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Google joins ODF lobby to turn up heat on Microsoft

Antony Savvas

Google has joined the lobbying group supporting the use of the OpenDocument file format (ODF), designed to challenge the proprietary data formats from Microsoft.

Google has put its considerable lobbying and financial weight behind the Washington-based ODF Alliance, as the battle lines between Google and Microsoft draw closer.

Microsoft is already worried that the free web-based productivity services offered to users by Google are a threat to its paid-for desktop applications.

The search giant has now joined an organisation that warns of the perils of data lock-in as a result of using data formats in Microsoft applications. 

The support for the ODF Alliance is a natural fit for Google, however, as it already distributes the OpenOffice.org open source productivity suite to users. This suite integrates with the ODF standard.

Google also recently acquired the Writely on-line word-processing program, which allows multiple users to create and edit the same document in real-time through their web browsers. This program works to the ODF standard too.

Writely is seen as a possible challenger to Microsoft’s dominant Microsoft Word program.

ODF is an open XML file format that is already being adopted by the state of Massachusetts in the US, and by governmental bodies in Denmark, Belgium and India.

These governments have all expressed concern that solely relying on Microsoft software may make it harder in the future to freely distribute data to employees and the wider public, because of licensing and technical issues.

The ODF Alliance has around 250 members, which include IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat and Novell, along with a number of government bodies.

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