Dominique Deckmyn at ZDNet UK:
The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is to be the standard format for exchanging documents within the Belgian government. This proposal, which is expected to be approved by Belgium’s Council of Ministers on Friday, increases the pressure from governments worldwide on Microsoft to embrace open standards.
From September 2008 onwards, all document exchanges within the services of the Belgian Government will have to be in an open, standard format, according to the proposal now before the Belgian Ministers. Only ODF is accepted as such a standard in the proposal. Earlier drafts of the Belgian proposal had treated ODF and Microsoft’s own Open XML format (which is to be included in Office 2007) on equal footing.
“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,” said Strickx. However, there will be an additional hurdle. Open XML must also be proven to be easily convertible to and from ODF.
This would appear to set Microsoft before 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.
Stranger than fiction – the OpenDocument Foundation may bail Microsoft out. Of course, Microsoft would then be at the mercy of the plug-in authors unless they do their own ODF support which they refuse to do. This plot won’t make the NY Times bestseller list.