Microsoft today announced the availability of Service Pack 2 for Office 2007. What’s in it for Office 2007 users?
Users should notice the improved performance and stability of Outlook, better charting functionality in Excel, and more control over the appearance of SmartArt graphics.
On the server side, IT professionals will notice several enhancements to the security and performance of SharePoint Server 2007, including support for read-only content databases, improvements to forms-based authentication, and an STSADM command-line utility that enables administrators to scan sites that use the variations feature for errors. SharePoint Server will also feature better support for newer versions of the Firefox browser.
Also, having a wider array of file-format choices should really benefit customers. With SP2, Office 2007 now has built-in support for Open XML, ODF and PDF, along with the dozen or so other formats that were already supported in Office 2007.
Office 2007 users can download SP2 right away or wait for it via Microsoft Update where it will appear "no sooner than three months from now, and with at least 30 days notice."
Microsoft has given up on the third party translator route to support the Open Document Format (ODF) for office documents that is so beloved by governments and open standards advocates. Office 2007 SP2 scheduled for 1H2009 is now slated to have built-in support for ODF:
The 2007 Microsoft Office system already provides support for 20 different document formats within Microsoft Office Word, Office Excel and Office PowerPoint. With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) scheduled for the first half of 2009, the list will grow to include support for XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.5, PDF/A and Open Document Format (ODF) v1.1.
When using SP2, customers will be able to open, edit and save documents using ODF and save documents into the XPS and PDF fixed formats from directly within the application without having to install any other code. It will also allow customers to set ODF as the default file format for Office 2007. To also provide ODF support for users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office (Office XP and Office 2003), Microsoft will continue to collaborate with the open source community in the ongoing development of the Open XML-ODF translator project on SourceForge.net.
In addition, Microsoft has defined a road map for its implementation of the newly ratified International Standard ISO/IEC 29500 (Office Open XML). IS29500, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in March, is already substantially supported in Office 2007, and the company plans to update that support in the next major version release of the Microsoft Office system, code-named “Office 14.”
Open Office XML (OOXML) which was approved as an ISO standard in April, is almost but not quite the native document format of Office 2007, so some touch-up is required.
The official results won’t be released until tomorrow, but Microsoft today claimed victory in their prolonged effort to get their Office Open XML document format declared an ISO standard:
After more than 14 months of intensive review, a Joint Technical Committee of the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has concluded its formal process to evaluate Ecma International’s submission of the Draft International Standard (DIS) 29500: Office Open XML (Open XML).
While the final vote has not yet been announced formally, publicly available information appears to indicate the proposed Open XML standard received extremely broad support. According to documents available on the Internet, 86 percent of all voting national body members support ISO/IEC standardization, well above the 75 percent requirement for formal acceptance under ISO and IEC rules. In addition, 75 percent of the voting Participating national body members (known as P-members) support standardization, also well above the 66.7 percent requirement for this group. Open XML now joins HTML, PDF and ODF as ISO- and IEC-recognized open document format standards.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but a variety of leaks from the national standards bodies who got the results today indicate that the long nasty battle is over. Except for Neelie Kroes and the EU Competition Cops of course.
Microsoft is predictably ecstatic that they won’t get beat out of government and other contracts where office software is required to save documents in formats defined by “open standards,” but the continued bad vibes associated with the way this 6,000 page standards monstrosity was jammed through the “fast track” process will continue to rankle. Microsoft promises to implement the standard now known as IS 29500 (which differs and will differ further from the Open XML implemented in Office 2007) in the next version of Microsoft Office. It will be interesting to see if anyone else attempts it.
Update (April 2, 2008): The official announcement.
Charles Forelle reported on Friday for The Wall Street Journal that the European Union Competition Commission is investigating the odd circumstances surrounding Microsoft’s unsuccessful effort to get the Office Open XML (OOXML) document format approved as an ISO/IEC standard.
European regulators are examining whether Microsoft Corp. violated antitrust laws during a struggle last year to ratify its Office software file format as an international standard.
European Union antitrust officials have asked Microsoft for information about its activities in the standards-setting process — an early step in an investigation — and are stepping up scrutiny of the issue, according to people familiar with the matter.
In the months and weeks leading up to the vote, Microsoft resellers and other allies joined standards bodies en masse — helping swell the Italian group, for instance, from a half-dozen members to 85. Opponents said Microsoft stacked committees. People familiar with the matter say EU regulators are now questioning whether Microsoft’s actions were illegal.
Among the potential legal theories being examined by the EU is whether alleged attempts by Microsoft to pressure countries to ratify the Office standard amounted to an undue stifling of competition.
We mentioned some of the hanky panky at the time, but never imagined that it might be considered fodder for the antitrust watchdogs. However, it dovetails neatly with the latest EU Microsoft investigations (which include OOXML) and nothing is beyond the purview of a modern bureaucrat.