ODF group abandons own format

A group formed to promote the OpenDocument Format has abandoned ODF in favour of a rival format from the W3C, blaming Sun Microsystems for the move.

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A group formed to promote the OpenDocument Format has abandoned ODF in favour of a rival format from the W3C, blaming Sun Microsystems for the move.

The OpenDocument Foundation was formed five years ago to push a universal document file format for documents. Until recently, the group was focused on ODF, which is overseen by OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) and has been approved as a global standard by the International Organisation for Standardisation.

However, a recent blog posting by Sam Hiser, vice president and director of business affairs at the OpenDocument Foundation, outlines why the World Wide Web Consortium's Compound Document Format (CDF) is a more viable format than ODF.

The requirements include full compatibility with legacy Microsoft formats, including Office Open XML (OOXML), the ODF rival Microsoft created for its Office suite. Other requirements CDF meets better than ODF include convergence of desktops, servers and devices; cross-platform portability; and vendor independence, he wrote.

In an interview, Hiser said the OpenDocument Foundation began losing support for ODF in February when it became clear to them that Sun Microsystems, one of ODF's biggest supporters, was more interested in making its own StarOffice suite and the open source OpenOffice interoperable with Microsoft Office formats than making ODF work with the Office formats.

Hiser said he suspects Sun's notorious nearly $2bn (£1bn at standard conversion rates) payout from Microsoft over Java and other interoperability efforts may have something to do with the company's apparent lack of interest in making ODF interoperable with Office 2007's OOXML.

"All Sun cares about is its application," he said. "Sun never thought of the format as being more important than the application. Sun's position has always been that interoperability with Microsoft formats is outside the scope of ODF."

Sun's Doug Johnson, manager of the Corporate Standards Group at Sun, denied these charges. He said that Sun supports ODF across many of its platforms, and that the company remains committed to ensuring the interoperability of ODF with any rival document formats.

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