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IBM adds heft to OpenOffice open-source project

Computing giant contributes code and programmers but won't offer support services for the desktop suite.

IBM said on Monday that it will join the project and pledged to further use the open-source software in its own products.

OpenOffice is an open-source alternative to Microsoft's Office desktop applications suite.

IBM will not be offering support for the product to customers. However, it will make technical contributions to the project and use code from the project in its own tools.

Specifically, IBM said that it will have 35 programmers working on the OpenOffice code and it will contribute software to improve the product for people with disabilities--an important feature, particularly to government customers such as Massachusetts.

The move is meant to make OpenOffice a more viable alternative to Microsoft's Office and create more products that support the OpenDocument Format (ODF)--a standard document format which competes with Microsoft's Open XML. ODF is the native file format for OpenOffice.

"We believe that this relationship will improve our ability to deliver innovative value to users of IBM products and services. We also believe that the collaboration will lead to an even broader range of ODF-supporting applications...and solutions that draw from the technology," said Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM's Lotus division.

IBM already supports the OpenDocument formats in its Lotus-branded document editor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. Engineers created those programs, which are delivered via a Web server rather than locally installed, by forking the OpenOffice code.

An IBM spokesperson on Monday declined to specify which technology it intends to use from the OpenOffice project.