Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hurray! Microsoft to Support Open Document Formats

This is very good news indeed. Far too many school districts are in love with spending taxpayer money needlessly on vendor-specific products usually to the detriment of the community.

Now, even districts who think they're using superior vendor products because it costs money will no longer be able to force teachers, parents, and students to go out and buy that product just to be able to keep themselves from looking poor.

Here's the news announcement;

Microsoft to Support OpenDocument by Nate Mook, BetaNews, July 6, 2006, 2:19 AM

Although it was reported in May that the OpenDocument Foundation was working on a compatibility plug-in, Microsoft's decision to spearhead the effort is quite an about-face for the Redmond company. OpenDocument has become a thorn in Microsoft's side, with a number of governments looking to move to standardized document formats.

The release of 2.0 finally provided a viable and free alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite, as well as bringing OpenDocument into the limelight. ODF is backed by the OASIS standards body and was certified by the International Standards Organization (ISO). The state of Massachusetts turned up the heat last September, announcing plans to switch to ODF and by January 1, 2007.

Microsoft responded to the public pressure by developing its own Open XML formats, which it has submitted to European standards body Ecma for certification. The company has long said it would not support OpenDocument, claiming a lack of interest from customers and noting the necessity for backwards compatibility with older Microsoft Office versions.

However, Microsoft is now acknowledging the importance of interoperability and says it wants to make choice an option for its customers.

"We believe that Open XML meets the needs of millions of organizations for a new approach to file formats, so we are sharing it with the industry by submitting it, with others, to become a worldwide standard," said Microsoft XML architect Jean Paoli. "Yet it is very important that customers have the freedom to choose from a range of technologies to meet their diverse needs."

By providing a downloadable add-in that enables customers to import OpenDocument files and export to the format, Microsoft is also making Office 2007 a possibility for businesses and governments like Massachusetts that do opt to switch to ODF. But the translation will not be seamless, the company concedes.

The OpenOffice suite of tools can be downloaded free from here.

No comments: