Print 14 comment(s) - last by dilz.. on Jul 9 at 11:58 AM

Microsoft and its partners start open source Open XML Translator Project

Microsoft has been in the news a lot recently due to its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) anti-piracy scheme, but the company has a new angle to push today that is decidedly on the positive side. The company will announce that is has started an open-source project to allow interoperability between Open XML, which is used in Office 2007, and the Open Document Format (ODF).

This marks a big change from just a few months ago when Microsoft berated ODF for long load times and greater CPU/memory requirements. A general manager for Microsoft’s information worker strategy was quoted as saying "the use of OpenDocument documents is slower to the point of not really being satisfactory. The Open XML format is designed for performance. XML is fundamentally slower than binary formats, so we have made sure that customers won't notice a big difference in performance." Well, what a difference a few months makes. Unsatisfactory as it may be (to Microsoft); ODF will now get some primetime exposure in Word 2007.

The open source Open XML Translator Project was developed by Microsoft in conjunction with Clever Age, Aztecsoft and Dialogika. Microsoft's main involvement in the project included the initial setup, technical support and partial funding. The prototype Open XML Translator is currently available for download from the SouceForge open-source website and allows users to open and save ODF documents in Word 2007. Versions of the translator will be made available for Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 sometime next year. The translator will also be available in the future to users of older versions of Microsoft Office via an updated Compatibility Pack.

"This project is all about transparency, as there is no translator that is perfect. OpenXML and ODF are very different formats and some hard decisions are going to have to be made when translating from one format to another, like where we have OpenXML features that are not supported in ODF," said Microsoft general manager for interoperability and XML architecture Jean Paoli. Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs went on to say "if one format is put in on one side it will spit out the other format on the other side, in either direction, and that means ISVs or independent research projects can come and take this and make use of it. We want that transparency and the tools to be available to anyone."

It's nice to see Microsoft supporting ODF in Office 2007. Although it's understandable why Microsoft would want to bolster its own Open XML standard, it couldn't ignore the rising popularity of ODF. Also, this news comes just a month after Microsoft announced that it had to remove native PDF support from Office 2007 at Adobe's request.

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By creathir on 7/6/2006 12:45:35 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft, and sourceforge, in the same sentence...

The planets must be aligning today...

- Creathir

RE: Wow...
By dilz on 7/6/2006 12:55:45 PM , Rating: 3
Talk about a 180... We were just debating the merits of OO for home users two days ago, and now this? Are they reading DT?

RE: Wow...
By swim2383 on 7/6/2006 1:03:32 PM , Rating: 2
No, it could have been destroys or crushes. But MS, SF and works with? is a cold day in Portlan..... I mean Hell. =P

And "Microsoft Welcomes...."

Shouldn't it read... "Under threat of death, Microsoft reluctantly accepts @ss p0unding by ODF Fanatics"

I think it's great they are working with open source (Balmer must have thrown a fricking desk across the room when that happened). If the addition was welcomed it would be intergrated and not an extra download. It would also be huge if they open sourced their Office XML. At least that would have been a way to keep their format and appease everyone up in arms.

RE: Wow...
By swim2383 on 7/6/2006 1:27:00 PM , Rating: 2
Office XML .... ugh.. I ment Open XML *spack!*

They really need to add edit (I know it's the 1000th time someone has said that)

RE: Wow...
By Xenoterranos on 7/9/2006 3:28:19 AM , Rating: 2
1000 AND 1, edit function needed.

No kidding, the guys down at sourceforge must have shat themselves when they saw that posted!

20 Years of Using Microsoft products...
By jskirwin on 7/6/2006 2:04:08 PM , Rating: 2
Makes me tend towards the paranoid:

Are we sure this embrace isn't like Microsoft's embrace of Java?

If memory serves, MS did a 180 on Java, then created its own proprietary version of it.

Can we expect the same for OpenDoc?

RE: 20 Years of Using Microsoft products...
By dilz on 7/6/2006 2:42:31 PM , Rating: 2
This brings into question which battle MS would rather choose to fight...

OS (Windows vs. Everything else out there)


Productivity Suite (MSO vs OO)

Choosing to concentrate on numerous, less-powerful opponents sounds similar to strategies such as the Schlieffen Plan or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - both key German attempts to deal with Russia as pre-planning for WWI and WWII, respectively.

Clearly, OO is the larger threat against which action must be delayed. To acknowledge that ODF is a viable format after considering their previous statements is cause for concern. Like you point out MS has done with Java, their sudden display of passivity is alarming, and is worthy of close and continued scrutiny.

