Will it be join 'em or beat 'em? Will it be OASIS ODF or MSOffice
O(X)DF? Microsoft has laid out its strategy (the white paper is at
but appears to be loosening things up with its recent "covenant not to
sue" (http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/covenant.mspx). ECMA has given
them its blessing, but the article that makes this of particular
interest is from today's NYTimes. Move over pdf, here comes some form of
March 3, 2006
Push to Create Standards for Documents
By STEVE LOHR
With government records, reports and documents increasingly being
created and stored in digital form, there is a software threat to
electronic access to government information and archives. The problem is
that public information can be locked in proprietary software whose
document formats become obsolete or cannot be read by people using
software from another company.
To cope with the problem, 30 companies, trade groups, academic
institutions and professional organizations are announcing today the
formation of the OpenDocument Format Alliance, which will promote the
adoption of open technology standards by governments.
"The goal is to ensure that the largest number of people possible are
able to find, retrieve and meaningfully use government information,"
said Patrice McDermott, deputy director of government relations for the
American Library Association, a member of the alliance.
The problem, she said, is bad and getting worse. She noted that the
National Archives and Records Administration was engaged in a costly
project so the electronic documents it saves from federal agencies can
be opened and read.
The alliance supports a particular solution, called the OpenDocument
Format, for standard office word processing, presentation and
spreadsheet documents. Today, the formats used by most people for
creating documents are those in Microsoft Office — over 90 percent of
The alliance includes professional groups like the library association
and universities like the Indian Institute of Technology. Its membership
also includes many rivals to Microsoft in the software business,
including I.B.M. and Sun Microsystems, which offer office software that
uses the OpenDocument Format.
"This is not a partisan, anti-Microsoft group," said Simon Phipps of Sun
But Microsoft supports another open standard for documents, called
OpenXML Document Format. In Office 2007, which Microsoft will ship in
the second half of the year, OpenXML will be the default format for
saving documents instead of Microsoft's proprietary formats, said Alan
Yates of the company's Office division.
The OpenXML format is supported by Intel, Apple, Toshiba, BP and the
British Library, among others, Mr. Yates said. Microsoft submitted
OpenXML to Ecma International, a standards body in Geneva, last year.