The federal government of Belgium plans to switch to the Open Document Format (ODF) by September 2008.
The move could bode ill for Microsoft, since the company’s Office products do not support the format. Belgium is aiming to prevent a vendor lock-in, allowing the state to access data with any application that supports the open format. It is the first nation to openly embrace ODF. The State of Massachusetts revealed in September that it would start mandating government agencies to support the format by January 2007. ODF is defined by the Oasis standards body and has been ratified by the International Organisation for Standardisation as an official international standard. The format is supported by several applications including OpenOffice. Microsoft will be using the OpenXML document format in its forthcoming Office 12 suite. Microsoft could change the standard in the future, making it impossible for users to access their documents.