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IBM's Hints at Leaving Some Tech Standards Bodies

IBM (NYSE: IBM) on Tuesday set rules for its participation in standards bodies, a move that could lead to the company withdrawing from groups that fail to meet its new criteria for "quality and openness" in reviewing specifications for software and computer system interoperability.

IBM's policy change is seen by experts as the fallout over the adoption of Microsoft's Open XML document format as an international standard. The format used in Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s Office software suite was approved in April by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, over complaints of irregularities in the approval process by at least four national standards bodies.

While IBM is only one vote in any standards body, Big Blue's influence as one of the world's largest tech companies is tremendous, given its huge portfolio of intellectual property. IBM dedicates thousands of engineers in working groups of hundreds of consortia and traditional accredited standards organizations around the world, including single-standards-focused organizations to the Geneva-based ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission. Such bodies set technical standards for everything from storage and IT systems to programming languages.

Within IBM's "IT Standards Policy" is a list of actions IBM plans to take in support of its goals in working with standards bodies. Among the goals seen as stemming from the recent brouhaha over the approval of Open XML is one in which IBM said it would "advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence."

In another policy change, IBM vowed to "work for process reform in standards organizations, so that proxies or surrogates cannot be used in standards creation and approval."

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