Microsoft muscles in on OpenDocument group

The software giant has joined a group involved in the ISO standardisation process for OpenDocument, but claims its presence in the group 'will have no impact on the voting'
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

Microsoft has joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of OpenDocument as an international standard, leading to accusations that it intends to sabotage the process. Microsoft denied these accusations on Friday, claiming that it only plans to involve itself in the ratification of its own standard.

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

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

"There sits Microsoft, waiting, like a spider," wrote Jones, 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, claiming that the only reason why Microsoft employee Jim Thatcher has 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," said Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs, 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 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 productivity suite OpenOffice 2.0 and Sun's StarOffice 8.

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