The press release, though, is titled Microsoft Expands Document Interoperability:
Expanding on its customer-focused commitment to interoperability, Microsoft Corp. today announced the creation of the Open XML Translator project. The project, developed with partners, will create tools to build a technical bridge between the Microsoft® Office Open XML Formats and the OpenDocument Format (ODF). This work is in response to government requests for interoperability with ODF because they work with constituent groups that use that format. In addition to being made available as free, downloadable add-ins for several older versions of the Microsoft Office system, the translation tools will be developed and licensed as open source software. The translation tools will be broadly available to the industry for use with other individual or commercial projects to accelerate document interoperability and expand customer choice between Open XML and other technologies.
The latest such government was that of Belgium where it oddly enough appeared that the OpenDocument Foundation was going to save Microsoft’s bacon by providing translators just like those Microsoft is now proposing to develop.
Microsoft is developing the translation tools in collaboration with the France-based IT solution provider Clever Age and several independent software vendors, including Aztecsoft in India and Dialogika in Germany. A prototype version of the first translator added to Word 2007 will be posted today on the open source software development Web site SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net/projects/odf-converter), under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, where anyone can submit bugs and feedback or contribute to the project. The complete version of the Word translation tool is expected to be available free from the download site by the end of 2006, with add-ins for Excel and PowerPoint expected in 2007. Older versions of Office will have access to the translation tool via a free Compatibility Pack, which also provides free updates to enable Open XML format support.
I suppose it’s less embarrassing to do it with partners after Microsoft’s previous adamant refusals to provide native ODF support. In any case, this has to be chalked up as a victory for the Open Document Format advocates. Microsoft does get points for folding their hand after the bluff became untenable, but one wonders whether the months of bad publicity were really worth it.