Open XML Overwhelmingly Approved as an ISO / IEC standard (IS 29500): the end of the file formats war

I'm sure many folks have seen the news by now that Open XML has been approved as an ISO/IEC standard (IS 29500). Based on the numbers I've seen, looking at the P member countries there are now 24 who vote "yes", and only 8 vote "no". This puts the P member approval at 75% easily passing the 2/3 majority needed. Of the overall votes (both O and P members combined) 61 countries votes "yes" and only 10 voted "no" which puts the overall approval at 86% (so only 14% no). This puts us well below the minimum bar of no more than 25% voting "no". So on both criteria, Open XML now easily passes, which is a great indication of the general positive feelings amongst the national bodies of the progress made over the past 6 months.

Now that the voting over, it's time to move forward and start to work together in the ongoing development of these document format standards. There has been a lot of energy focused on the review period over the past year or two, and we need to use that same energy to move us forward. There is still a lot of work to do in order to make it even easier for developers to build solutions using these standardized technologies (new tools; test suites; labs; etc.). We also need to continue looking beyond traditional documents and identify the important innovations that will be necessary for the documents of the future. I may have been a bit premature last year when I declared the file format wars over. It was a couple days after we saw that Open Office was going to have Open XML support, and I thought at that point folks would start to move on to the more collaborative and mutually beneficial investments. Well, I was a bit premature I think, but now a year removed from my initial statements, I think we've reached the milestone that really will help put a lot of the
tension to rest. Open XML has been approved as an ISO standard, and we can now switch our energy back to the technical work that will continue to drive things forward. As we move into the next stages I'm excited to see the energy and knowledge that will be brought to the table as we begin to innovate and move both Open XML and ODF forward as important internationally standardized file formats.

Large numbers of implementations already support Open XML

Open XML has already been developed on numerous platforms, by hundreds (if not thousands) of different implementers. The approval of Open XML as an ISO standard gives those implementers a stable platform on which to build their tools and solutions. We've already committed in Microsoft that we will work on updating our products so that they support the ISO version of Open XML, and I'm sure we'll see others make similar updates to their solutions.

Choice in file formats will always be important

I know you've heard me mention numerous times that choice in file formats is an important thing. Whether it's XHTML, PDF, ODF, UOF, DAISY, DocBook, NLM, RTF, .doc, or Open XML, folks have needs that drive the file format they choose. Last year we sponsored a translator project that gave people the ability to read and write ODF files from Microsoft Office. Last month we announced that we would update the Office product so that the ODF translators could natively plug into Office and give people the same options they get from the other file formats. People will be able to set ODF as the default format in Office if that's what they want by simply installing the translators and then changing their settings. There will be people that take this option, just as there may be others who decide to switch over to the old binary formats as their default for the time being. I believe the vast majority of folks will use Open XML as their default format, but ultimately that's just my opinion. What's important is that everyone has the ability to decide.

The future of documents, and the ongoing development of IS 29500

I have to admit that what I'm most excited about is that we can now start to move beyond the basic discussions of file formats as they relate to what are essentially digital typewriters, and start to move into the future of document content. The custom schema support in Open XML is really just the starting point of semantic documents, and it takes a small step in the new voyage we need to help convince the rest of the world to take. For far too long, we've focused simply on how to present document content. How it's formatted, where page breaks are, and what styles are used. We've only begun to scratch the surface though in terms of the actual semantics behind the documents people create. There are brilliant folks out there who've been doing a lot of thinking around the semantic web, and how to really tie together all the important information that affects our lives. The next challenge is to really identify how you get the average document author to write content that is semantically structured. Most folks don't yet see the advantage in structuring their documents, so it's important to find ways of providing immediate benefit to those that take the time (or use the right software). There are a number of experts in this area on SC34, so it's very fitting that many of the same people that have helped contribute to this area will also participate in the future developments of Open XML. In ISO it's called "maintenance" but I think that term sounds a bit limiting to folks. It's not "maintenance" in the way that you maintain your car so that it runs properly. Of course some of the work will be around corrections and general improvements, but a lot of the maintenance work will be innovative and forward thinking. We need to continue to move document formats forward, and I couldn't think of a better group to take on that responsibility.


Comments (112)
  1. Here’s the press release which notes that After more than 14 months of intensive review, a Joint Technical

  2. From Brian Jones blog: Open XML Overwhelmingly Approved as an ISO / IEC standard (IS 29500): the end

  3. hAl says:

    Congrats with the result.

    All of your readers must know you personally have been working very hard both within Micrsoft but also as a technical expert in Ecma TC45 to get a big job done.

  4. Francis says:

    My gosh… such gravity on April 1st! The least you could have done for the slashdot crowd is conceded defeat and announced Microsoft’s imminent intent, having been thwarted at getting OOXML passed, to buy OASIS. 😀

    On a serious note, this is great news. I’m glad to hear that the political wrangling is over and look forward to getting my hands on ISO-conformant Word, Excel, and PowerPoint!

  5. Wictor Wilen says:

    After a lot of turmoil the ECMA Office Open XML document format has been approved as an ISO/IEC standard – IS 29500. The news came out a day earlier than stated, due to a leak which made ISO to go pu…

  6. Congrats says:

    You’ve destroyed ISO and everything it stands for.

  7. Aexh says:

    A few things are missing from the commitments Microsoft is giving, though:

    – having Office support the ISO standard is good. But, it needs to output 100% conformant documents: is that guaranteed?

    – open up the development of the format. Right now, I can get membership of OASIS, join the ODF TC and contribute. That’s not possible with OOXML. Stop with the behind closed doors stuff; OOXML would have probably passed through ISO at the first time of asking if you’d had broader inclusion and addressed the obvious technical deficiencies when people identified them.

    – choice in file formats: I honestly don’t see why this is important. Innovate file formats, sure. But bring OOXML and ODF together. I’m not going to support two formats in my apps, and at the moment I’m choosing ODF because it’s simpler. I don’t want to have to choose, though. I doubt you’re going to do this, but I can ask.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations!!! your skills at playing the standards system are extraordinary..

