Microsoft initiative to support ODF, everybody wins

Microsoft has announced that they have started an initiative to support ODF in Office 2007 by launching an open source project for the development of free downloadable add-ins for the new Office 2007 and older versions

Microsoft Expands Document Interoperability

… Expanding on its customer-focused commitment to interoperability, Microsoft Corp. today announced the creation of the Open XML Translator project. The project, developed with partners, will create tools to build a technical bridge between the Microsoft® Office Open XML Formats and the OpenDocument Format (ODF). This work is in response to government requests for interoperability with ODF because they work with constituent groups that use that format. In addition to being made available as free, downloadable add-ins for several older versions of the Microsoft Office system, the translation tools will be developed and licensed as open source software. The translation tools will be broadly available to the industry for use with other individual or commercial projects to accelerate document interoperability and expand customer choice between Open XML and other technologies. ..

I don’t see this as Microsoft giving in to outside pressure or something like that. The comparison between ODF and Open XML is an apples and oranges discussion to a certain extend. When I say everybody wins I also think Microsoft made a smart move, because it sort of eliminates a competitive argument as well. Supporting ODF will no longer be a key competitive differentiator in certain solutions / markets; I would say the ability to support both / all standards (Microsoft Office standards, Open XML, ODF, PDF, etc.) will be …Microsoft will of course continue to drive with Open XML, simply because it is a much broader solution compared to ODF:

…Open XML and ODF were designed to meet very different customer requirements. By developing the bidirectional translation tools through an open source project, the technical decisions and tradeoffs necessary will be transparent to everyone — Open XML and ODF advocates alike. The Open XML formats are unique in their compatibility and fidelity to billions of Office documents, helping protect customers’ intellectual investments. Open XML formats are also distinguished by their approach to accessibility support for disabled workers, file performance and flexibility to empower organizations to access and integrate their own XML data with the documents they use every day. In contrast, ODF focuses on more limited requirements, is architected very differently and is now under review in OASIS subcommittees to fill key gaps such as spreadsheet formulas, macro support and support for accessibility options. As a result, certain compromises and customer disclosures will be a necessary part of translating between the two formats. …

… Additional information about Microsoft’s customer-focused interoperability commitment, including an open letter titled “A Foundation for the New World of Documents” by Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division Product Management Group at Microsoft, may be found online….