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Microsoft Office 2007 to Support ODF - But Not OOXML 377

Posted by timothy
from the such-strange-goings-on dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "About two hours ago, Microsoft announced that it will update Office 2007 to natively support ODF 1.1, but not to implement its own OOXML format. Not until Office 14 is released (no date given so far for that) will anyone be able to buy an OOXML ISO-compliant version. Why will Microsoft do this after so many years of refusal? Perhaps because the only way it can deliver a product to government customers that meets an ISO/IEC document format standard is by finally taking the plunge, and supporting 'that other format.' Still, many questions remain, such as when this upgrade will actually be released, how good a job it will do, and whether the API Microsoft has said it will make available to permit developers to supply 'save to ODF' default plugins will be supported by a patent non-assertion promise allowing implementations under the GPL (the upgrade supplied by Microsoft will not allow ODF as the default setting)."
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Microsoft Office 2007 to Support ODF - But Not OOXML

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  • Embrace and Extend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:31PM (#23495672) Homepage Journal
    Chances of it having several Microsoft-specific "add-ons" that are patent-encumbered and not supported by the actual ODF spec: Approaching 100%.
    • No need to look for further motivations...
    • by Fallen Andy (795676) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:52PM (#23496756)
      All MS will do is implement full ODF 1.1 plus microsoft "extensions" (sic) a la the farce with Java. Since many users will bite the baited hook the result will be endless cycles where OpenOffice etc. have to play catchup to hack in the same extensions.

      (or of course like Orcs in Warcraft III we really really have misunderstood them ...).

      Andy

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      I'd say the odds of those "add-ons" being features from OOXML are pretty good, too. Gradually, they could turn ODF-via-Word into a format which is conveniently similar to the OOXML spec, except missing a couple of choice features or some compatability. OOXML starts to look just good, and why, there's even back-compatability built into OOXML! Why not switch?
    • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @09:27PM (#23499730) Journal

      Chances of it having several Microsoft-specific "add-ons" that are patent-encumbered and not supported by the actual ODF spec: Approaching 100%.
      But if Microsoft did this, wouldn't they render moot the very openness compliance that their government customers are demanding?

      Hm ... maybe I have answered my own question.

      Look, I have to wonder if such a strategy wouldn't backfire on Microsoft in the long run. I would assume the customer base that wants this feature is aware of the tricks MS might try to play, otherwise why would they be dragging MS (kicking and screaming) towards open formats?

      And yet, this whole issue does seem to bear a similarity to the perfunctory implementation of support for POSIX standards in Windows NT many years ago. I'm not up on the details, but as I recall MS implemented it merely to appease government customers who wanted it as a condition of running NT in their environments. Could ODF support be the same? Not an attempt to E^3 (Embrace, Extend, Extinguish) ODF, but just a temporary measure to maintain compliance with government mandates until their own OOXML monster is released on the world?
    • FUD (Score:3, Informative)

      by MickDownUnder (627418)
      This isn't new. The plugin has been available from....

      http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

      for quite some time...

      Note the contributors...

      http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/#contributors [sourceforge.net]

      Whilst Microsoft has funded this project, it was not directly developed by microsoft, it has been developed by independent developers, as it is open source, anyone can inspect the code, including you.

      There has been so much disinformation about the whole OOXML/ODF its really been quite impressive.
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darundal (891860) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:33PM (#23495696) Journal
    Not even they are going to implement it until the next full office release. You have to admit, that says a lot about the standard.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:41PM (#23495806) Journal
      Man, if I was a MS shareholder, I'd be fucking livid. OOXML supporting software won't be available for a long time, and after this move, all the people who care enough about using ISO supported standards are going to be entrenched in ODF.

      Which means that all the administration costs, travel expenses, bribe money, etc that they spent to have the OOXML standard pushed through was just thrown away for nothing, even though they got what they were aiming for.

      Talk about mismanagement. Hey Ballmer, why don't you try hitting yourself with the chair this time. Might knock some sense into you.
      • I would expect most stock holders would go eh you win some you loose some. They are probably more worried about Vista bad press then this. In realality Microsoft didn't put that much into it. And if they did win they really wouldn't have gained much anyways.
        • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:03PM (#23496090) Journal
          MS had to know that they weren't going to actually be able to support this standard for a long time (if ever). This isn't "you win some you lose some". They won in every objective they set. It was bad goals, not bad execution.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by marcosdumay (620877)

          "In realality Microsoft didn't put that much into it. And if they did win they really wouldn't have gained much anyways."

          In fact, they didn't put too much into that, they just created an EU investigation exclusively for that happening, and oppened guard for lots of other monopoly abuse and criminal (bribery) prosecutions. No too much indeed.

          In fact, they did have nothing to gain, but everything to lose.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by mrslacker (1122161) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:08PM (#23496168)

        Talk about mismanagement. Hey Ballmer, why don't you try hitting yourself with the chair this time. Might knock some sense into you.
        Will this do?

