Saturday, May 24, 2008

Microsoft Adopts ODF: Do Thou Likewise

As reported by David Worthington in the SDTimes, Office 2007 won't support ISO's OOXML. That's the XML format that Microsoft spent so much time and lobbying effort to "fasttrack" through the standards process, and which is based upon the XML formats of Microsoft Office (MS Office's XML formats are similar to, but not compliant with, OOXML).

Citing lack of demand, Microsoft will forego support for OOXML in its upcoming service pack. Jason Mahugh, director of interoperability at Microsoft, is quoted:
ODF support was a priority for Microsoft, Mahugh noted, adding that “real world” customers say that there is a pressing need for PDF support. “At this point there are no products using [ISO/IEC 29500] in the marketplace.”
ISO/IEC 29500 is Microsoft's OOXML. There are no compliant OOXML products on the market (not even from Microsoft), and demand (if any) is slight. On the other hand, Open Document Format (ODF) support is strong. Government entities around the world have embraced ODF as a standard, and there are a number of competing Office products that support this competing standard... products such as and StarOffice; KOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony and others.

What does that mean for us? The time to start using ODF is now. There is no cost for adopting, and you'll find that if you're moving from MS Office versions 2003 or earlier, it's an easier migration than moving to MS Office 2007, as retains the menu structure you're familiar with. With so many ODF compatible suites available, the one way to ensure that your documents are readable into the future is to adopt ODF. Under market pressures, Microsoft is doing just that, but you don't have to wait for them. And the best way to adopt ODF is to use the compliant suites such as those I've mentioned, until Microsoft finally catches up to the market sometime in 2009.



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