    But may I ask for your help, were did you manage to find XML experts in Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Cote-d’Ivore, Fiji to do a reveiw of OOXML and confince them to join ISO to vote. Can you let me know, we want to profit from this Win and implement OOXML for archiving in those countries before it is de-standardized

  9. nksingh says:

    Congratulations Brian. I hope you get a well-deserved vacation along with a significant hazard bonus for working in this war zone for 2 years now.  

    As a supporter of OpenXML, I hope that the Office group does not sit on its laurels after this accomplishment.  While the opposition may have lost this round, they would be vindicated in the end if the next Office does not make solid progress toward eliminating transitional elements from new documents.

  10. S says:

    "The custom schema support in Open XML is really just the starting point of semantic documents, and it takes a small step in the new voyage we need to help convince the rest of the world to take."

    Isn’t that another name for smart tags?

    I’m sure Microsoft holds at least a dozen patents on that subject alone.

  11. Von den 87 National Body Members (stimmberechtigten Ländern) unterstützen 87% die ISO/IEC Standardisierung,

  12. CIO says:

    Congrats on OOXML… and in the process become one of the most despised tech companies in the world.

    No doubt you’ll handle it just like you did with HTML:

    "Best Viewed with Internet Explorer"

  13. Bob says:

    Congrats on getting the approval, and nice post for those who said you’d now abandon everything.

  14. Anon says:


    "But may I ask for your help, were did you manage to find XML experts in Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Cote-d’Ivore, Fiji to do a reveiw of OOXML and confince them to join ISO to vote."

    You´re quite racist, aren´t you?

  15. Karellen says:

    It’s a sad, sad day when a document that has obviously not even been passed through a spell-checker[0], or apparently been proofread thoroughly, or according to a fairly sparse random check has many completely undefined terms, is deemed to be technically acceptable as an international standard.

    I’d expect high school students turning in papers with this lack of attention to detail to be ashamed of such work. That any professional worthy of the title would consider submitting it at an international level boggles me. Clearly there are people out with with no standards (pun not intended) and no shame at all.

    I could not have any less respect for the people supporting this.


    Search the comments on the page for "laoding" and "autoHypehenation"

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Aron, I simply do not know how you can equate that since  some of those counties are Caucasian, some are Black, even Arab and guess what Asian. Quite ridiculous I must say.

    What is sad is the abuse Microsoft has displayed using their power in the poorer countries, with threats of pulling out, promises of further investments…

    So, I say you are stupid for bringing up the "race card”. The fact is OOXML is a extremely complicated specification and there is NOT ONE expert in those countries capable of reviewing the spec and certainly not in a 5 month period. Even China said they could not. Or how about Cote-d’Ivore which joined ISO 2 days before a vote without 1 comment on a 6000 page spec…The fact is those counties and several more where never a member of ISO before OOXML was submitted and NONE of them even reviewed the spec because they cannot.

    This whole OOXML thing is a Charade and will do more damage to MS in the long run than good.

  17. Stefan says:

    I like to hear that Office will soon be able to open and save ODF-formats as well as Open XML! Don’t forget Mac Office, though. And please consider making this available with the basic Office installation, not just with additional tools. THIS will show you’re serious about choice.

    Having said this: Cheers.

  18. Doug Mahugh says:

    The national bodies have been notified of the results of the ISO/IEC process, and the outcome is now

  19. Orlando says:

    Congratulations! Before a file format war, it was a technical and ideological war. You’re a giant.

  20. Wu MingShi says:

    Sure it is not an april fool joke??? 😉


  21. Mike Brown says:

    So much for Microsoft not pre-empting ISO’s own announcment "out of respect for the standards process"!  ISO, at least, recognised the irony in making such an announcement on April 1st.

    Congratulations then, Brian, for helping to complete Microsoft’s take over of ISO to form the new MS-ISO(TM) organisation.

    Now there will be, I imagine, a period of rationlisation and sorting out who’s who in the new team.  Sadly, I think that redundant positions will find that many people – namely, anybody that knows anything about standards – will soon be "seeking new opportunities" elsewhere.

    Once this period of taking stock is over, though, I look forward to seeing a price list for standards that can be issued by the new corp.  I mean it’s only fair that MS-ISO charges for its services; after all, we’re not communists!

    I suggest a sliding scale of charges based on the following variables:

    * the length of the standard.  Anything less than 10,000 pages not accepted.  (Why waste our time with small potatoes?)

    * the number of Photoshopped business cards needed by MS-ISO staff

    * the number of astroturfed letters apparently sent from girls’ schools

    * number of favours called in from presidents, prime ministers and other heads of state.  International phone call receipts will be available for inspection.

    * the number of countries that need to be created to get the approval numbers.  Yes, I did say "created".  I believe that MS-ISO has a special arrangment with King W Bush of Iraq to split his kingdom up into 17 smaller countries, if required.  That’s 17 lovely new "P" members for MS-ISO!

    * the length of the process itself.  MS-ISO will, of course, abolish the old "standard" process of up to 3 years, as it was far too slow and nit-picky.  The old "fast track" standard of 6 months becomes the new "standard" process.  Platinum customers will be able to order the new "super fast track’ process, which is guaranteed to take no longer than two weeks!  (That’s two weeks from the time that your cheque clears, however, so please allow three working days for that).  Ballot Resolution Meetings (BRMs) will also be abolished, to be replaced by a game of "spin the bottle".  (Come to think of it, there’s not much change there).

    All in all, I think we have a wonderful world of innovation ahead of us!  Just think of what we can achieve:

    * car seat belts made of toilet paper

    * disk brakes made from ice.  (What do you mean, "it melted"?  It’s still an ISO standard, and didn’t you hear about our special deals on refills?)

    * industry standard computer software, e.g. MS-Office, MS-Exchange, MS-Vista (yes, really), MS-Sharepoint and so on.  (NB: due to the well-known complexity of MS-ISO voting rules, other companies’ computer software products are not elligible for MS-ISO standarisation at this time)

    All with the lovely stamp of ISO approval!  I can’t wait!


