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IBM will join the OpenOffice.org community and contribute code and resources, the company announced today. IBM has been a major supporter of the Open Document Format (ODF) which originated at OpenOffice.org, but hadn't yet taken the plunge to help out with the development.
According to a Press FAQ that accompanied the press release, IBM's move to help develop OpenOffice.org is a natural extension of their informal collaboration with the project. "IBM has seen that the marketplace is beginning to demand ODF in a big way. Approximately 100 million people use the product, and governments everywhere are turning to it. A point has been reached in the popularity of both ODF and OpenOffice.org where IBM and OpenOffice.org believe more can be accomplished by collaborating," the release said.
IBM has assigned 35 developers from its Chinese development center to work exclusively on OpenOffice.org. Over time they'll contribute code to enhance the usability, and accessibility features, and overall quality of OpenOffice.org. The process will start with IBM chipping in code it has been working on as part of its Lotus Notes product, including the iAccessible2 accessibility tool.
OpenOffice.org community manager Louis Suarez-Potts says, "As with any new member, it's always important to introduce them to the processes and protocols of working with the distributed community. OpenOffice.org is already working in Beijing, where the IBM developers are located, and I would anticipate that our presence there and current work with Redflag (in Beijing) will help greatly."
As per the FAQ iAccessible2, which was announced earlier this year, is an interface that tells assistive technologies, such as screen readers used by the visually impaired, what is transpiring on browser and software screens. This will help users with visual disabilities to more easily make out text embedded in charts, menus, pictures, pop-ups, and hyperlinks.
The FAQ notes that the code was contributed to the Free Standards Group (now part of Linux Foundation), and companies including Oracle, Sun, and SAP have committed to help further develop the specification. "Mozilla is committed to incorporating it into its Firefox browser, and screen reader vendors GW Micro and Freedom Scientific will also use it in their own products. IBM will also use it in the productivity editors of its Lotus Notes product, which supports ODF," the company release added.
Once the interface is assimilated into OpenOffice.org it'll make ODF more attractive to governments, which often require that the technology they purchase be accessible to all of their users, including the disabled.
The announcement comes a few days after Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) format failed to achieve the required number of votes for approval during the five month ballot period.