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Sun's McNealy Calls for Merger of ODF and China's UOF

by Andy Updegrove, Consortium Info
I'm speaking at a couple of conferences in Beijing, the first of which is called WTO and IPR's: Issues in Standardization, convened by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) and Sun Microsystems, and supported by a half dozen other Chinese Ministries, Councils and Commissions. One of the keynote speakers today was Scott McNealy, the Chairman of both Sun Microsystems and Sun Federal, Inc., Sun's government sales arm.   The overall focus of the conference is intellectual property rights (the IPRs in the conference title), a topic of more than usually current interest, given that the US brought a formal complaint against China before the World Trade Organization (the WTO in the conference title) last week, charging China with inadequate efforts to police infringement of IPR. Only a few days thereafter, China enacted laws that would decrease by half the number of copies of pirated content that would constitute "serious" (from 1,000 down to 500), and from "very serious" (from 5,000 to 2,500), and more significantly, dramatically increase the penalties for doing so. Presumably each side was aware of the other's intended actions, so the new Chinese legislation is likely intended more as a public refutation of US charges rather than a concession likely to take the complaint off the WTO's table.   But the conference is also timely in that McNealy took a meaningful amount of time during his presentation to note that there are (in his words) three main document formats in existence today: Microsoft Office, Open Document Format (ODF) and China's Uniform Office Format (UOF). And he also called for the last two to be merged.

What is significant about his statement is not the sentiment, as a harmonization or merger of the two formats has been a topic of conversation and speculation for some time. OASIS, for example, chartered a working group some months ago to explore with the Chinese how the two formats might be brought closer. But until now, ODF proponents have been shy about placing any pressure on the Chinese to take any such action, not unlike someone who very much wants to be asked on a date, but is afraid to scare off the object of affection by being too forward.

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