Microsoft, welcome to the OpenDocument Format neighborhood!

Last November I noted that Microsoft and Novell would be working together to make some of their technologies accessible on UNIX, and I welcomed them to the UNIX accessibility neighborhood. Today it is time to welcome them to another neighborhood - that of the OASIS and ISO standard OpenDocument Format. It is also time to issue an invitation...

In their press release today Microsoft stated that Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 - to be released in the first half of 2009 - would support reading and writing OpenDocument Format v1.1. Microsoft further states in this release that it will join the OASIS OpenDocument Format Technical Committee, as well as the ISO/IEC working group engaged in ongoing maintenance of OpenDocument Format. Some choice quotes from the press release:

When using SP2, customers will be able to open, edit and save documents using ODF... 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.

and:

Microsoft will join the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) technical committee working on the next version of ODF and will take part in the ISO/IEC working group being formed to work on ODF maintenance.

This means that sometime in 2009, users with disabilities will have yet another application option for reading and writing ODF files - they will be able to use Microsoft Office as shipped by Microsoft. This will supplement the options already available to people with disabilities for using ODF, including: IBM's Lotus Symphony on Windows with a variety of Windows AT applications, StarOffice and OpenOffice.org on Windows with several Windows AT applications, StarOffice and OpenOffice.org on UNIX systems with all of the UNIX AT applications, and the newly announced OpenOffice.org 3.0 beta on Macintosh with VoiceOver and other Macintosh AT applications. For folks who want to use Microsoft Office 2007 with ODF prior to their release in 2009 (as well as folks wanting to use an earlier version of Microsoft Office), there is also the Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office, now at version 1.2.

And so it is time to issue an invitation. As co-chair of the OASIS OpenDocument Format Accessibility subcommittee, I would like to warmly we.come Rob Sinclair, Reed Shaffner, Gray Knowlton, and anyone else at Microsoft involved in accessibility and Microsoft Office to attend our subcommittee meetings and participate in our ongoing efforts in ODF accessibility. As a board member of the OASIS, Microsoft has always been able to participate in any OASIS technical committee or subcommittee. But in light of this recent move, I want to be sure they feel particularly welcome to do so!

Separately, you might enjoy an insightful perspective on Microsoft's decision in Simon Phipp's blog entry on the topic.

Comments:

So far, this is only an announcement. Things may change.

I suspect this is an effort to stop users defecting to OpenOffice, because "in 18 months time we can do ODF".

Basically, it tries to take away the business case for switching: switching costs money (not much), takes time (rollouts on windows boxes are mad). And if MS has ODF support in 18 months anyway, there's less point in switching.

Whether MS will \*actually\* implement it is a different issue...

Next step: once implemented, any discrepancies between MS-Office ODF files and OpenOffice will be blamed on OpenOffice. Even if MS Office doesn't follow ODF.

Disclaimer: I am a cynic. Prove me wrong.

Posted by Karl Jorgensen on May 21, 2008 at 07:39 PM PDT #

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