Brazil votes against Open XML

The Brazilian organization in charge of technical standards has decided to vote “no, with conditions” to Microsoft Corp.’s Office Open XML document format during an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) meeting on Sunday.

The Brazilian Technical Standards Association, or ABNT in Portuguese, voted unanimously against Open XML, pointing out 63 issues related to the document format during a final meeting last week prior to the ISO session.

The ABNT position was also supported by local government organizations, ministries, commissions and advisory boards. The vote was taken after a clarifying speech made by ABNT Director Eugenio Guilherme Tolstoy De Simone.

Among the issues cited are lack of compatibility with the Gregorian calendar, lack of support for languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and security issues including the possibility of password breaches and vulnerability to viruses.

The decision of “no, with conditions” means Brazil can change its vote if these issues are solved. Those involved in the process consider that unlikely.

“Microsoft Brazil believes the technical agreement effectively represents an opportunity of evolution in the standard,” the company said in a statement responding to the decision. The company pledged to “interact with society, private companies, corporate associations, universities and federal local government in order to develop Open XML.”

IBM Corp. also weighed in on the matter. “Our impression is Open XML is a standard done in a hurry”, said Cezar Taurion, new technologies manager at IBM Brazil. “Open XML is not mature enough and we think it is worth to be outlined again, since we already have an ISO standard which does not exclude any technology.”

Open XML, which is the default format in the Office 2007 suite, competes with the OpenDocument Format for XML, or ODF, which is an ISO standard.

Besides Brazil, a technical committee in India last week unanimously voted to reject the format ahead of the ISO meeting. Although the U.S. representative organization to the upcoming meeting had said that it would vote no as well, it since has signaled an intention to vote “yes, with comments.”

The executive board of the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), based in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday and take up the proposal one more time before submitting its final vote to the ISO.

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