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OOXML marks the spot, says research firm

ODF? It's for poseurs

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Large organisations that are considering a move away from Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) in favour of rival standard (Open Document Format) ODF should think again, concludes a new report.

Analysts at Burton Group on Monday turned up the heat in what is an already fiery debate about which standard should be internationally adopted by saying that "ODF should be seen as more of an anti-Microsoft political statement than an objective technology selection".

They said organisations that already use Microsoft's Office should stick with OOXML file formats, which are the default standard in the 2007 version of its software.

Underpinning that argument, the report also predicted that OOXML will be widely adopted by businesses which in turn will beef up Redmond's market share and swat open source vendors to one side.

But ODF, which is the default file format of the open source OpenOffice suite, still has plenty of fans, particularly among the budget-tightening public sector.

Last week, the UK's education technology agency Becta issued a three-pronged attack on Microsoft's licensing model, rubbished the vendor's document format policy, and said schools and parents should be made fully aware of "free-to-use" products.

It said there should be "no widespread deployment of Office 2007" until schools and colleges could be sure they have mechanisms in place to deal with "interopability and potential digital divide issues".

The report's authors also argued that multinational tech firms such as Sun Microsystems and Novell are backing ODF to loosen Microsoft's grip on the XML-based documents cash cow.

Despite its strong support for Microsoft to continue to dominate the Office landscape, the Burton report warns the software giant to work closely with other vendors and customers to ensure it lives up to its commitments. It said: "If Microsoft abuses standards initiatives, the market response will be swift and severe."

But, in recent months, Microsoft has been facing growing criticism of its bid to have OOXML accepted as an international standard ahead of a crucial vote by the ISO scheduled for February.

Redmond initially promised that the ISO would have control of OOXML if and when it became a standard.

Last month's critics argued that Microsoft was backsliding on that promise via plans to retain indirect control of the standard through Ecma International, the group that originally rubber stamped OOXML. ®

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