Thursday, May 22, 2008

Microsoft to "Open" Office to More Rival Formats

Microsoft has announced future editions of Microsoft Office, beginning with Office 2007 Service Pack 2, will enable users to choose OpenDocument support as an alternate default option. SP2 is scheduled for the first half of 2009, and will add support for Open Document Format (ODF) 1.1, XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.5, PDF/A.

Microsoft had earlier released a converter that allowed users to open documents saved in ODF format as well as an add-on for Office that allowed users to save documents in PDF format.

However, with SP2, ODF and PDF support will be built directly into Office. Microsoft also said it will continue to collaborate in the ongoing development of the Open XML-ODF translator project on to allow support for Office XP and Office 2003.

In a press release, Chris Capossela, senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division, said:
“We are committed to providing Office users with greater choice among document formats and enhanced interoperability between those formats and the applications that implement them. By increasing the openness of our products and participating actively in the development and maintenance of document format standards, we believe we can help create opportunities for developers and competitors, including members of the open source communities, to innovate and deliver new value for customers.”
While Microsoft spent a lot of time applauding itself, it should be noted that Microsoft is under increasing pressure to support open file formats in Office. In fact, earlier this week, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) said that it has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft. The complaint alleged that Office 2007's lack of native ODF support will block the progress of educational initiatives.

This change, of course, would fix that problem, and prevent the European Commission from having another shot at them.

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