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Microsoft Supports Rival Office Document Format

Microsoft is supporting a chief rival to its Office suite for approval to a national standards board.

Microsoft is supporting a chief rival to its Office suite for approval to a national standards board.

The company announced yesterday that it voted to add the Open Document Format (ODF) 1.0 to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) list. ANSI is a private, nonprofit organization that coordinates and develops U.S. standards for products and processes.

ODF is used by open source Office competitors in the Linux space, including the OpenOffice.org suite and the KOffice suite. It is supported by IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Corel, Novell, Opera Software and Red Hat.

"We have listened to our customers, and they have told us they want choice, they want interoperability, they want innovation," said Tom Robertson, general manager for Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft, in a press release. "The American National Standards list does not include a number of document format standards in wide use today, such as PDF, .DOC, RTF and HTML. The inclusion of ODF is just the beginning; we expect the list will grow in the future to reflect the choices customers already have in today's marketplace."

Microsoft certainly hopes to expand that list by at least one: its open Open XML file format, used by Office 2007 documents. Open XML received a stamp of approval from standards body Ecma International in December 2006, and has been submitted for approval to yet another standards body, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Microsoft stated in the press release that it intends to get Open XML on the ANSI list next.

Although Microsoft hailed the news of its vote in favor of ODF as a triumph of choice, others viewed it as a cynical ploy. Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president of open source and open standards, stated on his blog: "Microsoft believes we need many standards: the industry standards, plus the ones they themselves create. That's why they want 'choice.' If there is no 'choice,' the industry might not use what Microsoft creates by itself."

IBM has consistently been the biggest opponent of Microsoft's efforts at standardization. In fact, it was the only Ecma member to vote against adopting Open XML (also known as OOXML) last December, a vote that was a lopsided 20-to-1.

Although Sutor welcomed the announcement on one level -- "Any time they [Microsoft] actively encourage people to adopt ODF, that rate of adoption will accelerate, so this is a good thing." -- he believes the announcement was more about Microsoft than ODF.

"The press release is a PR stunt, sorry to say...this is OOXML promotion using ODF as the vehicle. I think this is obvious," he said.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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