Force Microsoft to Support ODF, Group Asks EC
Published: May 21, 2008
by Alex Woodie
The British government's agency in charge of plotting IT usage among schools has asked the European Commission to force Microsoft to offer native out-of-the-box support for the Open Document Format (ODF) file standard in Microsoft Office, and not just Microsoft's own OpenXML format. Without an easy way to support ODF in Office, children's education will suffer, according to the complaint from the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, or Becta.
This month, Becta signed on with the EC's investigation of Microsoft's support for ODF in Office, which was initiated in January. Becta has recommended that schools do not implement Office 2007 over fears that any documents stored in Microsoft's OXML format will not be compatible in the future with ODF.
Microsoft has developed translators for converting OXML to the ODF format and vice versa, but the solution is clunky and not ideal, according to Becta. Ideally, Office would offer native support for saving documents in the ODF format without the need to separately download and install additional software.
"To date, Microsoft has promised ODF support via a translator tool, but as the Becta report makes clear, user intervention is required and the results are less than satisfactory,” said Graham Taylor, chief executive of OpenForum Europe, a non-profit group that advocates for the use of open source software. "The translator is no substitute for the native ODF support that customers are demanding."
BECTA's decision to join the EC's investigation of Microsoft was spurred by the approval of OXML as a standard last month by the International Organization for Standardization. ODF is also an ISO standard.
"That a major government agency, in this case the UK Government's lead agency for information and communications technology in education, felt compelled to take such an action demonstrates that the wider marketplace, which includes educational and training organizations, libraries and archival institutions, will be adversely impacted by OOXML's impediments to interoperability," said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, a group that promote the use of ODF.
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