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Microsoft accused of buying Swedish votes

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12:00 CEST+02:00
Earlier this week a decision was taken by the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) to back Microsoft's bid to have its Office Open XML (OOXML) format accepted as the international standard for electronic documents.

But the decision has been clouded by allegations of foul play after more than 20 new companies - many with strong links to Microsoft - signed up for SIS membership in the days leading up to the ballot. It has now further emerged that the software giant offered "market assistance" to companies pledging to vote in its favour.

"Microsoft have now confirmed that they sent an e-mail to their partners and even provided them with arguments they could use at the meeting," Marcus Rejås told The Local.

Until last week, Rejås - a computer consultant and free software advocate - was convinced that Microsoft's product would not pass muster.

"Some of Microsoft partner companies joined on Thursday but many of them just signed up as SIS members at the beginning of the meeting. I was one of the people who left the meeting in protest because it seemed so silly," he said.

Computer Sweden reports that a number of partner companies were informed in an e-mail that they were "expected" to sign up to SIS and "to participate in the meeting on Augut 27th to vote yes for Open XML".

Companies would be required to cover the cost of membership themselves but would later be rewarded with "market assistance" and "extra support in the form of Microsoft resources".

"It was poorly formulated and shouldn't have gone out," Microsoft spokesman Klas Hammar told Computer Sweden.

"We don't buy yes votes. It's crazy to think that we would do such a thing," he added.

For six months SIS members have been discussing whether to endorse OOXML when the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) convenes to vote on the matter on September 2nd.

A majority of the Swedish working group's members were expected to reject Microsoft's document format. But there was nothing to stop new members joining at such a late stage in the decision process.

"Our rules do not prevent that," SIS spokeswoman Erika Messing told The Local.

She added that companies were free to sign up at the last minute simply by paying a general membership fee (2,000 kronor for small companies) as well as a 15,000 kronor ($2,000) charge to join the working group.

And it was not only Microsoft supporters that tried to influence the vote.

"Both sides joined very late," said Messing.

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