Microsoft's embrace of ODF cautiously welcomed

Support for ODF could mean greater opportunities for software makers

In the meantime, ODF could gain wider support, wrote ODF supporter Andrew Updegrove, an open-source and open-standards attorney with Gesmer Updegrove in Boston.

"Given the quality of open-source office suites such as OpenOffice...the frequency of ODF-based files popping up in the work flows of Office-based shops can now be expected to increase much more quickly," Updegrove wrote in an e-mail commentary.

Microsoft's latest move may help put out other fires. A British government agency filed a complaint with the European Commission earlier this month alleging Microsoft impedes the exchange of files between Office 2007 and competitors' products.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), which advises British schools on technology, recommended in January that schools not upgrade to Vista and Office 2007.

BECTA has also called on Microsoft to make its products more interoperable, as well as putting "built-in and effective" support for ODF in Office 2007.

BECTA said Thursday it will examine Office 2007 after it has been upgraded. "If necessary we will update our advice to schools and colleges," the agency said in a statement.

IBM, one of Microsoft's fiercest critics during the OOXML deliberations, praised Microsoft's new stance on ODF.

"They will definitely benefit form being able to address this support requirement in the marketplace," said Bob Picciano, general manager and head of the company's Lotus software and collaboration business.

But Picciano said he hopes Microsoft is serious about contributing to the development of ODF as Microsoft has pledged.

Microsoft's closest competitor in the office software space, Corel, also recently decided to included ODF support.

The latest version WordPerfect Office X4, released in April, adds support for ODF as well as Microsoft's version of OOXML included in Office 2007, said Greg Wood, communications manager for WordPerfect Office. So far, Corel's customers have been more interested in OOXML support than ODF, Wood said.

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