Tech Rallies Around OpenDocument Format

UPDATED: Several high profile and groups have banded together to show solidarity for the OpenDocument Format (ODF), a collection of office document formats to help organizations share digital information.

The Software & Information Industry Association, IBM, Sun Microsystems and a host of other vendors and groups today announced the creation of the OpenDocument Format Alliance (ODF Alliance).

The group’s goal is to push the creation of software in the ODF format, which is based on XML .

ODF allows text, spreadsheet and presentation files to work with one another even if they were created with different vendors’ applications.

ODF addresses the concern that, as documents and services are migrated from paper to electronic form, governments and other public agencies may not be able to read important documents if they are not all using a common file format.

The alliance is clearly aimed at desktop software leader Microsoft. The software giant employs different formats in current versions of Office and does not support ODF and will not support it in its upcoming Office 12 release later this year.

Microsoft officials perceived the ODF Alliance as a stab at its own efforts and welcomed the competition.

“The ODF Alliance (Sun, IBM and their friends) apparently want to push ODF as an ‘exclusive’ standard to the detriment of all others vs. enabling choice among formats such as PDF from Adobe, Open XML, HTML and others,” said Alan Yates, general manager, Information Worker Business Strategy at Microsoft, in a statement.

“Clearly choice and competition is better than arbitrary technology preferences,” he continued. “Part of this confusion is clearly IBM and Sun promoting their products based on OpenOffice that have had difficulty competing in the marketplace thus far.”

Yates also said that it was “great that there is competition to help customers into this new era of open, XML-based documents.”

In recent months, Massachusetts and other jurisdictions around the world have embraced ODF despite the glaring lack of support from Microsoft.

This would seem to freeze out Microsoft software in Massachusetts, which plans to begin saving documents in ODF in January 2007.

Microsoft last year had an answer for ODF, submitting its Microsoft Office Open XML file format to Ecma International as an open-standard submission with the hope it will one day become an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.

The file format is the underlying document standard to be used in the next edition of Office.

Still, the ODF Alliance claims that the lack of an open, standard document format system threatens to lock customers into a single software vendor.

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