Microsoft Bows to Pressure to Interoperate with ODF

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-07-06 Print this article Print

The company is setting up an open-source project to create a series of tools that translate between the OpenXML and OpenDocument formats.

Microsoft is giving in to the unrelenting pressure to be more open, particularly with regard to its Office Open XML file format and interoperability with the Open Document Format alternative.

The company will announce July 6 that it has set up an open-source project to create a series of tools that allow translation between the OpenXML format and the ODF format, and which will be developed with partners.

The Open XML Translator project, as it is known, will be posted on SourceForge, the open-source software development Web site.

The goal is to allow open participation and the free use of the software, so the source code will be made available under the BSD license, Jean Paoli, the general manager for interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., told eWEEK.

Microsoft created the project along with three of its partners: IT solution provider Clever Age, which is writing the code, and two ISVs, Aztecsoft, which is testing the code; and Dialogika, which is testing the code in the context of the specific tablets used by European governments internally.

Microsoft's involvement with the project included setting it up, providing technical support and project management, and funding part of it, Paoli said.

The move comes hot on the heels of news that the OpenDocument Foundation planned to present Massachusetts with an Office plug-in that would allow Office users to open, render and save to ODF files, while also allowing translation of documents between Microsoft's binary (.doc, .xls, .ppt) or XML formats and ODF.

Click here to read more about the testing of an ODF plug-in for all versions of Microsoft Office dating back to Office 97.

Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs, noted that Microsoft was not contributing code or providing architectural guidance for the Open XML Translator project.

"There is a balance that needs to be struck between the transparency and the direction the community wants to take a project. By doing it this way we are trying to capture the best of all worlds," he said in an interview.

"Predictable timelines, milestones, deliverables, documentation and testing are things that don't automatically happen. If you look at any of the big, successful open-source projects, they achieve commercial quality because there are commercial players behind them with funding and professional development," Matusow said.

There had also been no regulatory pressure on Microsoft to develop these translation tools, he said, adding that the discussion about interoperability had been going on in Europe for a number of years, "and we take our responsibilities and obligations very seriously on any of these topics of what happens with the government."

In other words, the motivation for the creation of these translation tools was "not about an overwhelming response from enterprises and other customers seeking ODF support," but rather to respond to governmental concerns about being able to communicate with constituents that might choose to make use of the ODF, Matusow said.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Microsoft Bows to Pressure to Interoperate with ODF

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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