OpenDocument Alliance ranks surge, favorable ISO vote imminent

A group tasked with promoting the OpenDocument file standard on a global level has quadrupled its membership and handlers now expect a favorable vote when it comes time for ISO certification next month.

This week, the OpenDocument file standard continued its upward trend after a group that was formed to support its growth within the public sector revealed that membership had quadrupled since its inception just one month ago.

The OpenDocument Format Alliance (ODF Alliance), which began with 36 members in March, now counts amongst its ranks some 138 members from throughout the world, including founding members IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp.

The group also unveiled that Marino Marcich, a former senior official at the U.S. Department of State, would assume the role of managing director of the group. Prior to joining the ODF Alliance, Marcich was also a vice president of Dutko Global Advisors, an international strategy and management firm.

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Ken Wasch, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Software & Information Industry Association, said that in addition to continued vendor and open source support, the ODF Alliance had also seen an up tick in support from state governments and municipalities.

"This diverse support grows everyday and ranges from the City of Bloomington, Indiana and the National Archives of Australia to the Indian Institute of Technology and the Bristol City Council," he said.

Boston-based intellectual property attorney Andy Updegrove, who has followed the ODF debate since early 2005 and maintains an open standards blog at ConsortiumInfo.org, said the hiring of a managing director indicated a degree of commitment and longevity for the initiative, as it is difficult to attract good talent for transient efforts.

Updegrove also believed the European connections, like the Bristol City Council, were particularly apt, as active and public interest in open standards and open source software is much higher in European governmental agencies than in the U.S. counterparts, where support for and adoption of open source software is ongoing but less visible.

However, Updegrove pointed out that while the official release from the ODF Alliance did not include a great deal of additional information about the specific plans or updates in everyday operations, the group did state that the group had engaged in a global lobbying effort for approval of the ODF by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

According to Wasch, the ODF Alliance is now supporting adoption of the ODF as a worldwide standard of the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The six month approval ballot began November 1, 2005, and ends May 1, 2006. The ODF Alliance and its members have contacted various national voting entities recommending approval and are optimistic of a positive outcome.

"From what I understand from other sources, a favorable vote, perhaps involving the participation of an unusually high percentage of eligible members, is not in doubt," Updegrove said.

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