(dpa) - The International Standards Organization (ISO) announced Wednesday the adoption of Office Open XML as a new standard, a move that in a few years will make the document format a familiar part of life to millions of computer users.
The decision, after a close vote by ISO member nations, marks a win for Microsoft against a rival industry consortium.
In the past, ISO has recognized document standards such as PDF (portable document format). Most computers in the world can open PDF files, whereas users have difficulty swapping documents in the hundreds of minor formats that exist.
Centuries from now, future historians may not even be able to read documents written in the obscure formats.
Dorothee Belz, chief legal officer of Microsoft Germany, said Wednesday that ISO's seal of approval meant programmes would be perpetually available to open OOXML documents. Old ".doc" files written since the early 1990s can be converted to the format.
The new standard, known as OOXML, missed out on adoption in a close vote last September among the 87 member nations of the ISO, which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The debate over Office Open XML split the computer world, since its adoption saves Microsoft from having to re-engineer its Office 2007 software, which is built around the new standard. Other makers will be able to use OOXML, since its rules are public.
The adoption of OOXML was opposed by a group that included the IBM, Google and Sun Microsystems companies.
They said it was superfluous and the world should make do with another, similar standard, ODF, which the ISO had adopted earlier.