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November 12, 2004 8:09 pm

IBM set to back open-source proposals

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IBM is expected to add its weight to the debate on open computing standards on Monday, backing European Commission proposals that all word processing and other office software used by governments across Europe be standardised and interoperable.

The move will put additional pressure on Microsoft to open up its proprietary Office software suite, or risk being excluded from orders by government departments across Europe.

The Commission has been pushing to ensure that all EU citizens can access public sector documents without being tied to a particular company or software system.

It has asked software companies to ensure their products conform to an agreed standard. A letter written on one type of word processing programme, for example, should be able to be opened and read using another.

A number of open source software programs - such as Sun Microsystem's OpenOffice.org - are moving towards this kind of standardisation. However, Microsoft has been more reluctant to modify its applications or submit code to international standards bodies.

Microsoft's Office suite is currently the dominant software, used on more than 90 per cent of the world's PCs. However, a number of public bodies, such as the French Ministry of the Interior and the City of Munich in Germany, have recently moved to alternative software.

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