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ISO approval 'unlikely for Microsoft Open XML'

ISO approval of OpenDocument will thwart standards-group certification of Microsoft's XML document, research firm says.

The International Organization for Standardization is unlikely to adopt Microsoft Office Open XML format, now that it has approved the OpenDocument Format, according to analyst group Gartner.

There is a 70 percent probability that the standards organization will not approve multiple XML document formats, according to a research note published by Gartner last week. It also predicted, with the same probability, that "by 2010, ODF (OpenDocument Format) document exchange will be required by 50 percent of government and 20 percent of commercial organizations."

Microsoft submitted its Office Open XML file formats to the European standards body, ECMA International, last year, as a prelude to seeking ISO standardization.

In its research note, "ISO Approval of OASIS OpenDocument is a Blow to Microsoft," Gartner advised vendors to "seek opportunities to leverage ODF." However, it warned that a migration to applications that support ODF could be costly.

"The migration will not be inexpensive, and will involve compatibility issues when exchanging documents with Microsoft Office users. If you need compatibility with Microsoft Office formats or cannot cost-justify a migration, lobby Microsoft to support ODF and look for plug-ins that allow you to open and save ODF files from within Microsoft applications," Gartner advised.

Although Gartner thinks it is unlikely that Microsoft's formats will be approved by ISO, the European Commission seems less sure. A couple of days after OpenDocument's ISO approval, sources at the Commission told ZDNet UK that it is unlikely to recommend the document format "in case we will have two ISO standards at a later point in time."

The aim of all the current wrangling over XML data formats by standards bodies is to try and move towards interoperability among any type of application, including databases, search engines and Web services.

ODF is supported by various applications, including Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, Google's Writely, IBM Workplace and, an open-source spinoff of StarOffice. Microsoft has refused to add ODF support to Microsoft Office, but has agreed to support interoperability with the format.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.