The European Commission is reluctant to recommend the OpenDocument file
format, even though the format has been endorsed by international standards
According to sources familiar with the issue, Microsoft's drive to get its own file formats standardized may deter the EC from backing
OpenDocument is supported by many applications, including the OpenOffice
suite, but it is not currently supported by Microsoft Office. On Tuesday,
members of the ISO
and the IEC ratified the file format.
In October, Barbara Held of the EC's IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of
European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and
Citizens) said that the IDABC would start recommending OpenDocument if it is
approved as an ISO standard. But a month after Held made this statement,
Microsoft announced that it was submitting
its Office Open XML file formats to the European standards body ECMA
International as a prelude to seeking ISO standardization.
On Thursday, a source close to IDABC told ZDNet UK that although the
organization is likely to update its policy soon, it is unlikely to specifically
recommend OpenDocument, as it is concerned that a second ISO document standard
will emerge later.
"It is highly probable that we will strongly recommend the use of open
document formats to public administrations. On the other hand, it is unlikely
that we will make a specific recommendation, in case we will have two ISO
standards at a later point in time," said the source. "It is likely that we will
urge industry players to provide compatibility between formats, and in the long
run to aim for one single format."
A representative for the EC's Enterprise and Industry Directorate General,
which manages IDABC, confirmed on Friday that it is updating its policy around
open document formats and highlighted the risk that there may be two competing
"IDABC is watching the developments closely. The program has started a
consultation process with the member states in order to produce new
recommendations for the support of the use of open document formats," the
"Microsoft... has introduced its Office Open XML specifications into an ECMA
standardization process, also headed for consideration by ISO/IEC," he said. "At
this point in time, it is unclear whether this will lead to two concurring ISO
standards in the future."
The representative was unable to comment on whether IDABC would be
recommending OpenDocument in the future.