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7412417.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • April Fools? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:33PM (#23495702) Homepage
    Honestly, the first thing I thought when I saw this article was that it had to be some kind of April Fools article come late.
    • Honestly, the first thing I thought when I saw this article was that it had to be some kind of April Fools article come late.
      Maybe they were using Excel with a file that actually conformed with ISO date formats?
  • Typical Tactic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:34PM (#23495708)

    So, in case anyone was still thinking that OOXML being confirmed as a standard wasn't a bad thing...

    And as far as supporting ODF goes, I'd applaud Microsoft for taking a step in the right direction if they weren't constantly declaring themselves the victors over Open Source. I only wonder how they'll spin this.

    • by pembo13 (770295)
      So I didn't RTFA, but what's with the not allowing ODF as default setting?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by leereyno (32197)
      Microsoft claiming to be the victors over Open Source makes about as much sense as claiming to be victorious over Extreme Programming.

      Open Source is not a product. It is not a company. It is not an individual. It is not a group. It is not an entity. Open Source is a development model.

      The only way that Microsoft could be "victorious" over Open Source is if they were to originate a superior development model that attracted more developers to it.

      Since that has not happened, I'm really not sure what sort o
  • Victory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:35PM (#23495738) Homepage
    You can say all negative things you will about it, but this is a great victory for ODF.
    • Re:Victory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Uncle Focker (1277658) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:36PM (#23495758)
      At least until we get into the extend and extinguish phases.
      • by tsa (15680)
        Doesn't every extension to an ISO standard have to be approved too?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Uncle Focker (1277658)
          Why would they need ISO approval to add their own extensions to their implementation of the standard? Is this some clause in the rules of the ISO that I've missed?
      • I'm guessing that the "Save to ODF" option will prodouce horrendously mangled XML that will "poison" the format altogether.

        Of course, that could also be grounds for a lawsuit if they screw it up badly enough....
      • Re:Victory (Score:5, Interesting)

        by howlingmadhowie (943150) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:48PM (#23496690)
        i don't think microsoft can risk it. picture what would happen, if they came out with a buggy and mangled implementation of odf. ibm, sun and goodle, not to mention the eu and the governments of so many other countries would rip them to shreds.

        i'm not denying implementing odf is a bad decision in the eyes of the share-holders. announcing support for odf is however something subtly different. maybe microsoft's scared of repercussions because of the corruption in the standardisation process for ooxml.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          if they came out with a buggy and mangled implementation of odf. ibm, sun and goodle, not to mention the eu and the governments of so many other countries would rip them to shreds.

          Like they did when Microsoft came up with a buggy and mangled implementation of HTML?

          Much as I wish you were right...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pembo13 (770295)
      I don't think so. I am not sure about this yet. Micrsoft, as a company, is very intelligent. They threw a lot of money at OOXML. I may not like their software offerings, but I fully admit Microsoft doesn't just waste money.
  • Larger question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:36PM (#23495750)
    More to the point, how badly will they cripple the ODF support?
    • Will ODF spreadsheets be functionally equivalent to CSV?
    • Will ODF text be functionally equivalent to plain-text ASCII with line breaks?
    • WIll ODF presentations be JPEG renderings?
    • Will ODF import and export take hours?
    • etc.
    I've occasionally been accused of having an evil mind, but I'm sure that professionals given weeks or months can come up with better kneecapping plans than the above amateur hipshots.
    • Re:Larger question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mysticgoat (582871) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:16PM (#23496276) Homepage Journal

      I think what matters most is that MS has committed itself to providing ODF compliance, even if that is a bit limited way, by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

      This means that businesses who have been delaying the normal computer upgrade cycle (sometimes for years) now have a clear pathway: they can immediately migrate to OpenOffice under existing WinXP licenses on new hardware, or they can jump directly to an enterprise Linux with OpenOffice. Either way, they can move forward knowing that before they have finished the rollout, the documents they are producing will be compliant with the Microsoft universe.

      The timing of this is great for the USA economy. It is much less costly to do a major rollout in a slack period, and we can count on slack for the rest of 2008. It will be easier to hire the needed tech support people, and if the rollout involves moving to Linux, it can be done with a lot less expense in hardware than the cost forecasts of even last year. The time and cost for retraining staff can be more easily absorbed during the competitive lull. Then when the economy gets back on track in 2009, these companies will be very well positioned for fast and strong growth.

      I applaud Microsoft for biting the bullet and coming out with this news now. Perhaps now USA IT departments can get out of these doldrum eddies and start making headway again.

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:36PM (#23495752) Homepage
    well - only if microsoft is able to buy their way through the standards process will anyone be able to buy an OOXML ISO-compliant version.

