“Instead of either/or, we’re enabling interoperability between various document standards” -- Gerd Schürmann, Fraunhofer FOKUS

I was catching up on my RSS feeds after a busy few days, and came across references from Brian Jones and Stephen McGibbon to this press release:

Convened by Gerd Schürmann, head of the eGovernment unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS in Berlin, the 'Translation of Document Formats' Working Group of DIN's Information Technology Standardization Committee has now taken up its work. This new Working Group will create an in-depth Technical Report detailing how to translate between the two document standards Office Open XML (Ecma 376) and ODF 1.0 (ISO/IEC 26300) in order to support interoperability between the two formats.

The Working Group is open and is inviting international experts who would like to contribute to the Working Group’s findings. PC-Ware Information Technologies AG, Microsoft Deutschland GmbH, OPENLiMiT Holding AG and Dialogika GmbH already accepted DIN’s invitation to contribute to the Working Group.

Two standards are currently exist for the storage and exchange of electronic documents, spreadsheets and presentations: Office Open XML supported by the ECMA standardization organization, and ODF 1.0 developed by OASIS. Both formats are XML-based but differ in their structure and schema and reflect different purposes and market requirements.

“Today there’s no longer any reason why we should have to make a straight choice between the two standards,” says Gerd Schürman, head of the eGovernment unit at Fraunhofer FOKUS discussing the aims of the Group. “This is the precise point of departure for the ‘Translation of Document Formats’ Working Group which aims to describe how interoperability between the two formats can be achieved. We know from the scenarios of the Fraunhofer FOKUS eGovernment Lab just how important it is to allow for the coexistence of a variety of open standards – and we can prove that seamless workflows involving a range of different technologies, products and standards are truly possible in the real world.”

Wow. An actual results-oriented approach to document formats that doesn't require labeling various options as "good" or "evil"! This is great news for those who see document formats as simply tools for getting a job done. May cooler heads prevail.