Open XML Moves Towards The Ballot Resolution Meeting

Earlier today, ISO put out a press release stating that Open XML did not reach the required super-majority for approval as an international standard. The release states that 53% submitted yes votes, and 26% no. Thus, both the requirement for the 2/3 super-majority yes and the limit of no more than 1/4 no votes were not met. 

The next 6 months will be where the rubber really meets the road for the work on Open XML. The JTC-1 editor and TC45 at Ecma will be considering the comments as I have discussed repeatedly on blog entries. I have certainly heard here in comments to my posts, as well as in discussions with others around the world that the work on the comments needs to be professional and comprehensive.

At the end of the 6 months is the ballot resolution meeting (late Feb.). During the BRM, the editor will present the complete set of responses to the comments. Following that meeting national bodies will have some time (I believe it is generally around 30 days) to reconsider their votes. While this is traditionally a time where NBs who have voted "No" may change to "Yes," there is nothing that says a NB that voted either "Yes" or "Abstain" are prohibited from modifying their votes.

So the drama continues...

Comments (19)
  1. RichL says:

    Jason, I commend you for your comment.  You’re taking fast track defeat with a lot of grace.  Will there be an open transparent consideration of the comments or will that all be behind closed doors until the comment resolutions are released to the BRM?  I think a lot of good will could be recaptured by releasing proposed resolutions earlier due to the number of comments and the limited time for NB’s to respond.  The pessimistic side of me expects a lot of "not going to be resolved" sorts of responses.  Also, is compatibility with Office 2007 still a primary goal or can fundamental changes to the spec occur now even if it breaks compatibility with the existing product?

  2. jasonmatusow says:

    RichL – thanks. Clearly I would like to have seen a different outcome, but this is all part of a longer process and I’m still optimistic about the work that is under way now.

    I hear you on the process between now and the BRM. I will write more about what I know of the next 6 months in a top-level post. Hang tight on these questions – and feel free to hold my toes to the fire when I write the longer piece  about it. 🙂

    Thanks again.


  3. Kevin Daly says:

    That’s 6 months to battle a Frenzy of FUD.

    At least that *should* be enough time to correct actual errors in the spec (people apparently believe that no proposed standard is ever submitted with errors in it), clarify IP issues and so forth.

    I don’t envy you the educational task of getting people to understand that it is neither practical nor desirable to just use ODF for Office documents or merge OOXML with ODF.

    And I have no idea how you get around the fact that Open XML has in many quarters been held to a different standard (so to speak) than ODF.

  4. Jason,

    I, too, want to thank you for your straightforward response to the voting results.  It is quite encouraging.  As for the BRM, I am eager to see the results and the creative and constructive resolutions to some of the comments.  I fully hope and believe that a better standard will emerge, which will be to everybody’s benefit.  I do, of course, hope that the process is open and transparent, mostly because I strongly believe that given any particular issue raised, there may be multiple resolutions, and that eliciting responses from everybody may result in a better resolution than just those suggested by a small group.  In any case, best of luck to all of those trying to wade through the comments to find good solutions.  Some will likely be minor, and many will likely be duplicates, but there are some that will require every bit of innovation and creativity you can conjure up, I suspect.

    – Ben Langhinrichs

  5. Len Bullard says:

    Even if disappointing, this isn’t a bad outcome.  With the numbers of comments received, it is evident that a very thorough review has been made and that resolution of the comments will result in as clean a document as can be considered.  While the publicity can be considered bad, the attention it creates on the technical content is good.

    A rough weekend all the way around but it is very important that:

    1.  Standards driven consensus remain the way the technology of the web evolves, so injuries to the ISO and other organizations are unacceptable outcomes.

    2.  That there be at least two standards to choose from particularly as mandates for procurements force some markets to choose only from standard technologies.  Where there is already a supermajority for one technology, it is vital that this technology be supported by an open standard.

    The issue of choice is fundamental.

    BTW:  that is the first time I’ve read the disposition of the email situation.   That was handled well even if an unfortunate event.

  6. Doug Mahugh says:

    The voting has closed on the Open XML ballot, and ISO has issued a press release that explains the outcome:

  7. Wu MingShi says:

    Your gracefulness in accepting a setback (it’s not a defeat in anyway) is a breath of fresh air compared to MS’s PR department spin. [I don’t blame them, that’s their job]

  8. jasonmatusow says:

    Thanks all for the kind words. Much appreciated.

    From what I can tell at this point it will take the full 6 months of hard work not only from the committee directly engaged on the spec, but from people who will be involved in the review of that work as well.

