Here is Something NEW !

News has just come in that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), has made a final decision on the document file format OXML (Open eXtended Markup Language). Sources tell tech2.com that with 13 Against, 1 Abstain and 5 For, the technical committee entrusted with deciding whether Microsoft-backed OXML format will be accepted, has stuck by its earlier decision. The "Yes" votes came from industry body NASSCOM, Microsoft itself and Indian software giants Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

Thus ODF (Open Document Format) backed by IBM, Sun, Red Hat and Google among others will continue to be the only "standard" file format as far as India is concerned. The ODF alliance has been at the forefront of the campaign to deny OXML similar status alleging that it's not truly "open".

Dr. G. Nagarjuna of the Free Software Foundation of India, told tech2.com that "a standard that developers cannot independently decode and re-implement without an MoU with the vendor cannot be called open." He said he was satisfied at the outcome of the vote.

The BIS is a P-member at the International Standards Organization (ISO) and thus its vote is important in a global context as well.

According to Wikipedia :

For the measure to pass, 2/3rds of "P" members (participating, as opposed to "O" members: observing) must approve and less than 1/4 of all voting national members must disapprove. The balloting shows 53% approval by "P" members and 26% disapproval from the total votes.

The BIS had earlier voted "No with comments" in a five-month long global ballot that ended in September 2007. Since OXML got only 53% approvals (less than 2/3 rds) and 26% disapprovals (more than 1/4th), the process went into a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in Geneva in late February where, according to Economic Times, four Indian representatives were expected to attend. All members who voted "No" had a one month long period after this BRM to change their vote.

It is alleged that hectic lobbying took place this past month, with both sides putting immense pressure on the BIS. Although India's stand is now clear, a few more naysayers changing their mind could still swing the vote in Microsoft's favor at the ISO within the month.

Although this doesn't mean that you have to stop saving files in MS-Office immediately, the ramifications are fairly large in the e-governance space. The Union Budget 2008 allocated Rs. 1,680 crores towards e-governance including ambitious plans for State Data Centers and the technical committee advising the government is expected to push for usage of open standards in all its projects.

We're awaiting comments from all the players and will keep updating as they come in!


Microsoft has issued a statement: Excerpts:

While we are disappointed with the decision of the BIS LITD 15 committee, we are very encouraged by the support of IT industry players like NASSCOM, TCS, Wipro and Infosys who voted in favor of Open XML becoming an ISO standard.

The concerns raised by the LITD 15 Committee have been addressed by the ISO and Ecma International (the proposer of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Office Open XML) with a majority of the comments getting addressed at the recently concluded Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) at Geneva. We hoped that 98.73% of the total 1027 comments from all National Bodies stood resolved at the BRM would be welcomed by the BIS, as it has been by the National Bodies of numerous countrie