Sun: ODF needed to prevent 'corporate Alzheimer's'

Open, stable document format is needed to preserve world's information, company executives say.

SAN FRANCISCO--Having an open, stable document format is necessary to preserve the world's information, top Sun Microsystems executives said on Wednesday.

Speaking to a group of reporters, Sun's top open-source executive said that a format like OpenDocument (ODF) is needed to prevent a permanent condition of what he dubbed "corporate Alzheimer's."

"I want to make sure that when my grandchild studies history at university, that they can study source documents," said Chief Open Source Officer Simon Phipps. Phipps said that without a standard that remains stable and is widely adopted, documents won't be able to be opened decades later.

Sun trotted out Phipps, XML guru Tim Bray and several other top executives the same day as Massachusetts held another hearing over its proposal to mandate the use of OpenDocument as the default format beginning in 2007.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has tried to satisfy its critics by submitting the file formats for Office 12 to Ecma, a standards body separate from the group that certified OpenDocument. Sun, a onetime Ecma member, criticized the organization for both its process and its membership criteria.

Intel and Apple Computer have sponsored the Ecma technical committee work, while Sun, IBM, Red Hat and others have lined up in support of OpenDocument.

Phipps argued that what is needed is a standard that will be used by many companies and remains stable. "That's the reason rubber stamping Office 12 isn't the answer, in my opinion."

It just isn't in Microsoft's interest to have something that is open and stable, said Piper Cole, the Sun vice president in charge of government-relations efforts. "That's where governments come in," Cole said. "Microsoft doesn't have an economic interest in doing that themselves. Nobody with a monopoly does. "

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