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U.K. tech agency: Microsoft's no friend to schools

A British government agency says that Microsoft isn't doing enough to support interoperability standards for tech in schools.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) said Monday that it has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft, alleging that its new Office 2007 file format will impede educational initiatives because it does not natively support open standards.

At issue is Office 2007's interoperability with the OpenDocument format (ODF), a rival office format that's largely supported by governments and educators. Instead of offering native support, Microsoft has released a converter that will let Word users open documents saved in the OpenDocument format. It has also funded other open-source translator tools

The government agency Becta, along with other groups such as the nonprofit OpenForum Europe, said that that's not good enough. In January, Becta even told British schools not to upgrade to Microsoft's Vista operating system and Office 2007.

"The lack of interoperability denies students and families access to free or low-cost software alternatives, including open source," OpenForum Europe Chief Executive Graham Taylor said in a statement.

A Microsoft representative replied that the company is committed to education and interoperability; and that more schools are upgrading to Windows Vista and Office 2007 for educational programs.

"We have funded the development of tools to promote interoperability between Office 2007 and products based on the ODF file format. We will continue to work with Becta and the Commission in a cooperative manner to resolve these issues," according to a company statement.