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Microsoft trounces pro-ODF forces in state battles over open document formats

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In a resounding victory for Microsoft Corp., bills seeking to mandate the use of open document formats by government agencies have been defeated in five states, and only a much-watered-down version of such legislation was signed into law in a sixth state.

The proposed bills would have required state agencies to use freely available and interoperable file formats, such as the Open Document Format (ODF) for Office Applications, instead of Microsoft Corp.'s proprietary Office formats. The legislation was heavily backed by supporters of ODF such as IBM, which uses the file format in its Notes 8 software, and Sun Microsystems Inc., which sells the ODF-compliant StarOffice desktop applications suite.

But a bill introduced in Connecticut earlier this year met a quick death. And in Florida, Texas and Oregon, would-be laws were all killed off within the last month while being debated in legislative committees, following fierce opposition from Microsoft Corp. lobbyists and allies of the software vendor.

The most recent defeat occurred last Thursday in California, where a tamed-down version of a bill in favor of open formats was declared to be stalled in the state assembly's Committee on Appropriations -– even though the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, chairs the committee.

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