Microsoft may still be riding high from obtaining ISO certification for its OOXML specification in April, because they are now openly offering to support ODF in their Office 2007 productivity software. It's a ploy, some open source camps are whispering. It's about time, says others.
Supporting Open XML
Microsoft achieved ISO 29500 certification for its OOXML specification in April amid much controversy. Official certification is still pending final approval.
What's interesting is that Microsoft's own software doesn't support their specification. According to Microsoft it won't -- until Office 14. And Office 14 isn't expected until late 2009/2010. Tom Robertson, Microsoft's general manager of standards and interoperability said this was because of the amount of work required to ensure backwards compatibility.
Microsoft to Support ODF and PDF Before OOXML
So what do they do to prove their commitment to open standards if they can't support their own specification? They support the alternatives of course.
Microsoft announced this week that they will support the ODF specification and standard PDF specification in the next service pack of Office 2007. Office 2007 SP2 is expected to come out sometime before the end of quarter two next year and it will provide the following capabilities:
* Open, edit and save documents created using the ODF format
* Save documents as PDF (something Google already provides in Google Docs)
Microsoft and Standards Bodies
Microsoft is slated to join a few standards bodies to keep their fingers on the plus of open standards. These include:
* The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards - evolution of ODF
* AIIM - evolution of PDF
* International Standards Organization's working group - evolution of Open XML
* A new emerging working group at ISO to improve the interoperability between ODF and Open XML
In addition, Microsoft has it's own initiative underway called the Document Interoperability Initiative. One of it's goals is to provide a set of standard baseline document libraries for anyone implementing OOXML.
Why Not ODF in the First Place
If it's going to take so long to support their own Open XML standard, why didn't Microsoft just go with the current standard of ODF. If more and more government agencies and other organizations are really looking for software that supports open standards, wouldn't it have been better for Microsoft just to quickly latch on to something already available. This would continue to ensure MS Office remain the primary productivity tool out there.
One really has to wonder how many Microsoft employees (high up and low down) continue to shake their heads in amazement that they have to work so hard to implement a standard that really didn't have to be created.