Faced with increasing pressure from public bodies worried that storing documents in proprietary formats could lead to future problems Microsoft is submmitting its file formats to a European standards body.
Massachusetts recently cited concerns about its future ability to access documents as a reason to move away from Microsoft products. It is asking all agencies to move to applications supporting OpenDocument standards by 1 January 2007. Earlier this year Massacheutts got a special licensing deal out of Microsoft covering Word and Excel documents - more info here.
Microsoft will submit its Office XML format technology to standards body Ecma International. It will also "make available tools" to ensure old documents are accessible.
Microsoft is "fast-tracking" the application, according to the International Herald Tribune, which may result in the standard being accepted by the ISO next year - before Microsoft's next big Office launch.
The move is supported by several Microsoft pals including Apple, Intel, NextPage and the British Library.