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OASIS grabs Sun XML file format

Sun Microsystems is contributing the XML file format specification utilized in the OpenOffice.org 1.0 project to a new technical committee recently formed by the OASIS standards body. The new committee (called the OASIS Open Office XML Format Technical Committee) was formed to ''advance an open, XML-based file format spec for office applications.''

Basically, that's also the goal of OpenOffice.org, an open-source software project with deep roots in the Sun organization. The Open Office productivity software suite evolved from StarOffice, which was created by StarDivision, a German company acquired by Sun in 1999. Beginning with StarOffice 6.0, the product is being built using the OpenOffice.org source, APIs, file formats, and reference implementation, according to Sun. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is contributing the specs under reciprocal royalty-free terms.

OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) is a not-for-profit organization focusing on the development and adoption of worldwide standards for security, Web services, XML conformance, business transactions, electronic publishing, topic maps and interoperability within and between marketplaces. The group boasts a membership of more than 500 companies and individuals in 100 countries around the world.

''Our goal is to achieve consensus on an open standard that will protect content, whether it is an 800-page airplane specification or a legal contract -- from being locked into a proprietary file format,'' said Sun's Michael Brauer, chair of the committee. ''A standard method for processing and interchanging office documents will enable companies to own their data and freely choose tools to view and edit information long after originating applications have come and gone.''

Initially, the new committee will focus on standardizing data for content creation and management applications. Subsequent phases will address simplifying the exchange of data between any application that utilizes XML, which may include business processes, Web services, databases, search engines and other applications.

The big idea here is to develop an office file format that allows documents created in one application to be opened in other applications, with no affect on the layout or formatting. How this would affect Microsoft's dominant position in the office software market remains to be seen. The Redmond software maker is a member of OASIS, but said in a statement last week that it will not initially take part in the work of the committee. The company announced recently that the next version of its Office suite, Office 11, will be heavily reliant on XML.

''By leading the initiative to help advance office productivity using open, XML formats, Sun further underscores its commitment to open standards, open source technology and open file formats,'' said Sun VP Curtis Sasaki.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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