Critics Skeptical That Microsoft Will Be Able To Alter Vote On OOXML

Losing the fast-track vote may mean Microsoft has missed its best opportunity to get OOXML approved.
Andrew Updegrove, an attorney with Gesmer Updegrove in Boston, a firm that advises industry consortia on how to formulate industry standards, has tracked the ISO vote and noted that Open XML would have been defeated if an extra 11 countries hadn't voted themselves into participating status in recent weeks.

The ISO has a largely open or unregulated method of voting on standards, Charles King, with the Pund-IT information technology newsletter, said in an interview. "The ISO operates in a uniquely 'open door' manner with few controls on who joins the voting process or their qualifications."

Previously disinterested countries generated ISO members from Windows-based and Microsoft's partner firms, who became participating members in recent weeks. In Sweden, several of 20 new members joined the Swedish Standards Institute after receiving assurances from their country's Microsoft representative that they would receive "market assistance" and "extra support in the form of Microsoft resources" for showing up to vote for Open XML, according to a blog posted by Eric Bangeman at the ars technica site.

Microsoft has acknowledged communicating with its business partners in Sweden on the issue but said IBM was organizing opposition to the vote.

Jason Matusow, director of Microsoft corporate standards, said in his blog Aug. 29 that only two members of the Swedish delegation had been contacted by their Microsoft representative and offered Microsoft support in exchange for joining the Swedish Standards Institute. The Microsoft representative retracted the offer the same day and notified the Institute of an unintended impropriety. "There was no impact on the vote due to this situation," Matusow concluded.

Twenty-one Microsoft business partners, including 17 Microsoft certified partners, joined the Swedish Institute in the waning days of the debate and all 21 voted in favor of Open XML, said Peter Rock, a respondent to Matusow's blog. He disputed Matusow's assertion that late joiners included both pro and con votes.

As the Microsoft impropriety came to light, the Swedish delegation changed its "yes" vote on Open XML to an abstention.

Among the P countries voting, the U.S., Germany, Poland and Switzerland voted in favor of Open XML over objections from IBM and Sun Microsystems. Intel, HP and Sony representatives voted in favor of the U.S. endorsement.

Voting against were: Brazil, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Korea, and New Zealand. The U.K., Canada and Japan expected to vote no.

Zemlin noted that the several developing nations who showed up in the "no" column "were voting their own interest" and trying to avoid a future where the documents used in their society tied them to one vendor's proprietary systems.

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