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IBM Workplace client to support Open Document Format in '06

The company hopes to expand sales in emerging markets, and to government and school users

By Todd R. Weiss
December 4, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In its continuing embrace of open standards, IBM plans to support the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF) in a version of its Workplace Managed Client 2.6, which is due out early next year.
In an announcement Sunday in India, IBM said it will add ODF support to the client software to give customers more flexibility, since the standard allows files to be compatible with any office productivity suite or other applications that support the standard. Workplace Managed Client 2.6 will support Version 1.0 of the ODF standard, which is XML-based and was recently ratified by Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. IBM is a member of the OASIS technical committee that developed the standard.
"The ability to support standards that are open to all becomes increasingly critical," said Art Fontaine, IBM's offering manager for the Workplace Managed Client. Around the world, government and educational institutions, as well as emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, China and India, are looking to open standards to cut costs and increase file compatibility, Fontaine said. "The ODF is really important to this. We think this will be a real big catalyst to the growth of the product and to the market in general."
Once customers have a choice of software that uses open standards, vendors can compete on price and features rather than holding customers into proprietary file formats, he said.
So far, Microsoft Corp., the largest office suite vendor with its Office products, said last month that it won't include support for ODF in its upcoming Office 12 release (see "Sidebar: Microsoft Locks OpenDocument Out of Office").
By contrast, the beta version of the rival OpenOffice.org 2.0 suite, which uses ODF as its default file format, can open and save files in all existing Microsoft formats. ODF is also already being used in the free software suite KOffice and in Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice suite.
Microsoft did say, however, that it intends to offer the XML document formats in Office 12 as open standards, a move partly designed to appease government users who insist that their software be standards-compliant (see "Microsoft Vows to Open Office Document Format").
In Workplace Managed Client 2.6, ODF formats will be compatible with word processing, presentation graphics and spreadsheets applications and will include capabilities to import, export and rewrite files saved in the ODF standard, according to IBM.
In Massachusetts, ODF has been an issue as the commonwealth finalizes a proposed move to open formats for office documents (see "U.S. state finalizes plans to phase out Office"). Massachusetts plans to phase out versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivi



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