IBM adds Open Document support to workplace software

Delhi (India) - The Open Document Format (ODF), an XML-based file format for office applications standardized by OASIS, gained some weight today with IBM announcing support for the technology in the upcoming version of its Workplace Managed Client software.

ODF is considered to grow into an open-source alternative to proprietary file formats, namely Microsoft's Office formats, but so far only has been included in applications such as OpenOffice and StarOffice. The integration into IBM's Workplace Managed Client promises to add to an increasingly fierce discussion whether ODF may make interoperability easier or if it is simply not demanded by users.

IBM claims that its ODF approach is "particularly relevant" for emerging markets "since acceptance of open standards, such as ODF, will help governments achieve their goal of truly bridging the digital divide and reaching out to citizens by deploying open, accessible standards - not proprietary software." The company also said that ODF can ensure that increasing amounts of corporate data can be reliably captured stored and exchanged. IBM believes ODF could be a way out of a "perpetual cycle of royalty and licensing fees" created by proprietary formats - and provide a platform to access to any document in the future.

According to an announcement released on Monday, version 2.6 of IBM's Workplace Managed Client 2.6 will include support for version 1.0 of the ODF standard. The software is scheduled to be available in early 2006.

Microsoft's position towards ODF appears to be unclear at this time, as reports with different statements from different people are being published almost on a daily basis. In a statement provided to TG Daily at the end of October, the company denied preparations to support ODF in the upcoming version of Office: "We have no plans to directly support the Open Document format at this time," the company told us. "Our standards-based formats for Office 2003, as well as our announcement that XML will be the default file format in Office '12' (...) We fully expect partners, independent companies, and competitors to provide converters between our Open XML formats and the Open Document formats, and are aware of a few projects along these lines already."

IBM is listed as one of the main companies driving ODF development within OASIS. Other supporters include Adobe, Intel, Novell and Sun Microsystems.

Related stories:
Microsoft denies preparations to support OpenDoc in Office 12