    – Mike

  22. Jan says:

    Just want to say congratulations!

  23. Bruno says:

    Congrats, Brian.

    I know that you’ve already started working on the successor to Office 2007, but take some time off; as you deserve a long vacation (and huge raise). 🙂

  24. Tom says:

    @Mike Brown: Why do you waste so much time/effort writing such drivel?  Can’t you find something more constructive to focus on?

  25. Mike Brown says:

    >> @Mike Brown: Why do you waste so much time/effort

    >> writing such drivel?

    Just to annoy people like you, Tom.  Mission accomplished, I think!


    – Mike

  26.     The results are in.  Office Open XML , otherwise known as DIS 29500, has been approved

  27. Sean says:

    Finally! Nice Work Brian! I know you’ve worked hard to get here!

  28. congratulations on effort well spent!

    The list so far:

    – MS openXML – check

    – MS openISO – check

    – MS openHTML – being worked on

    – MS openTCP/IP – planning stage

  29. dave says:

    Brian you might what to start spreading the wonders of ooxml beyond this blog.

    It looks like ISO is rethinking their fast track procedure.  It would be a pity if ooxml became known as "the standard that made ISO abolish the fact track process".

  30. Te ne avevo già parlato negli scorsi mesi . Microsoft Office 2007 ha introdotto un nuovo formato di file

  31. Neil Grogan says:

    A sad day for standards in general. This one’s overcooked and under thought….

  32. Peter says:


    First of all, congratulations.

    A lot of hard work payed off in the end.

    You said that Microsoft will be "updating our products so that they support the ISO version of Open XML". Would you elaborate on that statement? When and how will Office support IS 29500? Will it be via a soon-to-be released service pack? Or will we need to wait for the next version?

  33. Dave S. says:

    Any list showing just how complete the ‘support’ is, or is MS satisfied with the checklist method of software evaluation?

    Gnumeric has this to say about (MSO)OOXML support – "Import filters also exist for Lotus 1-2-3, Applix, Sylk, XBase, Open Office, Quattro Pro, Dif, Plan Perfect, and Oleo files, but these import filters are less complete"

  34. J David Eisenberg says:

    As Steve Pepper, Chairman, SN/K185 (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 mirror committee) wrote: "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."

    When 80% against means "yes", that gives a whole new dimension to the meaning of "overwhelmingly approved."

  35. kenta says:

    Forgive me my ignorance about the standards process but I was expecting a download of the final approvied specification to be available after the standard was approved. At the moment the ISO site knows nothing about 29500.

  36. James Plamondon says:

    Our mission is to establish Microsoft’s platforms as the de facto standards throughout the computer industry…. Working behind the scenes to orchestrate "independent" praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. "Independent" analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). "Independent" consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). "Independent" academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). "Independent" courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.

    I have mentioned before the "stacked panel". Panel discussions naturally favor alliances of relatively weak partners – our usual opposition. For example, an "unbiased" panel on OLE vs. OpenDoc would contain representatives of the backers of OLE (Microsoft) and the backers of OpenDoc (Apple, IBM, Novell, WordPerfect, OMG, etc.). Thus we find ourselves outnumbered in almost every "naturally occurring" panel debate.

    A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select the panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only "independent ISVs" on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed – just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the "real world." Sounds marvelously independent doesn’t it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the "independent" panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.

    Finding a moderator is key to setting up a stacked panel. The best sources of pliable moderators are:

       — Analysts: Analysts sell out – that’s their business model. But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.

       — Consultants: These guys are your best bets as moderators. Get a well-known consultant on your side early, but don’t let him publish anything blatantly pro-Microsoft. Then, get him to propose himself to the conference organizers as a moderator, whenever a panel opportunity comes up. Since he’s well- known, but apparently independent, he’ll be accepted – one less thing for the constantly-overworked conference organizer to worry about, right?

  37. LarryOsterman says:

    I love it when people haul out the James Plamondon quote.  First off, it dates from 1995 – 13 years ago.  Secondly, if you read the context for the message, it was Plamondon pitching this idea as a part of a JOB INTERVIEW process!  And Plamondon doesn’t even work at Microsoft any more (as best as I can figure, he retired to Australia).

    There is no indication that Plamondon was writing for Microsoft or that his writings were anything other than the musings of a job seeker.

    And surprising as it might be to some people, the Microsoft of 2008 is not the same company as the Microsoft of 1995 – there are many things that Microsoft did in the mid to late 1990s that would never be tolerated at Microsoft today.

    How about we declare a moratorium on quotes that are more than 5 years old in this debate?

  38. Michael says:

    Oh, yes, congratulations. You have shown that enough money will corrupt any process or organization.

  39. Brian, congratulations to you and the team. The slings and arrows have been thrown, tales full of sound and fury have been told, and you maintained your cool professionalism throughout.

    It’s amazing to think that you’ve finally done what detractors have requested for 10 years or more: document the formats as a standard. You’ve accomplished what the EU asked Microsoft to do, and still you’re taking fire. Talk about moving the goal post!

    Anyway, I’m glad to see our work on the XML formats all those years is now out there for everyone to use and work can move on to improving the standard and having more implmentations of the format. And you are so right that the work is not finished. People will understand the power of those custom embedded schemas eventually!

  40. Reggie says:

    @ J David Eisenberg

    From what I’ve read, the "Norwegian committee" to which you refer presented their arguments to those making the decision for Norway.  The 80% of the committee presented their arguments for NO, and the 20% presented their arguments for YES.  The arguments for YES were simply better than the arguments for NO, regardless of how many people IBM bribed to be NO, so YES won.  Anyway, Norway has suspended its decision for now, and it makes no difference, as OOXML was easily approved even without Norway’s YES.

  41. J David Eisenberg says:


    If you have documented proof that IBM bribed the Norwegians to vote NO, I suggest you present it to us and to the U.S. Justice Department — I’m sure they’ll be interested in it.

  42. John says:

    Ah good ol’ Microsoft – capable of destroying everything it touches.  

