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5/13/2008
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Brits Want Microsoft Office 2007 Expelled From Classrooms

Instead of Open XML, BECTA wants the EU to compel Microsoft to support open standards, such as the Open Document Format.

The agency that governs educational technology in the U.K. has filed a formal complaint against Microsoft with the European Union.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) contends that Microsoft has failed to support open standards in its Office 2007 desktop productivity suite. "In the context of the education system this can result in higher prices and a range of other unsatisfactory effects," BECTA said in a statement Tuesday.

BECTA claims that Office 2007's underlying format, known as Office Open XML, is not interoperable with software from other vendors.

"It is not just the interests of competitors and the wider marketplace that are damaged when barriers to effective interoperability are created. Such barriers can also damage the interests of education and training organization, learners, teachers and parents," said Stephen Lucey, BECTA's executive director for strategic technologies, also in a statement.

BECTA wants the EU to compel Microsoft to support open standards, such as the Open Document Format.

It's not the software maker's first run in with the British schools authority. Earlier this year, BECTA advised schools in the country to keep Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system and Office 2007 software out of the classroom and administrative offices.

"Upgrading existing ICT systems to Microsoft Vista or Office 2007 is not recommended," said the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, in a report issued at the time.

BECTA officials said a study the group commissioned found that upgrading school systems to Vista and Office 2007 would increase costs and create software compatibility problems while providing little benefit.

The agency said U.K. schools can consider using Vista or Office 2008 software only when they are buying new batches of PCs. Even then, however, they’re advised to take a long looked at alternatives based on Linux and other open source products, such as the OpenOffice.org desktop package.

The report’s conclusions could end up costing Microsoft millions of dollars in lost sales in the U.K. public sector market.

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