'ODF has clearly won,' says Microsoft exec

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The ISO approved Open Document Format (ODF) standard has gained ground during Microsoft's campaign for its competing Office Open XML (OOXML) specification, a senior Vole executive admitted in a panel session about the long running ISO standards struggle over OOXML at the Red Hat Summit in Boston on Thursday.

Stuart McKee, Microsoft's national technology officer, stated that "ODF has clearly won," acknowledging that the monopolist will start supporting ODF natively in Microsoft Office next year. He also sounded almost apologetic about not supporting ODF sooner, saying "We couldn't [implement ODF] during the release of Office 2007. We're looking forward and committed to doing more than translators."

However, open documents standards proponents shouldn't get their hopes up that Microsoft plans to abandon OOXML in favour of ODF anytime soon.

The Vole will also take a role on the technical committee in charge of evolving ODF, McKee noted, but he didn't think it would work to merge the two standards. He said, "I don't think we're going to see a situation where we have single unifying standards."

He made the argument that different format standards aimed at different purposes can and do coexist, citing as examples the digital image standards JPEG for simple images and TIFF for high-resolution images.

Though he didn't go so far as to say so, it seems clear that Microsoft will attempt to limit and denigrate ODF as a consumer oriented document standard while trying to promote its OOXML as more appropriate for professional use, keeping users on its upgrade treadmill.

Fellow panelist Venky Hariharan, Red Hat-India director of corporate affairs, disagreed with McKee. "To have two standards for the same purpose defeats the idea [of establishing standards]. Multiple standards for the same application, in my opinion, is a bad thing.... We should collaborate on developing standards and compete on their implementation," he said.

But of course a level playing field for competition is the last thing Microsoft really wants.
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