Amid allegations of improper lobbying, the odds are looking good for Microsoft Relevant Products/Services's Open XML document format to win approval as a standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The U.S. representative group to the body voted Wednesday to approve the format on September 2. In a poll last week, the International Committee for Information Technology Standards voted 12-3 to cast a "yes with comments" vote in favor of Open XML. Wednesday's ballot finalized that position.

Microsoft has been pushing the format, which is supported in the latest versions of its Office software, through standards bodies since Massachusetts moved last year to standardize on the open-source OpenDocument Format, which has already been approved as an open standard.

IBM, Oracle Vote Against

IBM strongly argued against approval of Open XML, and Oracle joined IBM in voting against it. Voting in favor of the format were Hewlett-Packard, EMC Relevant Products/Services, Intel Relevant Products/Services, Sony Electronics, Lexmark International, and Apple, as well as the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Sweden representatives sent an e-mail to the company's business Relevant Products/Services partners, offering "marketing incentives" in exchange for a yes vote at the Swedish Standards Institute, which voted in favor of the format this week.

In e-mails provided to publication Computer Sweden, Microsoft urged partners to apply for "participating" status, which would allow them to cast a vote. Microsoft told partners they were expected to take part in the August 27 Swedish Standards Institute meeting and "to vote yes for Office Open XML."

Microsoft encouraged the companies to continue to participate in the meetings to show "their sincere participation" -- and said Redmond would provide "some reasons for voting yes."

Long Process for Approval

The September 2 voting is just the latest stage in a process that might take until next February to be complete. Next week, the 20 members of ISO's Joint Technical Committee will cast their votes.

In February at the ISO's ballot resolution meeting, the body will edit the standard to address the comments made by member countries. Members can change their votes at that time; a two-thirds majority is needed to approve the format.

In a statement Wednesday, the Linux Foundation urged countries that haven't yet voted to cast their ballot against the format. "The Linux Foundation believes that Office Open XML is simply not mature enough at this point to be granted approval as an ISO/IEC standard," the foundation said.

Because Open XML is specific to Windows, the statement said, "it is uncertain whether Office Open XML-based documents will be easily created, saved, and opened using other operating systems -- like Linux -- and applications, with or without converters or translators."

International Split

The voting so far indicates a split between Western countries and the developing world. Brazil, China, India, and New Zealand all have indicated they would vote no next week.

Meanwhile, IDC on Monday released the results of a study commissioned by Microsoft that found widespread support for XML-based formats, including Open XML. "Pragmatic business needs are clearly on top of mind when it comes to standards adoption, both within the public and private sector," said Per Andersen, managing director of IDC Nordic, in a statement.

"The survey results reveal that multiple document standards are deployed today, and that companies see the transition of the existing base of documents as one of the most important criteria when selecting a document standard."