In a tough fought battle, the Microsoft OpenXML file format failed to become an ISO standard. This is only a temporary issue because they get another chance at the plate early next year and they are likely to succeed when that happens.
Why is that bad you ask? Well in short, Microsoft Office is really very expensive and the full kit really only runs on Microsoft software. (Mac users tell me the Mac version of MS Office is decidedly inferior) So if Microsoft’s file format is a standard, (that doesn’t mean it is patent or royalty free) Microsoft will stick with that format as the default while dismissing the ODF format that already is a standard and which is royalty free and totally open.
They don’t want to support ODF as their default format, and the reason is that to do so would put them on a level pegging with other Office suites and they would lose $$$ as a result because it wouldn’t matter what office suite you used, your documents would be the same. Because Microsoft are far and away the office suite market share leaders, and because they know people are concerned about being compatible and able to open others office files, they will stick with the market leader as a result. Meaning Microsoft continues to make big dollars on MS Office.
We don’t know if free and open source office suites will have unencumbered royalty free access to Microsofts format either, that remains to be seen. But either way, if OpenXML becomes an ISO standard, it will mean that Microsoft will get to carry on charging crazy amounts of money for MS Office and people will go on paying it to ensure compatibility with those they share documents with.
To do your part to stop this, regardless of where you are, right to your pollies and let them know that a vote for OpenXML may have consequences for their own vote count at the next election. Also it might pay to stay up to date by visiting www.noooxml.org and/or Groklaw.