On Friday July 13th, INCITS V1 met via teleconference for 3 hours but failed to reach a 2/3 consensus necessary to recommend an “Approval, with comments” position on Microsoft “Office Open XML” (OOXML) document specification.
V1 is a Technical Committee of INCITS, an industry forum accredited by ANSI for recommending the US position on ISO/IEC JTC1 ballots. On April 2nd the INCITS Executive Board asked V1 “to coordinate and develop the U.S. recommended position” on OOXML and to return this recommendation by July 17th. After several meetings, including a two-day face-to-face meeting in Washington, DC in late June, and the recording of over 300 member-submitted comments, V1 voted last Friday.
The initial motion of “Approval, with comments” failed by two votes to receive the 2/3 necessary to pass the motion. Further motions of “Disapproval, with comments” and “Abstention, with comments” also failed. (“Disapproval, with comments” is also sometimes called “Conditional Approval” since it signals that the committee would change its vote to Approval if the concerns raised in the comments were addressed in a revised version of the submission). The result is that V1 will report out a large list of technical comments for consideration by INCITS, but will not report a consensus position on this controversial ISO “Fast Track” submission.
An important factor in the V1 vote was the large number of members who joined very late in the process. At the start of the year, V1 had only 7 voting members. But by Friday’s meeting V1 had 26 voting members. There was a clear pattern in the voting where the long-time V1 members voted for the “Disapproval, with comments” position as well as “Abstention, with comments” while the newer members voted overwhelmingly “Yes, with comments” and against “Abstention with comments.” This is not surprising since the new members were largely Microsoft business partners.
The following chart makes this trend clear. As you can see, at the start of the year, V1’s membership consisted of seven organizations, six of whom on Friday voted “Disapproval, with comments”, and one (Microsoft) who voted “Approval, with comments”. The membership spurt came at the very end, in the last month, when 16 new members joined V1. Of these 16 new members, 14 of them voted, “Approval, with comments” on Friday.
Note that this is not the final step in developing the US position on OOXML. The next step will be for the INCITS Executive Board to review the comments V1 has generated, and then to determine the US position via a 30-day letter ballot. That, followed by a possible 10-day reconsideration ballot, will take us to the September 2nd deadline for this JTC1 ballot. It is typical practice for INCITS to follow the recommendations of its technical committees. But since the committee of technical experts in V1 was not able to develop a consensus recommendation, it is not clear how the INCITS Executive Board will now make their decision.
So it is perfectly clear to all, the above represents my views, observations and opinions. It does not represent an official report of V1’s position, nor necessary reflect the views of INCITS staff and officers or other V1 members. Of course, I was on the call, I voted, and I have the meeting minutes in front of me. This isn’t exactly rocket science. But I’m adding this disclaimer so there is no room for confusion on this point.
It has been brought to my attention that the “Approval, with comments” ballot failed by two votes, not by one. This was a mathematical error on my part. I’ve corrected the post accordingly.