ODF: Microsoft’s Unusual Approach

On July 5, Microsoft announced that it will fund the development of an open source translation tool between Open XML (the default file format for Office 2007) and Open Document Format (ODF).

At first glance this is a somewhat unconventional approach, as opposed to simply developing this capability and building it into its own products. One possible explanation is that Microsoft is making a genuine effort to act in the spirit of openness, by taking a completely hands-off approach to addressing this issue.

Another explanation might be that while Microsoft wants to be seen as supporting open standards, it doesn't want to make it too easy for Office users to interoperate with users of alternative software products that save files as ODF by default. Users who want to read .ODF files will still need to download and install the open source translation component since it will not be part of a standard installation.

In either case, the promise of a translation add-in for Office should come as welcome news to customers. Ironically, the Microsoft announcement should also be welcome news to IBM, which has voiced strong support for ODF in recent months in its own Workplace offerings. If interoperability issues can be eliminated (or at least minimized), organizations will benefit by having more software options, and improvements in product quality will result from increased competition.

... David Via

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