Microsoft loses bid to make Office an official standard

An international standards body rejects the Office file format as an "open" standard that can be used by governments around the world.

By Farhad Manjoo
Published September 4, 2007 8:40PM (UTC)
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Microsoft has lost its effort to get Open Office XML accepted as an official file format by the International Standards Organizations. OOXML, as it's called, is the file format in which Microsoft's Office program saves its work.

Microsoft had lobbied hard -- and, some observers said, it had played fast and loose with the rules -- to get the ISO to bless the format as "open"; such a ruling would have allowed Microsoft to sell Office to local and national governments around the world that are concerned about using programs that save documents that aren't accessible to non-Microsoft programs.


In order to win approval, Microsoft needed to round up support from two-thirds of participating member countries of the ISO. According to Gesmer Updegrove, a tech law firm that watched the vote, Microsoft won 17 supportive votes, while 15 countries rejected its bid, and 9 abstained.

In a press release, Microsoft said it's not displeased with the results, predicting that it will win approval at another ISO vote next March. Tom Robertson, who heads Microsoft's standards effort, says: "This preliminary vote is a milestone for the widespread adoption of the Open XML formats around the world for the benefit of millions of customers. Given how encouraging today's results were, we believe that the final tally in early 2008 will result in the ratification of Open XML as an ISO standard."

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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