  43. Ozan says:

    It is fun reading the outbreaks of IBM apostles 🙂

    And, don’t worry for the experts in Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Cote-d’Ivore, Fiji etc. I am sure that there are better experts than you all.

  44. Érdemes elolvasni a Microsoft hivatalos közleményét és Brian Jones blogbejegyzését

  45. Après le vote final de la procédure de normalisation pour le projet DIS 29500 Office Open XML, les National

  46. passer_by says:

    >> @Mike Brown: Why do you waste so much time/effort

    >> writing such drivel?

    > Just to annoy people like you, Tom.  

    > Mission accomplished, I think!

    I suspect the grown-ups are mostly amused by your drivel, rather than annoyed. There’s a long tradition of people acting the fool for the amusement of the nation, even if you’re a clown by accident rather than by design.

  47. Microsoft Partner says:

    Ironically, any gains associated with the acceptance of OOXML will be outweighed by the brand damage inflicted as a result of the process. All the soothing talk by Brad to the open source community the other week is completely discredited.

    So yes, Microsoft won but step back a little bit and look at the reactions outside of these blog comments of partners and Technet subscribers. Is it worth owning OOXML while being so thoroughly hated by everyone?

  48. Anon says:

    "Is it worth owning OOXML while being so thoroughly hated by everyone?"

    Everyone who, paleface?

  49. Anonymous says:

    Thailand, their initial vote and comment:

    "We disapprove the draft ISO/IEC 29500 for the reason that the time given by the fast-track processing is not enough for consideration of

    this important draft."

    Thailand voted YES for approval. So besides the more than likely "pay off", what other reason can there be?

  50. BrendanS says:

    Another announcement involving Microsoft and another opportunity for embittered Microsoft-haters to stand online with plackards in-hand.

    Brian and his team have worked exceptionally hard to bring ooXML to this stage and they deserve praise.

    There will always be those who hate a winner. Had Microsoft failed to get the standard ratified then the same people on here would have been jeering at their defeat.

    For so long now, courts and consumers alike have been demanding that Microsoft become more standards-oriented. Various rulings, especially here in the EU, have forced Microsoft to freely distribute their proprietary code, which they pay hard-working developers to write, across to their competitiors in the name of standardisation.

    Those who write on posts such as this (NB: read any post on The Register with Microsoft in the title and you will see the auto-flames) are so obsessed with their hatred for the big, bad MS that they are blind to the quality of the products that they are producing.

    As someone who uses MS products for all of my job role I will be the first to admit that they don’t always get it right and never get it perfect, but then if MacOS/Red Hat/SUSE etc were perfect then I imagine we’ll see no need for any future product updates from these manufacturers.

  51. Brianary says:

    A single instance of bribery should disqualify any standard, or at least derail the "fast track".

    Seriously, Brian, this whole thing is as dirty as it can be. How do you sleep at night knowing you’ve corrupted this group?

  52. Not IBM says:

    What’s with everyone talking about "IBM apostles" or "IBM bribery"? Who came up with that? I find it insulting that anyone thinks my renewed distaste for Microsoft was inspired by anyone but Microsoft, and I’m sure everyone who voted "NO" feels the same.

    Just compare the number of IBM partners on the panels versus the number of Microsoft partners on the panels. That, or point to evidence of IBM bribery. There’s already plenty of evidence for Microsoft– and the EU already has an investigation going. Where’s IBM’s investigation? And for that matter, why would IBM care? It’s Sun who’s behind Microsoft’s main office competitor, not IBM.

    On the other hand, I’m sure IBM feels proud to have everyone spooked without having to lift a finger. It’s probably Microsoft employees villainizing them for so soundly handing SCO their collective hat.

  53. Not IBM says:

    Brendan: There was a standard. It was called ODF. Ever heard of it? But Microsoft decided an existing standard wasn’t good enough. When you think of it that way, it was Microsoft who started the file formats war in the first place.

  54. As everyone who has followed this blog already knows, we introduced a new file format with Office 2007

  55. Deși la votul din vara trecută nu a trecut, Open XML a fost de data asta ratificat ca International Standard

  56. Rodd Ahrenstorff says:

    This is the funniest part of the Open XML standard quoted from Rob Weir:

    With this in mind, let’s take a look at how OOXML and ODF represent a staple of document formats: text color and alignment. I created six documents: word processor, spreadsheet and presentation graphics, in OOXML and ODF formats. In each case I entered one simple string "This is red text". In each case I made the word "red" red, and right aligned the entire string. The following table shows the representation of this formatting instruction in OOXML and ODF, for each of the three application types:

    Format Text Color Text Alignment

    OOXML Text <w:color w:val="FF0000"/> <w:jc w:val="right"/>

    OOXML Sheet <color rgb="FFFF0000"/> <alignment horizontal="right"/>

    OOXML Presentation <a:srgbClr val="FF0000"/> <a:pPr algn="r"/>

    ODF Text <style:text-properties fo:color="#FF0000"/> <style:paragraph-properties fo:text-align="end" />

    ODF Sheet <style:text-properties fo:color="#FF0000"/> <style:paragraph-properties fo:text-align="end"/>

    ODF Presentation <style:text-properties fo:color="#FF0000"/> <style:paragraph-properties fo:text-align="end"/>

    Open XML is so inconsistent within itself, I doubt anyone will ever be able to utilize it as a ‘standard’ unless it matures to the level of ODF over the next couple years.  It’s really quite astonishing Brian…

  57. Bruce D'Arcus says:

    If the "war" is over, I hope I can look forward to  default, robust, support for ODF in MS products before long.

  58. Olivier says:

    Brian, please explain something to me.

    The most widely used office suite cannot load ISO standard ODF documents by default.

    It is not a matter of technical difficulty or lack of resources or time for MS to develop an ODF importer for Office included by default.

    Considering those two facts, why should I trust MS’s claims to be in favour of open standards and interoperability? Thanks.

  59. Chris says:

    Hey Rodd Ahrenstorff and Bruce and all the other open standard Zealots out there. It may be inconsistent but it is what the World will end up using because the World uses Office.