    Ben, you raise a really interesting point. I think there needs to be some clarity around transparency and openness. This is the highly formalized world of standards. The real work gets done in committees. There is much to be discussed around the transparency of that work which may be differen than what many may feel "open" should be. I will talk about this much more over the coming weeks and months on this blog, but it will be important for folks to keep this in mind as the process continues on its path.


  9. W^L+ says:

    Jason, I too appreciate your clear and direct (no spin) discussion.

  10. Jason – I admit I know little about the committee system in the standards world.  I imagine a fair amount has to be decided behind closed doors, but that doesn’t mean committee members can’t look for ideas/inspiration outside the committee, does it? – Ben

  11. jasonmatusow says:

    Ben –

    It would seem even seasoned standards veterens are learning in this process. 🙂  I think it is fair to say that the comments represent significant outside input in and of themselves.


  12. Jkrise says:

    Several of the most populous countries like China, India and Brazil have voted ‘No’. They constitue well over 50% of the World’s population. By giving equal status to votes from Cote’ de Ivorie, Jamaica, Cyprus etc. I feel the ISO process has been subverted; and needs radical overhaul.

    An 80% Yes vote that represents less than 20% of the World Population seems eminently possible, as per current ISO voting rules. The whole exercise will be rendered meaningless, IMO.

  13. Anonymous Coward says:



    This is nonsense. The work should have been done back in Ecma, before submission to ISO. Fast Track is not a standards development process. It is intended for standards that are already completed … The types of errors that are being reported now should have been found and fixed back at the committee draft stage or earlier, in Ecma. This defeat is an indictment of Ecma’s shoddy review. It is an abuse of ISO process for Microsoft to try to ram it through Fast Track in this state. They deserve the slap in the face they have been given for this poor judgment.


  14. Asa au votat membri ISO, conform comunicatului oficial . E vorba (din nou) despre Office Open XML, care

  15. Ukio says:

    Perhaps ODF has been "held to a different standard"" because it passed ISO consideration the first time, with zero votes of "no", and virtually zero comments, which therefore didn’t mandate a BRM session. I guess those 3 years spent with OASIS working to make it a solid spec were worth something.

  16. Cuong Nguyen says:

    I’ve read somewhere there was about 10,000 comments sent to ISO as the ballot was closing. How come every page of the specs costs 1.5 comments.

    I myself  have heard many the same comments used as NB comments. Some NB members even gave comments about flawness of current version of ECMA 376 in Arab or HIndi langluage processing, though they even can’t tell how arab letters look differently from Hindi.

    Can you tell us more about the process for ISO to settle down all the comments?


  17. jasonmatusow says:

    Anon – read my posting on ODF’s condition when it went through its PAS submission. There is a reason that maitenance agreements are put in place. If you are comfortable with the condition of ODF when it went through, and especially with what was missing from the spec, and with the idea that it has progressed with NO connection back to JTC1 – I don’t know, this seems like an argument full of holes. Can the Open XML spec be improved? Absolutely. Are there independent implementation that demonstrate commercial viability of the Open XML spec? Absolutely. So – I simply don’t agree with your position on this.

    Ukio – the level of interest in the two specs during their movement through the JTC1 process is a big issue in the consideration of its approval. But, when you think about the rigor of process and rules – they should apply equally and fairly. Having rules adjusted prior to the Open XML process (as happened in Italy for example) to make it harder for Open XML to pass vs. what ODF went through…that is a concern.

    Cuong – My understanding is that the coments are being sorted and organized to deal with duplicates etc. I don’t know the final number yet – but it was far less than 10K. There is precedent for specs receiving 10K comments – but this was not one of them.  There is a Project Editor from JTC1 who works with the submitter (Ecma TC45), and with the national bodies to deal with the comments. Ultimately, a report is generated which deals with all the comments. There is a review period for that list and then the BRM is held where the comments, changes, non-changes are discussed. Then, following that meeting is a period of time where NBs may reconsider their vote.



  18. Ukio says:

    Oh, please. How can you even complain about Italy? That is just rich. Is this the same Italy where Uninfo membership over OOXML suddenly shot from 5 to 83 members just prior to the vote? Many of which were Microsoft business partners and voted yes without reserves, just barely missing the 2/3 mark?

  19. jasonmatusow says:

    Ukio – you are confusing two issues. The consistancy of the rules is something entirely different from participation. You may not like the fact that companies who wanted to participate chose to do so – but that is the case. Companies joined late in the process from both the pro and con points of view. Completely separate from that is the idea of rules changes made to make it harder for one standard (moving from a majority to a super majority requirement) than another to be passed. That makes it hard on all standards in the future with that national body.


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