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Venezuela Joins Line Appealing OOXML Standard Approval

Venezuela has joined the list of countries that have lodged appeals against the adoption of an international standard based on Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) file format.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), one of two standards bodies responsible for the committee that approved the standard, is applying a generous interpretation of its rules to accept appeals.

Joint Technical Committee 1 of the IEC and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted the OOXML-based document format as a standard in a vote that closed on March 29, and the directives governing the work of JTC 1 say that appeals must be filed within two months.

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

By Monday, though, the IEC had relaxed its interpretation of the directive: Venezuela's appeal, although filed after May 29, "was filed within the two months of the BRM [ballot resolution meeting] closing so that it is being accepted. (The BRM closed on 29 March 2008 so the interpretation is that the last calendar day of May is being applied)," Buck wrote in an e-mail.

The IEC had already decided to accept Brazil's appeal, which was filed on time but addressed to the chair of JTC 1 rather than to the secretaries general of the IEC and ISO as rules require.

Computerworld Denmark reported Friday that Denmark filed an appeal with the ISO, although spokesmen at the IEC and ISO would not confirm that.

"I have no confirmation of the Danish report and cannot comment further on that," the IEC's Buck said Monday.

The ISO will not make any comment about appeals until June 6, following a meeting of its Technical Management Board (TMB), the body that rules on appeals, said ISO spokesman Roger Frost.

The appeals hinge mostly on two points: the lack of time allowed to discuss improvements to the standard, and the delay in publishing the final text of standard ISO/IEC 29500 once approved.

A week-long ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in Geneva in February was to have discussed over 1,000 improvements to the draft standard, proposed when it failed to gain approval on a first vote. Only around one-fifth of the changes on the agenda were discussed, however, the rest being dealt with in a block vote.

The final text from that BRM ought, according to JTC 1 rules, have been published within one month of the meeting, or by March 29, but committee members are still waiting.

This is the first time that approval of a standard that has gone through the BRM process has been appealed, according to IEC. The goal of a BRM is to reach a consensus on improvements to a draft standard so that it can be approved; not all draft standards go through the BRM phase, as for many consensus is reached at an earlier stage.

The significance of OOXML as a standard is waning: Microsoft does not expect to make its current generation of office productivity software, Office 2007, compliant with the ISO/IEC version of OOXML. Microsoft plans instead to add compatibility with ISO/IEC 26300 OpenDocument Format standard used by OpenOffice.org, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and IBM's Symphony software.

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