RE: 20 Years of Using Microsoft products...
By Xenoterranos on 7/9/2006 3:29:10 AM , Rating: 2
As long as MS doesn't attack OO in the dead of a Russian winter, they should be ok.

By dilz on 7/9/2006 11:58:24 AM , Rating: 2
I'm glad someone understood the historical reference... :)

Microsoft... for shame...
By meyerds on 7/6/2006 7:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone else feeling the hair rise on the back of their necks? Typical Microsoft - this is not just something to satisfy the wants of enthusiasts that are "clamoring for ODF support". Anyone else been reading Anand's news for the last six months?

Practically every European government is now putting a requirement in effect for the exclusive use of ODF. If Microsoft didn't support that format, they'd loose a huge chunk of market share. In other words, same old Microsoft. They are only interested in making money, not in making use of the true benefits of Open Source.

I believe we can expect the same kind of 180 from Microsoft in this area as we have seen in Java (as was mentioned) and many other areas. Macintosh, anyone? Microsoft saw a threat in their market with Macintosh and the desktop platform. Microsoft entered the Macintosh market long ago with their software, with the long term goal of eventually putting Microsoft on EVERY COMPUTER in the world. Now we are seeing the consequences. Macintosh computers now run Microsoft Operating Systems, and have large amounts of Microsoft software on them. Who's the next threat to Microsoft's dominance? Linux/Open Source.

Let's hope ODF can hold up to Microsoft's tendency to take over anything they get themselves into.

RE: Microsoft... for shame...
By gco2101 on 7/6/2006 11:10:46 PM , Rating: 2
The recent advent of BootCamp/PW conveniently makes your glaring oversimplification at least half true. Your statements make it sound as though Macs ship with Windows XP as the primary OS, which is obviously not the case.

IMO, the entire evil/not-evil debate about uSoft makes very little sense. It is a profit-maximizing firm, just like any other firm, just like ben and jerry's ice cream. The debate being held here about Microsoft's motivation to embrace ODF is irrelevant and misses out on the actually rich and thought-provoking areas of this issue. Microsoft is embracing ODF because it thinks it is a good business decision. Put alternately, Microsoft would not embrace ODF if they thought it was a bad idea. End of discussion. But, the more interesting parts of this are being sidelined... specifically,

--what has changed in the business climate, as perceived by Microsoft, to make this a profit-maximizing move?

--the response of an OS company (a double-whammy natural monopoly because of negligable marginal cost of production and increasing returns to consumers based on increasing share in the marketplace) to international regulations that results in more competition-friendly moves like this.

Natural monopolies must be regulated. It's the first thing they teach you in firm theory, and it is not against "laissez-faire" economic theory. Europe is doing the precisely correct thing to continue to regulate Microsoft and produce changes in this manner.

RE: Microsoft... for shame...
By meyerds on 7/6/2006 11:38:45 PM , Rating: 2
yes, perhaps I was oversimplifying/dramatizing the macintosh situation, however the facts are still presented to us that Apple will be providing the means for people to run a Microsoft Operating System on the Macintosh computer as a primary OS. Analysts (such as PC Magazine's John Dvorak) agree that it will become fairly mainstream for Mac users to have a Microsoft OS on their computers in the future. It is even likely that many third parties will be providing Macs with a Microsoft OS pre-installed.

Yes, I'm as capitolist as anyone else (perhaps moreso than the average American), and well understand economic workings such as monopolies. Perhaps you misunderstood me. I was not accusing Microsoft of unfair business practice because of their monopoly status, nor was I chiding them for wanting to make money. I believe every business/enterprise has the right to make money in any legal means.

My point was that the entire point of Open Source software and document formats is to provide a freely distributable and community-revisable products/formats. Looking back at Microsoft's track record for getting involved in these types of things (Java, unix/SCO, Macintosh, etc.) is that Microsoft absorbs or replaces whatever it begins by saying it will support. The end result many times is that Microsoft's version of the product becomes the standard as a result of widespread availability and use and the origional community-available format is supersceded.

While this may improve products faster, as Microsoft has the resources to do that, what it also does is discourage the community aspect of Open Source that, well, makes it "Open Source". That is my objection.

By Alphafox78 on 7/6/2006 5:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
What happened to adding save as PDF? I know there was some issue there, are they adding it? that would actually be usefull, im not sure how usefull the open format is, right now at least. how many other apps use it?

By rrsurfer1 on 7/7/2006 10:16:38 AM , Rating: 2
Last I heard it will be available as a free download on the office web site - but will not be included with Office due to Adobe's complaining.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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