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04/09/2007
Microsoft has failed in its attempt to have its Office Open XML document format fast-tracked straight to the status of an international standard by the International Organization for Standardization.

By Peter Sayer, IDG News Service

The proposal must now be revised to take into account the negative comments made during the voting process.

Microsoft expects that a second vote early next year will result in approval, it said Tuesday. That is by no means certain, however, given the objections raised by some national standards bodies.

A proposal must pass two voting hurdles in order to be approved as an ISO standard: it must win the support of two-thirds of voting national standards bodies that participated in work on the proposal, known as P-members, and also of three-quarters of all voting members.

OOXML failed on both counts, according to figures provided by Microsoft, and by other sources with knowledge of the voting process. ISO has not yet officially announced the results.

There were 51 votes, or 74 percent, in favor of adopting OOXML, according to Microsoft -- just shy of the required number.

Many of the national standard bodies voting against the OOXML proposal accompanied their votes with comments on what must be changed before they will vote in favor. ISO committee JTC1 must now reconcile those objections with the text, and find a compromise that will win enough votes to get through.

That will be difficult, as the French Association for Standardization, Afnor, wants to tear the proposal into two parts: a "core" part, which it wants to see converged over the course of three years with the competing Open Document Format (ODF), already an ISO standard, and an "extensions" part dealing with compatibility with legacy documents in proprietary formats.

France is not alone in suggesting modifications to the standard: Brazil raised over 60 objections, including issues of support for different languages and date formats, while the standards body in India was concerned that OOXML is incompatible with the ODF standard.

Microsoft could miss out on revenue from the lucrative government market if OOXML is also rejected next year. Some governments, worried that the need for access to electronic archives held in proprietary formats leaves them hostage to their software vendor, have mandated the use of document formats that comply with open international standards.

Others are considering such a move, which could put Microsoft at a double disadvantage to open source products such as OpenOffice.org, which not only store files natively using Open Document Format, but are free.

Frederic Couchet, spokesman for APRIL, the French Association for the Promotion and Research of Free Computing, supported Afnor's suggestion of combining parts of OOXML to ODF.

"The OOXML format contains significant design flaws," and it will be difficult to correct them "other than by starting again from scratch, or by enriching the already existing standard, Open Document Format," he said Tuesday.

Industry body CompTIA said it was disappointed by the result, but echoed Microsoft's believe that the proposal will find enough supporters in the second round of voting. Microsoft is among the members of CompTIA, but OOXML opponents Sun Microsystems and IBM are not.

Office Open XML began as the default document format used by Microsoft's Office 2007 productivity suite. The company submitted the specification to ECMA International, an association of computer industry manufacturers, which modified it slightly and published it as the ECMA-376 standard before submitting it to ISO for fast-track approval as an international standard.

Vote closes on draft ISO/IEC DIS 29500 standard

2007-09-04

A ballot on whether to publish the draft standard ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats, as an International Standard by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has not achieved the required number of votes for approval.

The five-month ballot process ended on 2 September and was open to the IEC and ISO national member bodies from 104 countries, including 41 that are participating members of the joint ISO/IEC technical committee, JTC 1, Information technology.

Approval requires at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative.

Comments that accompanied the votes will be discussed at a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) to be organized by the relevant subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 (SC 34, Document description and processing languages) in February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The objective of the meeting will be to review and seek consensus on possible modifications to the document in light of the comments received along with the votes. If the proposed modifications are such that national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes, and the above acceptance criteria are then met, the standard may proceed to publication.

Otherwise, the proposal will have failed and this fast-track procedure will be terminated. This would not preclude subsequent re-submission under the normal ISO/IEC standards development rules.

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 is a proposed standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets that is intended to be implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms. According to the submitters, one of its objectives is to ensure the long-term preservation of documents created over the last two decades using programmes that are becoming incompatible with continuing advances in the IT field.

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 was originally developed as the Office Open XML Specification by Microsoft Corporation which submitted it to Ecma International for transposing into an ECMA standard. Following a process in which other IT industry players participated, Ecma International subsequently published the document as ECMA standard 376.

Ecma International then submitted the standard in December 2006 to ISO/IEC JTC 1, with whom it has category A liaison status, for adoption as an International Standard under the JTC 1 "fast track" procedure. This allows a standard developed within the IT industry to be presented to JTC 1 as a Draft International Standard (DIS) that can be adopted after a process consisting of a one-month review by the national bodies of JTC 1 and then a five-month ballot open to all voting national bodies of ISO and IEC.

About ISO

ISO is a global network of national standards institutes from 157 countries. It has a current portfolio of more than 16 500 standards for business, government and society. ISO's standards make up a complete offering for all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, environmental and social. ISO standards provide solutions and achieve benefits for almost all sectors of activity, including agriculture, construction, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, distribution, transport, medical devices, information and communication technologies, the environment, energy, quality management, conformity assessment and services.

About IEC

The IEC, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is the world’s leading organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology". IEC standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, flat panel displays and solar energy, to mention just a few. Wherever you find electricity and electronics, you find the IEC supporting safety and performance, the environment, electrical energy efficiency and renewable energies. The IEC also manages conformity assessment schemes that certify whether equipment, systems or components conform to its International Standards.