IBM had added its support to the emerging Open Document format in a new release of its Workplace Managed Client application.

Version 2.6 of Workplace will include import, export, and rewrite functions for files written in ODF version 1.0, covering word processing, graphics and spreadsheets. It will also continue to support Microsoft Office file formats.

Although Microsoft Office holds a commanding lead in the market, recent official decisions to move to open standards from countries such as China, Brazil and India has created demand for new productivity programmes.

But it was the decision by the State of Massachusetts to shift to open formats that pushed Microsoft into action. The software giant announced last month that it had decided to make Office itself an "open standard", called OpenXML. However expert review of the terms and conditions on offer revealed that Microsoft has given away very little.

IBM wants a piece of the new open-standard action. "Emerging economies and governments are embracing open standards software because of cost savings," said a spokesperson. Open standards "could be a catalyst for our Workplace business".

ODF 1.0, recently ratified by OASIS, is an XML-based specification for saving and exchanging office documents. The biggest benefit of it is reliable access to their own data, according to IBM officials.

Rather than paying licensing fees every few years to upgrade their proprietary productivity software, customers who adopt the ODF standard can break free of the product-upgrade cycle.