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Another Win for OpenDocument Format in the Making

ODF and Accessibility



Some months ago we wrote about Wikipedia's embrace of OpenDocument format. This actually had Boycott Novell placed at the front page of OpenOffice.org for quite a long time. Here comes what seems like yet another encouraging sign from those who manage literature digitally.



Many people have no access to most published books. European researchers are trying to remedy this by adapting new technologies to provide accessibility on demand for the visually impaired.

[...]

The partners from the project are also trying to set up a new entity that will use the Open Document Format to provide publishers with the ability to electronically plug in to the system and get their books automatically formatted for accessibility.


As Mr. Korn exclaimed quite a long time ago, ODF is optimal for accommodation of these special needs. Microsoft spread a lot of FUD which revolved around the accessibility factor, so this is important.

OOXML on the Ice



OOXML suffered some defeats recently, with the exception of Microsoft-obedient ISVs. InternetNews doesn't sound very optimisic.

With a national standards body criticizing the ISO's process for approving OOXML, will Microsoft's quest for standards status survive?


The Forgotten Link



How easy it is to forget that the world's largest population, whose representative votes "No" to OOXML, has its own document format, which ODF and OOXML competed to build a bridge with. The following little gem from Microsoft's latest vapourware announcement [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (the one before Windows 7apourware) is definitely worth noting.

The Office update will also bring support for Uniform Office Format (UOF), the national document file format standard used in China, Microsoft says.


Half-hearted Support



There is always the possibility that Microsoft does not have a malicious agenda (well, it has investors, so...) and that it is really serious about supporting ODF (version 1.0, how come?), but come to also recognise the fact that Microsoft is pressured from many directions to change its attitude.

Historically, Microsoft has eschewed interoperability — developers of rival office suites, such as OpenOffice.org, have had to decipher Microsoft’s proprietary file formats to support them in their own products.

In recent years, though, Microsoft has come under growing pressure, from regulators and customers (especially governments), to be less hostile to open standards. The jury is still out about whether it is prepared to embrace open standards fully, or whether it will merely pay lip service to the idea, while working behind the scenes to poison and subvert those standards.


We might not know for at least another year what Microsoft has in mind. The development process of Microsoft Office, for example, is not at all transparent. Even cautious optimism seems slightly premature.

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