Open Document Format Gets ISO Approval

ODF gets approved as an international standard for information retrieval and exchange regardless of platform; Microsoft is still pushing its OpenXML format as an alternative.

The Open Document Format has been approved as an international standard by the International Standards Organization, a move that supporters say will serve as a springboard for the adoption and use of ODF around the world.

The ODF allows the retrieval of information and the exchange of documents without regard to the application or platform in which the document was created. The format is supported by Corel, IBM, Novell, Opera Software, Oracle, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read the ODF Alliances press release (PDF) about the formats approval by the ISO, click here.

Microsoft, which is pushing its OpenXML document format as an alternative to ODF, plans to seek ISO approval for OpenXML as well.

Jason Matusow, director of standards affairs for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., reiterated Microsofts commitment to supporting interoperability between OpenXML and ODF documents, saying the "richness of competitive choices in the market is good for our customers and for the industry as a whole."

The ODF developed out of work done at the open-source project. That work was later submitted to, and further developed at, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), where it was accepted as an official OASIS standard in May 2005.

The European Commissions IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) Management Committee also publicly encouraged OASIS to submit the OASIS ODF standard to the ISO once OASIS had completed its work on the standard.

The six-month approval ballot for the ODFs adoption as a standard by the ISO and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) ended on May 1 in a vote to approve.

Also, in March, a coalition of organizations from across the world got together to launch the ODF Alliance, whose goal is to enable governments to have direct management and greater control over their documents.

The alliance started off with just 36 members, but has now grown to more than 150 members worldwide.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about how the ODF Alliance is gaining steam, click here.

"The ODF Alliance believes that approval of ODF by the ISO standards body as an international standard will … have a particularly strong impact in Europe where ISO standards enjoy official recognition under European Union Directives," Marino Marcich, the recently appointed executive director of the ODF Alliance, said in a statement on May 3.

The approval of ODF by the ISO is also an important step in the effort to help governments solve the very real problem of finding a better way to preserve, access and control their documents now and in the future, Marcich said, in Washington.

"Theres no doubt that this broad vote of support will serve as a springboard for adoption and use of ODF around the world and, at the same time, represents a milestone for the ODF Alliance," he said.

The ODF is also under consideration at the Regional Open ICT Ecosystem Conference, currently underway in Bangkok. The conference is being attended by representatives of a number of Asian governments and brings together experts, executives and policy makers from government, business and academia.

"Within it, ODF is being discussed as a vehicle for universally compatible, innovative and cost-effective technology used within governments. The conference and this weeks positive ISO vote clearly demonstrate the momentum behind the Open Document Format," Marcich said.

But Microsoft is fighting back, trying to convince people that its OpenXML is an "open" standard thats every bit as good as the ODF.

In March 2006, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, speaking at the Microsoft Office System Developers Conference, announced that the company has joined with 39 other organizations to form the Open XML Formats Developer Group.

Microsofts Matusow told eWEEK on May 3 that the Redmond-based software giant shares the same vision as the proponents of the ODF: the promise of XML-based formats as the ideal technology for data interoperability and archiving.

But he maintained that with the new innovations in the use of XML giving users greater control over their documents on a daily basis, "no one XML schema can meet the archival needs of all government and businesses today."

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the intensifying battle between Microsofts OpenXML format and the ODF.

There are hundreds of industry-specific XML schemas currently being used by industries such as health care, real estate, insurance, finance and publishing, he said.

"The progress of ODF and Open XML in the standardization processes is further evidence of the impact that XML will have on the industry as a whole. ODF is yet another XML-based format in the market. The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice and would not satisfy most of our Microsoft Office customers today," he said.

But Microsoft plans to support interoperability with ODF documents as they start to appear and will not oppose its standardization or use by any organization, he said.

Microsoft is submitting its OpenXML formats to Ecma International for approval as an international standard.

Meanwhile, the ODF Alliance intends to build on the formats ISO approval by working with governments around the world to adopt the Open Document Format, Marcich said, adding, "We believe access to public records and essential services should never be restricted to users of a particular brand of software or computer platform."

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.