Microsoft's embrace of ODF cautiously welcomed

Support for ODF could mean greater opportunities for software makers

Microsoft's support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) could mean greater opportunities for software makers already using the format, observers said Thursday.

Microsoft will put native support for ODF as part of its next service pack for Office 2007, due out by the first half of 2009. The surprise decision came as Microsoft's faces continued regulatory scrutiny from the European Commission over interoperability concerns.

The Commission said in a statement Thursday that it welcomes steps Microsoft takes toward "genuine" interoperability and that it would analyze the latest announcement to see how it impacts consumers' software choices.

In January, the Commission opened two new antitrust investigations against Microsoft concerning the interoperability of Windows with other software and the company's practice of bundling software products with Windows.

At least one office software maker thinks Microsoft's turnaround on ODF will mean more flexibility for software buyers. The ability to save in ODF in Microsoft Office could give users more confidence to switch to OpenOffice.org, a free open-source suite, said John McCreesh, spokesman for OpenOffice.org.

"The whole purpose of having an open standard is to give people freedom of choice," McCreesh said. "It means we have a level playing field, which is what it's all about."

Of course, those users could migrate to Microsoft from OpenOffice.org, too, McCreesh said.

A looming concern is if Microsoft's implementation of ODF within Office will handle documents with the same or better performance as competing suites. Microsoft has been criticized for embracing a particular standard but using subtle means within its software to subvert it.

Those concerns aside, one organization that has been particularly critical of Microsoft also welcomed the news. Wider user of ODF through Office could also give a boost to competing operating systems such as Linux, said the Free Software Foundation Europe.

"The move to support ODF, if genuine, would remove one of the most effective barriers for migration to GNU/Linux on the desktop," wrote Georg C.F. Greve, spokesman for the organization, in an e-mail. "The Microsoft desktop monopoly would be unlikely to continue in such a situation and millions of computer users would enjoy genuine freedom of choice."

Despite years of bitter criticism, Microsoft resisted putting native support for ODF in Office, instead supporting projects to create translators. Sun Microsystems developed one of those translators, which allows users to save in ODF in Microsoft Office 2003.

Microsoft also chose to push its Office Open XML (OOXML) format, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in April. Opponents of OOXML said Microsoft's specification would unnecessarily splinter and complicate office software productivity products.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it would not implement ISO standard 29500, as the approved OOXML version is known, in Office 2007 but instead the next version of the program, known as Office 14.

That means ODF will have a few years' head start on the ISO's approved OOXML standard. Microsoft hasn't set a date for release of Office 14. Office 2007 was released first to business users in November 2006.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?