National delegations from 33 countries participated in the ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in Geneva, Switzerland, on 25-29 February 2008 on the draft international standard ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats. The purpose of the BRM was to resolve comments submitted by the national member bodies of IEC and ISO on the draft and to reach agreement on proposed modifications arising from these comments with a view to making the document acceptable for publication as an international standard according to IEC/ISO criteria.

No decision or vote on the document as a whole or any part of it was taken at the meeting, but only on proposed changes to it.

A ballot on the draft standard last September produced comments from the 87 national member bodies of IEC and ISO that voted.

At the beginning of the meeting, each national body was invited to raise the issues they considered to be their priority so that these could be discussed during the BRM. When it was apparent that it would not be possible for all comments to be reviewed individually, the meeting discussed and agreed on a voting procedure to decide on the remaining proposed modifications. A total of 43 resolutions, involving dispositions or groups of dispositions, were accepted, most of them unanimously, some by consensus and only four by simple majority; four were refused.  

Following the BRM, all 87 national member bodies who voted in the original fast-track ballot have 30 days – until midnight CET on 29 March 2008 – to examine the actions taken in response to the comments and to reconsider their vote if they wish. If the modifications proposed are such that national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes, or turn abstentions into positive votes, and the 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 IEC and ISO standards development rules.

The BRM was organized by subcommittee SC 34, Document description and processing languages, of ISO/IEC JTC 1. ISO/IEC JTC 1 is one of the most experienced and productive of ISO and IEC technical committees, having developed some 2 150 widely and globally used international standards and related documents. The BRM was a technical meeting open to delegates that were duly nominated by the ISO and IEC national member bodies and registered for the meeting. The BRM was not intended to be a public event but followed the orderly and inclusive process of ISO and IEC. With the BRM review completed, it is now up to national bodies to determine whether approval of ISO/IEC DIS 29500 is warranted.

ISO/IEC JTC 1 is a joint technical committee of two international standardization organizations – the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). IEC has some 6 000 international standards and related products, covering electrical, electronic, and related technologies, together with three global conformity assessment systems. ISO has more than 17 000 international standards and related documents in its current portfolio and publishes around 100 new or revised standards per month.

Background on ISO/IEC DIS 29500

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 of the document, 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 field of information technology.

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.

The five-month ballot process which ended on 2 September 2007 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 to be negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved in the DIS vote, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative.


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