Some, like the state of Massachusetts, have already decided to throw their weight behind the ODF; Massachusetts is forging ahead with its implementation, set to go into effect in January 2007.
"Theres no doubt that the momentum of ODF is gaining traction worldwide as more people every day are discovering that its a better way to preserve and access documents," said Ken Wasch, the president of the Software & Information Industry Association, an alliance member.
But Microsoft maintains that its goals are not really that different. When the software maker decided to open up its Office file formats last November and submitted them to be considered for recognition as a formal standard by Ecma International, Yates told eWEEK that the companys specification had been written to satisfy a certain number of customer requirements, much as the OpenDocument group had been.
"We have had a very different and much more ambitious set of requirements to meet. So we are meeting the requirements of backward compatibility with all of the billions of documents that are in previous Office versions," he said.
But Suns Phipps said in December that Microsoft, by refuting OASIS and the ODF and instead choosing to get international standards body Ecma to approve its file format standard, continues to embrace a proprietary and closed approach.
"By getting its specification approved by a standards body that does not allow individual members is a strategy to make sure that Microsoft continues to control that standard and thus prevent it from becoming a baseline. At the same time, Microsoft is also trying to prevent a multilateral file format from being implemented," Phipps said.
But one thing Microsoft and Sun do seem to agree on is the need for the two formats to interoperate.
Microsofts Yates said that, while there are multiple points differentiating Microsofts format from the OpenDocument format, "both of them are open and there will likely be a very rich ecosystem between them and providing converters between them. In the past, OpenOffice has already supported our Office formats."
For his part, Phipps has said that the ODF file format is also designed to be compatible with Microsoft Office, as the technical committee working on this knows it is going to be used to import and export a lot of Microsoft Office documents.
Editors Note: This story was updated to add comments from IBMs Bob Sutor.