Microsoft joins OpenDocument group

Microsoft has joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of the OpenDocument format as an international standard. Microsoft asked to join the INCITS/V1 Technical Committee on March 15.

Microsoft has joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of the OpenDocument format as an international standard.

Microsoft asked to join the INCITS/V1 Technical Committee on March 15. This committee is responsible for reconciling the votes that are cast by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) over the acceptance of the OpenDocument format.

Pamela Jones, who runs legal Web site Groklaw, speculated that Microsoft may have joined the group to sabotage the ratification of ODF, hoping to give its rival standard a chance to catch up. Last year, Microsoft submitted its Office Open XML file formats to European standards body ECMA International, as a prelude to seeking ISO standardisation later.

"There sits Microsoft, waiting, like a spider," Jones wrote in a posting on her site. "I am imagining ODF plodding along, with Microsoft asking questions, fine-combing through the comments, 'did you mean this or that?', getting bogged down in minutia until, lo and behold, either Microsoft's XML makes it as an ISO standard first, or they arrive neck and neck."

But Microsoft denied this accusation, saying that the only reason why Microsoft employee Jim Thatcher joined the group was to get involved in the ISO standardisation of its own file format.

"In order for Jim to participate in the future Open XML File Format work he needs to have standing in JTC1 SC 34 (a committee that mirrors INCITS/V1) which mandates participation over time. His presence in this group will have no impact upon the voting process for the ODF standard. Just as we have a seat on the board of Oasis and have not participated in the ODF process there, we will not participate in the JTC1 process," Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs, said in a statement.

This news comes shortly after Microsoft announced the formation of a new developer effort centred around its open file formats, known as the Open XML Formats Developer Group. According to Microsoft, 39 companies have signed up already, including Intel, Apple Computer and Toshiba.

The Office Open XML file formats will be supported by the upcoming late-running version of Microsoft's office productivity suite, Office 2007. OpenDocument is already supported by a number of productivity applications including the open-source office suite OpenOffice 2.0 and Sun's StarOffice 8.

Ingrid Marson reported for London-based ZDNet UK. For more coverage from ZDNet UK, click here.