A key U.S. standards committee remains undecided about whether it will support a document standard proposed by Microsoft, even while the company asserted that the committee has already signalled its "yes" in an upcoming vote.
The International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) said this week it still hasn't decided whether it will vote in favor of Open XML in the upcoming ISO vote that would make the file format an international standard. However, Microsoft believes the U.S. vote will be in favor of Open XML, a format it created for its Office 2007 suite, because of a proposed ballot it said the INCITS executive board put out last week.
The INCITS represents U.S. interests in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a global standards body that is scheduled to vote on standardizing Open XML on Sept. 2. Open XML is an alternative to Open Document Format for XML (ODF), which has already been approved by the ISO and is used in rival Office suites from IBM and Sun Microsystems.
The two camps have been tussling for some time over whether there is the need for two document format standards or if one will suffice. Microsoft has declined to support ODF natively in its enormously popular Office suite, instead opting in November 2005 to submit its own XML document format as a standard alongside ODF.
On Monday, the INCITS in a press statement said its executive board "has not yet determined the U.S. position" according to a statement attributed to Jennifer Garner, director standards programs for INCITS.
In an interview Wednesday, Garner confirmed that the executive board had issued a ballot but was still "in the process of determining a position" on Open XML. The board is expected come up with a decision in time for the ISO's scheduled Sept. 2 vote on Open XML.
After articles were printed last week that a technical committee that advises the INCITS had failed to earn the two-thirds majority it needed to approve the Open XML spec, Microsoft sent follow-up e-mails to journalists stating that a proposed ballot that pointed to approval of the spec had been sent in a letter to members. Garner declined to confirm or deny the position on the proposed ballot, which Microsoft said is "yes, with comments."
Specifically, the e-mails cited a blog entry by Doug Mahugh, a Microsoft technical evangelist, that said the INCITS executive board "decided to issue a ballot for 'Approval with comments' on Open XML.
Late Tuesday, Microsoft said through its public relations firm that "those close to this process" believe a "yes, with comments" ballot means the U.S. National Body that will vote in the ISO "wants to make sure that the specification will actually become an international standard, despite the comments, and does not want to wait another year or more for a resubmission to be processed."