Monday, 05 March 2007 03:31

ODF threat to Microsoft in US governments grows

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California has introduced a bill to make open document format (ODF) a mandatory requirement for agencies when acquiring software, turning up the heat on Microsoft. The bill follows similar legislation in Texas and Minnesota and adds further to the pressure on Microsoft which is pushing its own proprietary Office Open XML (OOXML) document format in the recently released Office 2007.

While ODF has been recognized as a global standard and been given an ISO stamp by the International Standards Organization, OOXML has yet to gain ISO approval. Open source products, such as OpenOffice.org, have already included ODF as their default standard document format and, although it has has opposed the ODF movement, Microsoft is being pressured to make ODF an integral part of future releases of Microsoft Office.

The move to have ODF widely adopted is now driven by a consortium called the ODF Alliance, which has 36 members including all the major Linux distributors, as well as IBM and Google.

The new bill, introduced by Californian Democrat Mark Leno, does not name ODF specifically but has stipulated that by 2008 agencies must be equipped to store and exchange documents in an open, XML-based format. Although the name of Microsoft's Office Open XML suggests that it would match the requirement, it is in fact a proprietary format that would fail the open standards test.

The Californian legislation comes at a time for Microsoft when it already has its hands full trying to convince users to move to its new operating system Vista and upgrade to Office 2007, both of which involve considerable cost. Microsoft is also under regulatory pressure in Europe from the European Commission (EC), as well as a number of European Governments which have already adopted ODF.

The EC recently issued a Statement of Objections to Microsoft, with Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes saying, “Microsoft has agreed that the main basis for pricing should be whether its protocols are innovative. The Commission's current view is that there is no significant innovation in these protocols. I am therefore again obliged to take formal measures to ensure that Microsoft complies with its obligations.” Accordng to UK-based research group Ovum, the ruling raises the prospect of further fines being levied on Microsoft.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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