    The "ODF ISO Standard" was always a political ploy to derail Microsoft, we all know it. Microsoft reacted and won, good! Now lets all get over it and move on.

    Oh BTW I’m from Fiji 🙂

  60. Jeśli jeszcze nie doczytaliście z innych źr&#243;deł – Open Xml jest standardem ISO. Poniżej oficjalna

  61. Bruno says:

    @ Not IBM

    "And for that matter, why would IBM care? It’s Sun who’s behind Microsoft’s main office competitor, not IBM."

    From what I’ve seen, Sun, while opposed to OOXML, didn’t go out of their way to block it.  That was IBM’s role.  Sun is more pro-ODF than anti-OOXML while IBM is the reverse.  And they recruited Google to go along with them (there were multiple countries where IBM got Google to join the committee at the last minute to vote agains OOXML).

    As for IBM bribing people, I don’t think there were any bribes one way or the other.  I do know that IBM spent millions of dollars (in man-hours) trying to block this thing and lost, and it’s a good thing.  

    IMO, those that have no intention of using a standard should have no voice in whether the standard is ratified or not.  Only those that are truly interested in using a standard should have input as to its ratification, be it either advocating ratification, or blocking ratification in hopes of improving the standard for a future submission.  But blocking ratification, not in hopes of improving it, but in hopes of killing it so that nobody can use it as a recognized standard (which is what IBM was all about regarding OOXML) is selfish in the extreme.

    As stated above, Microsoft made no attempts to block ODF’s ratification because since ODF is a format they have no interest in, it wasn’t their place to block it.  Let those that are really interested in ODF’s success deal with whether it was good enough to be ratified or not.  IBM took the opposite stance regarding OOXML (attempting to kill a standard so the nobody could use it at all (at least nobody in government, when you consider that IBM was at the same time lobbying governments to only use ISO standards)).  Since IBM decided to mess around with a standard they had no interest in, to the detriment of those that were interested, IBM deserved to lose, and thank goodness they did.

  62. Bruno says:

    @ Not IBM

    "There was a standard. It was called ODF. Ever heard of it? But Microsoft decided an existing standard wasn’t good enough."

    And they are right.  ISO ODF doesn’t even support the most basic of spreadsheet functionality for goodness sake.  How can you expect Microsoft to use that garbage?  And that garbage wasn’t designed from the ground-up, it’s derived from OO.o 1.0’s XML format.  Why should the suite with 2% userbase get to dictate what format the suite with 95% userbase uses?  Get real.

  63. I'm laughing at all of you says:

    All the haters here are just plain sore losers, and I’m laughing out loud reading all the comments about microsoft corrupting ISO. I believe IBM is the one that was banned from the US government, not Microsoft.


  64. Open XML has overwhelmingly been approved as an ISO / IEC standard (IS 29500) signaling the the end of

  65. hAl says:

    If IBM had spend the money they used in opposing OOXML to improve ODF likely ODF would

    have been a better standard for it.

    It is strange that it has been taking OASIS a lot longer to produce a spreadsheet formula format then it has taken to produce an entire office format specification.

    Mayby some people working on ODF should get their focus back on track and work towards improving standards in stead of blocking them.

  66. Brianary says:

    @various sock puppets:

    Microsoft bribed people and they packed the committee at the last minute.

    The "standard" is a joke. Six thousand pages, with a warning to implement undocumented Office bugs, full of spelling errors?

    Can you blame people for not wanting Microsoft to be in control of government documents? Can you see why maybe some people distrust Microsoft?

    "Derail Microsoft"? Seriously? I assume the "we" means you and the voices in your head, because a document format isn’t likely a real threat to a company with this class of resources. It seems more likely that people just wanted some competition in the marketplace.

    Microsoft may not have the expertise to figure out how to make ODF work for spreadsheets, clearly they do not, but some open source developers have apparently figured it out (maybe it isn’t the job of the format?).

    In the end, I just don’t have the resources, as a developer, to bother with OOXML, but ODF is approachable.

  67. john.mullinax says:

    Wow – this acrimony is kinda sad.  All the loaded, unsupported charges and counter-charges, and yet I don’t think anyone has really set forth what’s going on.  IMHO, it’s really quite simple:

    1. IBM got ODF declared an ISO standard to help their efforts to sell hardware, software, and services to governments.  The goal was not to so much to sell more Open Office software but to break the reinforcing loop between Office and Windows, and sell IBM linux PCs + IBM services.

    2.  ISO standardization or not, it’s not clear to me that documents in either ODF or OXML would really be unaccessible in 20+ years in any case — but if you’re a government CIO there’s only upside to supporting ISO standardization, so IBM’s strategy and lobbying was getting attention from government CIOs.

    3.  Microsoft got OXML declared an ISO standard so they could continue to sell Office (and maintain a strong reinforcing loop with Windows) to governments.  Microsoft hopes this will neutralize the advantage IBM had created with ISO standardization for ODF.

    4.  IBM tried to block ISO recognition for OXML because they’ve spent a lot of time and money convincing government CIOs that ISO standardization is important for long term access to records (again, it’s not clear that’s actually true but that was their story).  Now IBM has to figure out how to go back to those same CIOs and say "well, ISO standardization is not *that* important…  really, you should think about [blah]" — where [blah] is the latest reason they’ve come up to buy a linux clients.

    5.  Out of all of this, perhaps the good news really is for customers?  Regardless of the original motivations on either side, maybe the fact that the OXML specification is open, documented, and it’s evolution is now controlled by ISO will reduce perceived risk for  customers, ISVs, and others to create solutions that programmatically create, read, and manipulate OXML files.  

  68. omz says:

    Congratulations for the countries that had *balls* and didn’t agree with this way of deliver standards to people:

       * New Zealand [1] ( dissaproved )

       * Brasil [2] ( dissaproved )

       * India ( dissaproved )

       * China ( dissaproved )

       * South Africa ( dissaproved )

       * Canada ( dissaproved )

       * Venezuela ( dissaproved )

       * Ecuador ( dissaproved )

       * Iran ( dissaproved )

       * Italy ( abstained )

       * Spain ( abstained )

       * Belgium ( abstained )

       * Netherlands ( abstained but only Microsoft opposed the disapproval )

       * France ( abstained due to heavy Microsoft pressure )

       * Malaysia ( abstained due to heavy Microsoft pressure )

       * Australia ( abstained due to heavy Microsoft pressure, government opposed OOXML )

       * Kenya ( abstained )

    and many others ( 17 in total )



    I would like that the "abstainers" were "disapprovers", but i know… the lobbying was too heavy.


