Oasis to push OpenDocument adoption

Soon after the announcement of the OpenDocument Format Alliance, the OASIS standards body unveiled a similar group.

On the heels of last week's debut of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) Alliance, the OASIS standards body Tuesday said it was forming a similar group. But while the ODF Alliance seeks to encourage governments to adopt the electronic document format, the OASIS ODF Adoption Committee will work on promoting OpenDocument implementations among industries and end-users.

Paul Gannon, OASIS president and chief executive officer, said he expects only "some small overlap" between the new committee's remit and that of the ODF Alliance.

OASIS is developing the Open Document Format for Office Applications, also known as OpenDocument, as an XML (extensible markup language) file format. Files using the format can be opened by any application that supports OpenDocument, giving users more choices of office software. Some open-source software suites already support the format as do Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and IBM's Workplace.

Vendors like IBM and Sun are not seeing the adoption of OpenDocument that they'd like, according to Kyle McNabb, senior analyst with Forrester Research. One reason for this, he said, could be the fact that Microsoft has submitted its own electronic document format to a standards organization in the hopes of seeing it declared an open standard by the International Organization for Standardization, also known as ISO.

OASIS submitted OpenDocument to ISO in May 2005. Gannon expects that process to be complete in the third quarter of this year. Some governments limit their procurement to software that adheres to ISO standards.

Forrester's McNabb views the formation of the new OASIS committee as a positive move. "In general, there's been too much focus on the fear factor of not being able to access documents," he said. "It's somewhat true, but it has been widely overhyped."

McNabb sees the ODF Alliance as continuing to prey on that fear and welcomes the OASIS committee's different emphasis on how OpenDocument may help enable a future class of XML-powered applications.

"More enterprise and end users want to know what OpenDocument will do to make them more productive," he said. "That's what will compel them to move off of Microsoft if they move at all." Gannon gave the example of being able to automatically extract the information entered by individuals into electronic banking and health-care forms and then using that same data in a variety of Web services.

The OASIS ODF Adoption Committee has 12 members so far, according to Gannon, including Corel Corp., IBM, Novell Inc. and Sun as well as the National Informatics Centre of the Government of India and the Netherlands Tax and Custom Administration.

The new committee will generate white papers, case studies and other educational materials and also plans to offer newsletters, online seminars and conferences. The committee plans to hold its first meeting via teleconference March 28 at 11 a.m. ET, according to Gannon. After that, members will hold biweekly conference calls and occasional face-to-face meetings, with probably the first one taking place at the OASIS Symposium scheduled for May 11 or May 12 in San Francisco.

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