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Microsoft’s Office format wins standardisation amid suspicions of foul play

Office Open XML documents finally get approval from the ISO following accusations of fraud, bribery

The International Organization for Standardization has voted in favor of the approval of Microsoft’s Office Open XML format (OOXML), which is now used by Microsoft’s Office application suite.

Many governments and institutions require a format to gain standardization before they can begin using it, and failure to acquire this approval could have lost Microsoft a substantial portion of its customer base.

87 countries make up the International Standards Organization of which 32 were eligible to vote on the decision. To win standardization OOXML needed 66% of the vote and no more than 25% of all 87 countries opposing the motion. It won 75% of the vote with 10 countries (11.5%) opposing. The opposing countries were Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa and Venezuela.

OOXML failed to win ISO approval when the organization first voted in September 2007.

Microsoft has come under criticism in recent months for allegedly turning to heavy-handed tactics in order to bring the countries of the ISO around.

Last month the chairman of the Norwegian committee faxed a formal protest to the ISO that read: "I wish to inform you of serious irregularities in connection with the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) and to lodge a formal protest. You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway's vote from No with comments to Yes."

Following a leaked email in August 2007 Microsoft admitted that an employee offered monetary compensation to its Swedish partners if they voted in approval of OOXML’s standardization.

Earlier in the same month Microsoft responded to accusations in Hungary that suggested that they placed yes-men on the deciding committee, and that they were involved in the committee secretary’s decision to lower the requirement of a passing vote to 50%.

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