  69. omz says:

    And congratulations Microsoft, your friendly little countries supposedly experts in XML document description languages 😉 ( ISO P-members at September/07 ballot closing ), who joined ISO JTC1 just to cast an unconditional-yes-votes [1] payed off:

       * Jamaica

       * Cyprus

       * Malta

       * Kazakhstan

       * Lebanon

       * Azerbaijan

       * Cote-d’Ivore

       * Pakistan



  70. omz says:

    "and many others ( 17 of 43 ISO P members in total )"

    ( i mean 17 P members of 41 didn’t approve the beast )

    And finally ( sorry for spamming ) congratulations again for the lobbying. You achieved a political vote in many countries, actually voiding any technical decision:






    France ( changed his vote from NO to abstain a couple of hours before 29th March. In the .DOC document anexed to his vote said: "we don’t approve OOXML and propose that ECMA submit it as a Technical Specification". WTF?? )



    etc, etc

    Bad for TI workers, bad for my profession. How i explain other professionals this kind of ISO deliverable without losing credibility and dignity?

  71. S says:


    "Regardless of the original motivations on either side, maybe the fact that the OXML specification is open, documented, and it’s evolution is now controlled by ISO"

    This is the Microsoft party line.

    And it’s all wrong.

    It’s not open. ECMA meetings are yet to be published, for instance.

    It’s not documented. It’s partially documented.

    Maintenance controlled by ISO? I would not bet much on it. Brian Jones made it clear that his employer would not conform to anything like that. Besides this, ECMA TC 45 group = Microsoft (in case you did not know, ECMA TC 45 group is chaired by Microsoft).

    It does not reduce the least the need to rely on Microsoft Office licenses to work with those files if you are not willing to afford losses in documents. This does not change very much what we have known with binary formats.

  72. anonymous says:


  73. anonymous says:

    Please at least ship an unsupported version of the Compatibility pack on Windows 98 SE and Me.

  74. hAl says:


    You might better comment on this kind of post Stephane

  75. ParanoidCanuck says:

    Brian, would you care to update any of this post, now that reports of an Appeal of the vote is underway (and thus, the "approval" of 29500 is at least an asterisk)?

  76. omz says:

    Congratulations for the countries that had *balls* and didn’t agree with this way of deliver standards to people:

    For example

  77. hAl says:

    @Paranoid Canuck

    You should not believe anything you read on groklaw. Individual people appealing to ISO because they are sore losers do not influence the result.

  78. Stefan Word2k says:

    Well, they say in:–/110456

    <<The vendor will be forced to thoroughly revamp its current Office standard storage format for the upcoming initial implementation of the "new" OOXML.>>

    Is that true? Will there be an update of Office 2007 to follow the "new" OOXML specifications?

    And is there already a roughly estimated release date for this?

  79. Ian Easson says:

    Stefan Word2k,

    Yes, that’s true (except that this was planned all along; it’s not a case of being "forced").  

    Microsoft formally announced that it will support IS29500.  They have also said they are currently figuring out the amount of work, and when that estimate is done, they will announce it.

    None of this should be a surprise to anyone.  When the ECMA changed the format during its work on it (which was during the beta phase of Office 2007), Microsoft of course updated Office 2007 and issued a new beta.  

    That’s what turning the control of the file format to an external body means.  If anybody thinks otherwise, they’ve been reading too many anti-OOXML blogs.

  80. hAl says:

    It is unlikely that MS Office will support the format before publication.

    So firste the ISO editor has to deliver a final standards text.

    Then either Ecma will ratify it in june/juli of december and publish it after, or ISO will publish it later this year.

    I would at least not expect MS Office 2007/2008 support in the next few months  before an offically published spec is ready.

    So if the ISO editor is fast and Ecma is fast in picking up the new ISO version to ratify it and MS is fast in implementing the new version it could be juli at the earliest.

    But probably around the time ISO does an offical publication which could be 6 months away still is more likely.

  81. Brandon says:

    When will Office 2007/2008 support OOXML?

  82. Anonymous says:

    @hAl, we all thought you were a MS shrill, leaving comments on blogs, editing Wiki pages in favor of MS, relentlessly 24/7 not stop for almost 2 years, spreading as much dis-information as possible. The Aljazeera of OOXML for MS.  It would seem now, you actually work for MS. Atleast, you are an official spokesperson!

  83. @Brian & entire team – Good job.

    @john mullinax – Well said.

    @Anonymous vs hAl – The word is ‘shill’ not ‘shrill’.  Didn’t you read the manual properly? You also missed the opportunity to write MS as M$.  Amateur.

  84. hAl says:


    I seem to have missed some paychecks then.

  85. John says:

    Does MS have any intention on including ODF support with Office?

  86. Reggie says:

    I like how anti-OOXML folk are talking of MS Office not yet complying with ISO OOXML (which is to be expected at this point) while ignoring the fact that there is no software that fully complies with ISO ODF 1.0.

    BTW, I read a comment at arstechnica that ISO recognizes ODF as a PAS (Publicly Available Standard), but recognizes OOXML as an IS (International Standard).  And that IS is a higher standard than PAS, requiring more rigorous evaluation.  In fact, the procedure for PAS certification is a significantly faster track than  the ISO "fast-track" procedure for IS standards.  (This explains why ODF sailed thru in rubber-stamp fashion; it didn’t go through the thorough examination required for IS recognition.)  Now, PAS standards can be upgraded to IS by going through some procedure (the comment at arstechnica didn’t go into the details of this), but as of now, OOXML is a higher standard (IS) than is ODF (PAS).  How do you like them apples, MS-haters?

