A new alliance to promote the use of the OpenDocument Format, ODF, by local and national government organizations has been launched by vendors and interested industry groups.
The OpenDocument Format Alliance has been set up by more than 35 organizations worried that there is the potential for governments to get locked in to proprietary formats from a single vendor.
The group includes key ODF vendor supporters, such as Sun Microsystems Inc, IBM Corp, Novell Inc, and Corel Corp, as well as industry groups such as the American Library Association, the Software & Information Industry Association, and the Open Society Archives of the Central European University.
While the ODF Alliance could be seen as the rest of the industry ganging up against Microsoft Corp and its Office document formats, Simon Phipps, Sun’s chief open source officer, denied this was the case. The ODF Alliance is not against anything, he said. It’s promoting the use of open standards at a government level.
While the OpenDocument Format emerged from the open source OpenOffice.org project, Phipps also maintained that the ODF Alliance was a commitment to open standards, rather than open source, noting the involvement of proprietary vendors and the use of OpenDocument Format in non-open source applications.
He added that with at least 13 national bodies investigating ODF around the world there is plenty of interest in the format, but that ODF Alliance members had seen an opportunity to focus their lobbying attention and avoid duplication of effort.
The most famous ODF project to date is its adoption by the State of Massachusetts as the standard for all government office documents by January 2007. That decision sparked controversy given Microsoft’s decision not to support the Oasis-approved standard, leaving Microsoft’s Office productivity suite out of the running for Massachusetts’s public sector contracts.
It prompted a Massachusetts Senate Committee hearing, proposed changes to the Massachusetts Information Technology Division’s decision making powers, and an investigation into former Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn’s travel expenses, followed by Quinn’s eventual resignation despite his name being cleared.
If the ODF Alliance had existed a few month’s ago it would have been a lot easier for Massachusetts to focus on the technology issues rather than the personalities involved, said Phipps.