that meeting, in which many of the changes were put to a vote without discussion, the process has slowed down, and the final version of the text has still not been circulated to national standards bodies over a month after the deadline for publication set by JTC1 rules.

The rushed meeting and the delayed publication are among the grounds for appeal cited by South Africa and Brazil, according to copies of the letters posted by lawyer and standards blogger Andy Updegrove.

Officials at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the Associaç o Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT), Brazil's national standards body, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The CEOs of ISO and IEC each have one month to examine the appeals and to try to reach a compromise with the national standards bodies. If that fails, the appeals are passed to the Standards Management Board at IEC and the Technical Management Board (TMB) at ISO for resolution.

ISO will not say how many appeals it has received until after the TMB meeting on June 6.

IEC's Buck expects to have more to say about the appeals process next week, but noted that the situation is unusual.

"This is the first such appeal after a BRM process in ISO/IEC JTC 1, although appeals occur regularly in other technical committees," he said.

The importance of the OOXML standard is fast diminishing: Microsoft said last week that it does not expect to make its current generation of office productivity software, Office 2007, compliant with the ISO/IEC version of the OOXML standard.

Instead it will issue a patch allowing that software to read and write files compatible with the rival OpenDocument Format, which has already been adopted as standard ISO/IEC 26300. That file format is used by the open-source OpenOffice.org, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and IBM's Symphony, among others.

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