  87. nksingh says:


    Taunting people is not polite.  It does no good for your side of the debate.

  88. sigma2 says:

    From the ISO directive, clause 13.2, pages 60

    13.12 The time period for post ballot activities by the respective responsible parties shall be as follows:

    Immediately after the vote, ITTF shall send the results of the vote to the JTC 1 Secretariat and to the SC Secretariat, and for the latter to distribute the results without delay to its NBs, to any NBs having voted that are not members of the SC and to the proposer.

    As soon as possible after the distribution of the results of the vote to its NBs but in not less than two and one-half months the SC Secretariat shall convene a ballot resolution group meeting if required;

    In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance.

    The BRM was from February 25 to 29 so why is Microsoft not providing these documents?

    Brian, is there an explanation for this delay?

  89. says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys, I really appreciate everyone’s participation. Obviously it’s too difficult to reply to everything, but I did want to reply to sigma2’s question.

    It’s not up to Microsoft to provide the documents. Microsoft participates, both in Ecma, as well as within national bodies, but Microsoft doesn’t own the documents, nor publish them. It’s up to the folks withing ISO/IEC to publish the documents. I’m not sure what their plans are there, but I believe it’s fairly common for it to take a few months at least before the spec is published. I think it was 3-6 months with ODF, for example.


  90. Reggie,

    You got your info wrong. PAS and FastTrack (FT) are both quick ways to get something from the outside world into the world of ISO. But when they are approved, they both get the "IS"-stamp. The PAS-process is not as such shorter than FT, but contains a step less than FT. About quality of PAS vs FT I am not really sure you can say anything definite about it. It seems to me that PAS-specs (as they are entering the ISO system) carry an implicit "accept as is"-process whereas the FT-process carries an implicit "modify"-procedure. Having said that, the responsibility of reviewing and improving a PAS/FT-spec ultimately lies with the NBs and not the process itself.


  91. hAl says:


    The PAS proces trough that step less and the implicit accepting consequenses seems to lead to a lot shorter process though:

    ODF PAS, 6,5 month between submission and approval

    OOXML fasttrack, 15,5 month between submission and approval

  92. Not IBM says:

    Wow. If the anger and vitriol in the comments on this blog– from both sides– prove anything, it’s that this event has further widened the gap between the software freedom people and the Microsoft people.

    I don’t see a peaceful resolution to this thing anytime soon, if ever. The war goes on.

  93. first last says:


    I might have even considered reading this pathetic excuse for a blog, had it given more than 1/3 of the screen area to it. It’s not worth bothering with. I suppose this must be another brilliant microsoft "standard".it.

  94. Reggie says:

    @ first last

    Yours is typical of the quality of posts from your  side.  Thanks for demonstrating for all to see the complete dearth of content in posts from the anti-Microsoft peanut gallery.

    BTW, Rob Weir’s blog allows for considerably less screen space for comments, and is quite boring since Rob Weir censors opposing views, unlike Brian. 😉

  95. Bruno says:

    @ Not IBM

    "Wow. If the anger and vitriol in the comments on this blog– from both sides– prove anything, it’s that this event has further widened the gap between the software freedom people and the Microsoft people."

    IF that’s true, then the blame lies at IBM’s feet.  Microsoft did nothing to block ODF, even voting YES for both ISO and ANSI certification of ODF, and NOT lobbying governments to ban use of ODF.  IBM and its allies did the exact opposite wrt OOXML.  The "anger and vitriol" is due to IBM’s actions.  If you can’t admit that to yourself, it’s because you refuse to.

  96. Not IBM says:

    @ Bruno

    I do refuse to "admit that to myself", because I don’t believe that’s the case, and you haven’t changed my mind. Your argument is missing a few steps.

    Was Microsoft’s voting "yes" for ODF a favor to IBM or Sun? Do they owe Microsoft for voting "yes"? Are there even supposed to be favors in the standardization process? Why didn’t Microsoft vote "no" on ODF, especially when they expected to introduce OOXML *and* not implement ODF in their own software?

    It seems Germany is not impressed with this turn of events:

    DE: German Foreign Ministry will not use ISO OOXML

    IBM *must* be a huge force there. Along with Scientologists.

  97. Dave S. says:

    @bruno "Microsoft did nothing to block ODF, even voting YES for both ISO and ANSI certification of ODF, and NOT lobbying governments to ban use of ODF. "

    Except in Massachussetts. And Florida. And a few South American nations. Not, apparently with simple technical arguments, but with complex suggestions about how many Microsoft jobs might be moved to other locations due to the loss of technical leadership that would accompany any use of ODF.

    I don’t recall anyone wanting to ban MSO-XML*.

    The anti-ratification group just wanted to avoid having MSO-XML as an international standard.

    They are a little tweaked that, with representatives of almost 2/3 of humanity voting against ratification, the standard still made it through with some several hundred critical comments not addressed.

    At least -most- of those on the winning side have been somewhat gracious about it, instead of, uh, brutish.

    *Until the ECMA/ISO 29500 (?) charter does not include, as its main component, compatibility with the ‘billions’ of existing Microsoft Office binary files, it does not serve to call the new format something else. Microsoft worked hard for the MS identifier and I’d hate to see them lose the rich history that identifier encompasses.

  98. Bruno says:

    @ Dave S

    Microsoft lobbied in MA and the other states to not ban use of MSO formats, not to ban use of ODF.  You’re being totally intellectually dishonest by equating the two.  Microsoft never lobbied governments to ban use of ODF.

    "I don’t recall anyone wanting to ban MSO-XML.

    The anti-ratification group just wanted to avoid having MSO-XML as an international standard. "

    More intellectual dishonesty from you.

    IBM and its allies, by simultaneously lobbying governments to only use open standards as recognized by ISO and doing everything in their power to block ISO from recognizing OOXML means that they were lobbying governments to ban use of OOXML for government use.

    "They are a little tweaked that, with representatives of almost 2/3 of humanity voting against ratification, the standard still made it through with some several hundred critical comments not addressed."

