Strong Global Support for Open XML as It Enters Final Phase of ISO Standards Process

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 4, 2007 — Today the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released the results of the preliminary ballot to participating National Body members for the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Ecma 376 Office Open XML file formats) ratification process. The results show that 51 ISO members, representing 74 percent of all qualified votes, stated their support for ratification of Open XML. Along with their votes, the National Bodies also provided invaluable technical comments designed to improve the specification. Many of the remaining ISO members stated that they will support Open XML after their comments are addressed during the final phase of the process, which is expected to close in March 2008.

With at least 87 countries taking part in some way, the Open XML review represents an unprecedented level of participation in the standardization of a document format. Fifty-one ISO members voicing support at this preliminary stage of the process compares favorably with the 32 ISO members supporting Open Document Format (ODF) 1.0 at the end of its process and the 15 ISO members supporting PDF/A-1 at the end of its process. This widespread participation and support is consistent with the rapid adoption of the Ecma Office Open XML file formats across multiple platforms and products from a wide range of IT vendors (including Apple, Novell, Corel, Sun, Microsoft, Java developers and Linux distributors), creating real value for IT users around the globe.

“We are extremely delighted to see that 51 ISO members, representing 74 percent of the qualified votes, have already voiced their support for ISO ratification of Open XML, and that many others have indicated they will support ratification once their comments are resolved in the next phase of the ISO process,” said Tom Robertson, general manager for Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft Corp. “This preliminary vote is a milestone for the widespread adoption of the Open XML formats around the world for the benefit of millions of customers. Given how encouraging today’s results were, we believe that the final tally in early 2008 will result in the ratification of Open XML as an ISO standard.”

Technical Input Will Enhance the Standard

Today’s results represent the beginning of the third phase of the ISO/IEC process, called “ballot resolution,” during which time Ecma International will respond to all comments that have been submitted by ISO National Bodies and provide them with a final opportunity to voice their support.

“Technical experts around the world have provided invaluable feedback and technical recommendations for evolving the format,” Robertson said. “The high quality of the Open XML format will be improved as a result of this process, and we take seriously our role in working within the Ecma technical committee to address the comments received. We believe that the ISO National Bodies will be pleased with the results.”

The ISO/IEC process is also designed to create maximum opportunities for ISO members to move from “no” to “yes” in this final phase, and we fully expect the total number of supporting votes to grow.

“The objective of the standardization process, whether with Ecma International, ISO/IEC or another standards body, is ultimately to refine a specification and achieve a positive consensus around its formal adoption for the benefit of the entire industry,” said Hugo Lueders, group director of EU Public Policy for the Computing Industry Technology Association. “Given the remarkable level of participation from the global standards community, the results from this preliminary ballot are very encouraging.”

Although no date has been formally set, the final tally is likely to take place in March 2008. ISO/IEC requires that at least 75 percent of all “yes” or “no” votes (qualified votes) and at least two-thirds of “P” members that vote “yes” or “no” support ratification of a format in the Fast Track process. More information about the ISO/IEC JTC-1 process and its participants is available at http://www.iso.org/iso/standards_development/processes_and_procedures/iso_iec_directives_and_iso_supplement.htm.

Widespread Support for Open XML

The Ecma Office Open XML file formats are being rapidly adopted across multiple platforms and products from a wide range of IT vendors, creating real value for IT users around the globe. Thousands of companies from 67 countries on six continents have raised their voices in support of Open XML and its ratification by ISO/IEC at http://www.openxmlcommunity.org. As well, the open standard has also been gaining broad adoption across the software industry for use on a variety of platforms — including Linux, Windows®, Mac OS and the Palm OS. Independent software vendors (ISVs) and platform providers around the world — such as Apple, Corel, Sun, Microsoft and Novell — are developing solutions using Open XML. Many developers working with the formats are active contributors to http://www.openxmldeveloper.org.

Those working with Open XML can attest to the benefits of this open file format in the areas of file and data management, data recovery, interoperability with line-of-business systems, and the long-term preservation of documents. Open XML is optimized for the level of precision and detail that facilitates carrying forward billions of existing files. As well, Open XML file formats are uniquely capable of integrating other types of systems and data with Open XML documents, while maintaining a clean, simple separation of presentation (Open XML markup) and data (custom schemas and instances thereof). This means that organizations can use Open XML formats to report information from other applications and systems without having to translate it first, which is a key innovation for developers seeking to incorporate real-time business information into their documents, or those who seek to “tag” documents with their own categorization system to improve their understanding of its contents.

More information about Open XML, as well as available solutions using the open standard specification, is available at http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/momentum.aspx#technology.

Commitment to Interoperability

The Open XML Translator (http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/odf-converter) is one among many interoperability projects Microsoft has undertaken. We continue to work with customers and others in the industry to address the critical interoperability issues of our customers through the delivery of products that are interoperable by design, collaboration on interoperability projects, providing access to interoperability technologies, and standardization. Other evidence of collaboration includes our technical collaborations with AOL LLC and Yahoo! Inc. for instant messaging interoperability, the broad collaboration with Novell on virtualization, document formats and intellectual property, and the creation of the Interoperability Vendor Alliance. More information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/interop.

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