GENEVA: Microsoft's latest version of its ubiquitous Office business suite was refused recognition as a global standard by a body that sets worldwide criteria, the International Organization for Standardization.

Acceptance of the Microsoft standard by the IOS would be a major worldwide marketing boost for Office 2007 - and an equal setback to its rivals.

But on two sets of criteria, the body rejected the software titan's application for formal recognition of its Open XML standard - albeit in one case by the narrowest of margins.

In the latter instance, acceptance of Open XML depended on the percentage of opposing votes being no greater than 25%. In the event, 26% were cast against affirmation.

On the second count, success depended on gaining the support of at least 66% of a group of key nations - among them the USA. But the Microsoft standard managed just 53%

The politics underlying the vote are said to be murky, with MS accused of 'packing' the IOS standards committees with a number of supportive nations such as Italy and Kenya.

But this duck is very far from dead and realists see this week's votes as an impediment - not an end - to Microsoft's continuing dominance of the business software market.

When the matter is finally decided, its outcome will significantly affect other software developers.

Without knowing exactly how a Word or Excel document is formatted, competitors are severely disadvantaged from making their software compatible with Office.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff