Microsoft’s announcement that it would back the Open XML Translator project, and bridge the gap between Office 2007 and OpenDocument Format as an open source initiative, had been hinted at in October 2005.
It was Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s new chief software architect as well as the inventor of Lotus Notes, who let slip the suggestion that an ODF plugin for Microsoft Office would be developed.
That’s the contention of Andy Updegrove, who follows standards issues on his ConsortiumInfo blog. He noted in an email that as recently as May 19th of this year, Microsoft continued to withhold information on the project.
That was the date Microsoft replied to a state of Massachusetts request for information on plugins. With ODF gaining popularity, and public attention, in Europe, it appears Microsoft chose to follow that with its announcement.
This may also have been an attempt to generate some good press for the company before the European Commission decides whether or not Microsoft should be fined for failing to comply with antitrust rulings.
Updegrove cited Microsoft’s action as a “concession” to interoperability desired by users at the government level:
Critics of the Massachusetts (and Danish, French and Belgian) initiative will now know that not only will Massachusetts government workers and the keepers of public records be able to easily exchange documents, but those with disabilities may simply continue to use Office as their peers convert to ODF software, later changing over themselves when accessibility tools for ODF software become available.”
Microsoft’s capitulation on building an ODF plugin became news last week. The company announced the creation of the project, and made a download of a Word 2007 prototype available.
Despite the concession, Microsoft did not let the fight end without tossing a late jab at ODF:
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.