Microsoft's ISO standards drowned by comments

Microsoft's effort to get its Office Open XML document format certified as an ISO standard attracted 3,522 comments from the national standards bodies.

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Microsoft's effort to get its Office Open XML document format certified as an ISO standard attracted 3,522 comments from the national standards bodies.

The comments came from bodies that participated in the balloting that at least temporarily derailed the effort to certify the format as an ISO standard last summer.

Brian Jones, an Office program manager at Microsoft, disclosed the total number of comments that had been received in a blog posting on Monday. Jones also said that Ecma International, a Geneva-based standards body that already ratified Open XML and is shepherding the format through ISO's more exacting process, posted its first set of responses to the comments last weekend.

Jones is the sole Microsoft employee who is a member of Ecma Technical Committee 45, a 24-member committee made up of high-tech vendors.

Under ISO rules, only members of national standards bodies are allowed to view the various comments and TC45's responses via a Web portal that Ecma has set up. Jones wrote in response to comments appended to his blog posting that he would prefer to have the portal be publicly accessible. But, he added, limiting access is a general rule that ISO has "around this whole process, and unless they make an exception, Ecma needs to stick to those rules".

According to Jones, many of the 3,500-plus comments - which mostly consist of objections and suggested changes to Ecma's standards proposal - overlap with one another. "When you group them into similar buckets, it narrows down pretty quickly into a more manageable list," he wrote. Even so, he acknowledged that the number of comments is "still pretty impressive".

Open XML narrowly failed to win fast-track approval as an ISO standard in the initial balloting that concluded September 2. Ecma's proposal won a majority of the votes that were cast but not enough to meet the requirements for approval.

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