    UKUUG is currently waiting on the UK judicial system to decide whether to do a judicial review of the British Standards Institute's recent decision to ratify OOXML.

    clonking "comments" together in blocks of 100 for vote "yes no", towards the end of the (only) 5 day process, smells a bit fishy. especially as the comments weren't actually reviewed as having been actioned / corrected (in the 6,000 page document).

    the BSI came up with something ridiculous like 900 comments on the 6,000 page document.

    it's all incredibly fishy - long story. far too much to fit into one silly slashdot comment, so i'll stop.

    • by overshoot (39700)

      UKUUG is currently waiting on the UK judicial system to decide whether to do a judicial review of the British Standards Institute's recent decision to ratify OOXML.
      Since the appeal deadline will have passed before the judicial review can even begin, it's all rather moot.
  • by pacroon (846604) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:39PM (#23495792)
    So I guess speaking Hungarian and throwing eggs at Steve Ballmer actually did pay off.
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:46PM (#23495878)
    A: No, because companies are already so deep with old .xls files and macros built for said files that they will still be unwilling to transition from Microsoft Office to StarOffice.

    That, and StarOffice just doesn't feel polished compared to MSOffice.

    I seriously think that the macros built around companies' documents & spreadsheets are what's keeping them locked in to MSOffice, not the file format, per se

    And for all you OO.o fans out there, don't even bother getting started; StarOffice is essentially OO.o, but with better support for MSOffice formatted documents, plus it has better tools like its thesaurus. OO.o may be nice for you, but there's a reason why Sun can sell StarOffice, and it's not because Sun's evil, and it's not *just* about tech support.
    • by mhall119 (1035984) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:59PM (#23496032) Homepage Journal
      OO.o 3 will include support for VBA macros [openoffice.org]. That should help.

      Oh, and MS Office 2008 for Mac will not.
    • by AmaDaden (794446) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:02PM (#23496066)
      Very true but this is the foot in the door people have been waiting for. The problem I have always had was not opening up DOC docs but not being able to trust the ones I send from OO. Now that I know MS office can read ODF I can safely make and send them out with out worrying. Making ODF common is step one. Making DOC and XLS uncommon is step two. Making DOC and XLS so uncommon that people go through the hassle of converting them is step three.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RealGrouchy (943109)
        Before this announcement: "MS Office 2003 is unable to read this file format (docx). Please upgrade to Office 2007."

        After this announcement: "MS Office 2003 is unable to read this file format (odt). Please upgrade to Office 2007."

        - RG>
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bryansix (761547)
          Actually Word 2003 can open docx already with the free compatibility pack. It just can't open dotx files which is pretty annoying.
    • A: No, because companies are already so deep with old .xls files and macros built for said files that they will still be unwilling to transition from Microsoft Office to StarOffice.

      Actually StarOffice and OpenOffice have always had better support for legacy formats, including those legacy formats from MS. Now both have VBA support as mentioned in other posts here. And now that MS has dropped support from its old formats, it's not a question of if businesses are going to drop MS Office, but only a matter of when... unless they get the fishook called SharePoint in their gullet. If you have old MS documents, rely on those old MS documents and you can't keep old versions of MS Offic

  • by darealpat (826858) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:47PM (#23495894) Journal
    It may be that Microsoft is serious about supporting ODF, but I would not be surprised if it is somehow "crippled" or poorly implemented within the word processor and spreadsheet. Somehow I don't feel that you will be able to open an .odf made in Word with OpenOffice and there will be no "artifacts" or some loss of formatting, and vice versa of course. There are already issues with odf's opening across operating systems (usually a font issue causing discrepancy in formatting), and I am sure that Microsoft will use this opportunity to "make its case" for the "superiority" of its native format, whatever that format may be. If this will not be, it will be a most astute business move. Making their office suite cost less would be even better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSpoom (715771) *
      Yeah, I think either Microsoft will embrace and extend as I mentioned above, or they'll bring up a huge warning box every time you try to save to an ODF claiming that "Not all features are supported!" and actually make the saving code substandard so people will think ODF is a bad format.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:11PM (#23496208) Homepage
      Well, I guess the answer to that is, if you want a format that maintains your formatting perfectly down to the pixel across all implementations of the standard, then you had better go with PDF (or TIFF). But if you want a format you can easily edit and pass between colleagues, without worrying too much about how the formatting is going to be a little off, then go with ODF, DOC, or some other word processing format. No word processing format looks the same across all platforms. Even something as simple as using a different printer can cause problems with the same version of MS Word opening it's own doc files. If formatting is so important that you can' have things be moved around a little bit, then use PDF.
  • MS BJ's (Score:5, Funny)

    by JeremyGNJ (1102465) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:50PM (#23495928)
    Jeeeze you people are harsh!

    I think that Microsoft could announce tomorrow that they are giving out free blow jobs to anyone who uses Linux. As soon as the first blowjob was given out, someone would find something negative about it.
    • Re:MS BJ's (Score:5, