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7/14/2006
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Google Joins OpenDocument Format Alliance, Backs Office Standardization

Microsoft, which was historically the "most ardent critic of ODF," recently said it will offer free translation software for conversion of Microsoft Office documents to the vendor-neutral format.

Google has quietly joined the OpenDocument Format (ODF) Alliance in recent days, indicating that the search engine colossus will support the alliance's efforts to standardize document formats.

The news follows a decision by Microsoft last week to offer free translation software that would enable its Office software to operate easily with ODF software.

The Google move was hailed by Alliance pioneer Bob Sutor of IBM, who noted that the Google move seems to be already boosting Alliance membership. "We now have 260 members," said Sutor, IBM's vice president for standards and open source, in an interview Friday. "When we formed the Alliance in March we hoped for 10 members."

Sutor noted that Google has been inching into the office software arena. He said Google's online word processor " Writely -- is already ODF-compliant and the search engine company has also added to its Office-like products with a spreadsheet and some graphics products.

Google representatives were not immediately available for comment.

The more influential the ODF Alliance is, the more it will be a boon to users, said Sutor, who added that the major driving force among consumers is ODF's role in driving down costs.

"It is software based on a format that encourages innovation and universal compatibility," he explained. "This is because the format is recognized as a worldwide standard, owned by no single entity. Vendors can then focus on competing on their unique implementation of the format, like IBM with its Lotus Workplace and Lotus Notes."

Noting that Microsoft had historically been "the most ardent critic of ODF," Sutor nonetheless hailed Microsoft's announcement last week that it would offer the free translation software.

"Suddenly users are saying, 'I just don't have to buy one product,'" Sutor added, observing that the Microsoft announcement will spur competition in office software and that should in turn lead to lower prices and availability of better features.

Sutor wondered out loud about the quality of Microsoft's translator and indicated the ODF world will simply have to wait and see the final results.

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