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[ossig] Belgian government chooses OpenDocument

>From http://news.com.com/2100-7344_3-6087275.html

In a blow to Microsoft, Belgium's government departments will be
instructed to use an open file format for internal communications. 

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is to be the standard format for
exchanging documents within the government, according to a proposal that
is expected to be approved by Belgium's Council of Ministers on Friday.
The plan increases the pressure from governments worldwide on Microsoft
to embrace open standards. 

>From September 2008 on, all document exchanges within the services of
the Belgian government will have to be in an open, standard format,
according to the proposal. ODF is the only accepted standard in the
proposal. Earlier drafts of the Belgian proposal had put ODF and
Microsoft's own Open XML format (which is to be included in Office 2007)
on equal footing. 

Peter Strickx, general manager for architecture and standards of Fedict,
the organization that coordinates the ICT policy of the Belgian federal
government, commented on the proposal in an interview with ZDNet

"Increasingly, we are seeing e-mail and electronic documents being used
in communication between citizens and the government and between
companies and the government," Strickx said. "To avoid becoming
dependent on any particular supplier, we are moving towards open
standards." A draft of ODF was accepted by the International Standards
Organization (ISO) in May. 

>From September 2008 onwards, Belgium's federal services must use ODF
when exchanging documents, though other formats will still be allowed
for internal use, Strickx confirmed. However, Belgium is leaving the
door open for Open XML. 

"Open XML today does not exist, as there is no product on the market
that supports it. Once it is available as a product and proposed to the
ISO, it is possible that the format will also be accepted," Strickx
said. However, there will be an additional hurdle: Open XML must also be
proven to be easily convertible to and from ODF. 

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This would appear to leave Microsoft with a simple choice: Convince the 
Belgian government that Open XML is an open standard well on the way to
ISO-approval, or support ODF. The latter may be the simpler task, as the
OpenDocument Foundation is already working on a plug-in for Microsoft
Office that would add ODF support. 

However, Strickx would not confirm that the Belgian government is
envisaging a migration away from Microsoft Office and toward software
that supports ODF, such as Open Office. "We are analyzing the impact" of
the move to an open format for document exchange on the internal
software usage, Strickx said. 

Belgium would be the first country to opt for open document standards in
this way. 

According to Strickx, the Belgian strategy is likely to gain a
following. He claimed France and Denmark are considering similar moves.

Dominique Deckmyn of ZDNet Belgium reported from Brussels.

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