    The votes against OOXML were largely IBM-backed.  Microsoft, if they had chosen to try to block ODF, could’ve rallied its own allies to get lots of votes against ODF, but Microsoft, being more mature than the very petty IBM, didn’t do so because they didn’t want to get in the way of those that truly want to use ODF as an ISO standard.  IBM just can’t stand the thought of some entity wanting to use OOXML as an ISO standard, so tried to block it.  "I don’t want to use it as an ISO standard, so NOBODY can!!"  That sums up IBM’s and your attitude.  The selfishness is like that of a 9-year old.

  99. Mithdraug says:

    I think that now is the begin of file format war… The money isn’t all, and Microsoft has left a developer now.

  100. Not IBM says:

    @ Bruno

    And what would be bad about people not using OOXML? It’s weak sauce, created and controlled by a monopolistic terror scared of losing their death grip on the market.

    Governments and companies alike recognize this opportunity to escape Microsoft and really start to push computing out of the middle ages. If you feel a need to put a name to the cause, let "IBM" be it, but most everyone else calls the cause "freedom."

  101. Bruno says:

    @ Not IBM

    You’ve stated your reasons for not using OOXML.  Others disagree.  Can’t you get that through your thick skull?  And you have some nerve to talk of "freedom" when you are in the "one format to rule them all" crowd.

  102. Not 'Not IBM' says:

    @Not IBM: OMG, GW, is that you?!!

  103. Bruno says:

    The hypocrisy of IBM and the anti-OOXML crowd:

  104. I’m heading home from Norway in the morning, but wanted to give a quick update on the progress made over

  105. Not 'Not IBM' says:

    @Not IBM: to claim you were attacked "ad hominem" you need to have some substance in your argument that was not addressed by the attacker. In the case of your argument there is nothing to it except empty claims and idle rhetorics. Which were addressed though in a humorous manner. Lighten up 🙂

  106. Dave S. says:

    @Bruno –

    YOU’RE RIGHT! MS did not lobby to ban ODF. MS lobbied to ban all non-Microsoft formats and applications that competed with MS Office on the grounds that only MS Office applications could faithfully represent the billions of priceless and cherishable MS Office formated documents. MS was concerned that their more ignorant customers were about to make an error that would weigh heavily on the local taxpayers.

    Except in Florida, where MS lobbied to prevent an investigation into software and format alternatives.

    On the other hand, IBM et al, could not have lobbied against MSO-XML in favor of ODF, because MS had not told anyone about their effort towards an open format. More recently IBM et al could not lobby against the ISO ratified version of MSO-XML because it is still not completely ratified.

    Your implication that IBM can control both India and mainland China (and two billion+ people,) the NBs of which both voted no, is not credible. IBM is good, just not that good.

    I know you’re having fun as a whiner, but there is no intellectual content, honest or not, in your simply negating the opinions of others. At the least it is unproductive. Also rude and tiresome. Many of your responses have been: IBM/ODF – bad. MS/MSO-XML – good.

  107. Bruno says:

    @ Dave S.

    It’s clear that the "whiners" are those that can’t get over their defeat on this issue, and have gone so far as to accuse, not only Microsoft, but also a huge number of national bodies of corruption (what with the baseless and vague accusations of bribery), without a shred of proof.

    You want to see a "whiner"?  Look in the mirror.

    Oh, and this is rich:

    "Your implication that IBM can control both India and mainland China (and two billion+ people,) the NBs of which both voted no, is not credible. IBM is good, just not that good."

    You have the nerve to make that statement while at the same time suggesting that Microsoft does "control" US, Japan, UK, and Germany?  

    BTW, it’s intellectually dishonest (your M.O.) to pretend that China’s and India’s votes deserve more weight than nations such as the US, Japan, UK, and Germany by virtue of population.  Go ask the average person on the street about OOXML, and you’ll get a "Huh?" as the answer.  It’s not like the general population is being consulted on these matters, or that the general population cares, so population is irrelevant.  The US, Germany, Japan, and the UK are technological and economic giants compared to India and China, regardless of the populations of these countries, so one could make an argument that the US’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, and the UK’s votes deserve more weight than those of India and China.  But if you want to lobby the ISO to change its rules to take into account the population of each country, be my guest, but we’re operating under the current rules, rules under which you lost.

  108. Anonymous says:


    "You have the nerve to make that statement while at the same time suggesting that Microsoft does "control" US, Japan, UK, and Germany?"

    Could you give a reference to the material supporting this claim? (I could not find any reference to Japan, UK or Germany in Dave S’s posts on this page — you must be referring to another source.) Thanks.

  109. Dave S. says:

    @Bruno – What do you mean ‘we’? Unless you’re Steve Ballmer using a pseudonym (sorry, false name) it’s hard to ascertain which ‘we’ you might be part of.

    I for one, have seen no sensible explanation for seeking ISO approval on MS’s part except to meet a check-off item on government procurement forms – "International Standard y/n"

    MS spokespeople have stated, in writing, the reason is to give their customers a hand in interoperability by preserving the content of  MS-binary format documents.

    If I had a huge customer base and that goal in mind I would publish the format spec of the binary formats so my customers would not be stuck with my interpretation of what is important in their binary documents, assuring them that even if they no longer buy my products their data will be accessible.

    If workflow improvements using the new format was important I’d publish the mapping from the old format to the new one so, again, my customers could proceed with confidence that their old data could be melded into the new data stream as they wished.

    Were I interested in customer suggested options that would better my new format I’d investigate those that made the most sense, put them out for comments, and incorporate the best ones.

    After a couple of years experience with this product in the field, I’d then approach ISO for a thorough review process for release as an international standard, all dressed up with i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

    Instead of rushing through the process.

  110. Bruno says:

    @ Dave S

    I assume you’re referring to my "… we’re operating under the current rules …" statement (that’s the only use of "we" I can find in my post).  In that case, "we" just means those involved in the tech community, plus those that merely follow the goings on in the tech world, and more specifically, those arguing on either side of this particular issue.  The ISO rules under which "we" are operating when debating this thing do NOT take into account the population of each voting nation, so bringing an argument based on population into this is irrelevant to ISO proceedings.

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