Microsoft Votes in Support of ODF

In a surprise move, Microsoft announced Thursday that it had voted in favor of OpenDocument (ODF) being added to the American National Standards (ANSI) list. But some industry watchers say the move is largely a PR ploy that is not backed by real action.

Microsoft has pushed for its own Office Open XML formats to become international standards, receiving certification from European standards body Ecma and submitting them to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). A vote on ISO standardization is expected in late 2007 or early 2008.

According to Microsoft "ANSI oversees the development of standards for products, services, processes and systems in the United States; through its InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) group, it also coordinates with international groups such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) so that American products can be used worldwide."

The Redmond company expects its Open XML formats to join the ANSI list as well. However, many standard formats are not included in the list, including PDF, .doc, RTF and HTML, and Microsoft says it will work to continue expansion of the list. The company asserts it is "voting for choice."

Still, despite supporting conversion utilities between Microsoft Office formats and ODF, Microsoft has largely done everything to counter the ODF's acceptance as an alternative document format. "Microsoft is primarily worried about governments requiring "open" document standards in their purchasing contracts," says long-time Microsoft follower Mary Jo Foley.

"If Microsoft really were all about championing choice and interoperability on behalf of its customers, would it have gone public with the number of patents it claims that open-source software infringes — without providing any specifics or details?" Foley queried.

Microsoft claimed earlier this week in Fortune that open source software infringes on 235 of the company's patents, promoting a covenant it signed with Novell stating that the companies will not sue each other over intellectual property issues. Microsoft's statement was largely seen as a threat to users of open source software who do not purchase from Novell.

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