Sun Microsystems Corp has floated a series of XML-based specifications designed to crack-open Microsoft Corp's Office monopoly and improve interoperability with StarOffice.
Sun has lined-up partners to form a technical committee at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) that will drive the proposed formats.
Joining Sun are Corel Corp, XML publishing specialist Arbortext Inc, standards specialist Drake Certivo Inc and aircraft giant Boeing Corp among others.
Sun's goal is to successfully challenge Microsoft's monopoly of desktop productivity suites using StarOffice 6.0, which will ultimately support the formats. The file formats are already used in OpenOffice 1.0, the basis of StarOffice 6.0.
Vendors like Corel, meanwhile, are hoping for a larger slice of the desktop pie with increased interoperability between their own suites and those from Microsoft and Sun.
Sun said the OASIS Open Office XML Format Technical Committee's work would enable exchange of data in XML-based formats while retaining a "high-level" of formatting between text, spreadsheets, charts and graphs.
Only one vital piece of the puzzle is missing - Microsoft. Sun said it has invited Microsoft to join, but that it is "not optimistic". Simon Marks, Product Manager for Microsoft Office, said in a statement that Microsoft is still evaluating the offer.
Should Microsoft decide not to join, Sun believes it can ultimately force the company to the standards table - and "teach Microsoft a lesson" - as its share of the desktop productivity market is whittled away.
Office's market share could come under pressure as customers, who are unhappy with Microsoft's latest licensing program, switch to low-cost offerings from rivals such as Sun and Corel.
Microsoft, an OASIS member, said it sees "no benefits" to joining as its customers will have "great" XML support in its planned Office 11 product. Microsoft said the company supports XML Schema Datatypes (XSD) 1.0, and anything that the technical committee develops will work with Office 11. That version of the suite will use XSD 1.0.
However, Joerg Heilig, Sun director of software engineering, said Sun's proposed formats do not use XSD 1.0. Heilig said they use "standard" XML and existing standards such as Mathematical Mark-up Language (MathML) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).