Google backs OpenDocument format

Google has joined a U.S.-based lobbying group supporting the use of the OpenDocument file format (ODF).

The search engine company officially became a member of the Washington-based ODF Alliance on Saturday, according to Marino Marcich, managing director of the group.

Google officials did not respond to a request for comment. But Marcich called Google's decision to join "a natural fit, given Writely's support for ODF and further indication of momentum behind ODF."

Writely is an online word-processing program acquired by Google in the spring. The still-in-beta product lets multiple users create and edit the same document in real time through their Web browsers. Along with other software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, Writely is being touted by some as a possible long-term competitor to Microsoft Word. Google also recently launched an online spreadsheet program, Google Spreadsheets. That application does not support OpenDocument.

The ODF Alliance claims more than 240 members. Half are technology vendors, including founding members IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat and Novell. The other half comprise government bodies, nonprofit groups and academic institutions, according to Marcich. Companies can join the alliance without donating money.

ODF is an open XML file format that was accepted by the International Standards Organization as a standard in May. It is being adopted by the state government in Massachusetts, and in Denmark and Belgium for official governmental use.

Microsoft is proffering its Open XML format for acceptance as a standard by the European Computer Manufacturers Association, though it has declined to make Open XML, the standard format for the upcoming Office 2007, compliant with ODF. Last week it said it would support the creation of a third-party plug-in to enable Microsoft Office to read and save ODF files.

Other Web-based SaaS applications that open or save files in ODF include the AjaxOffice productivity suite, the iRows.com spreadsheet and the ZohoWriter word processor.

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Eric Lai

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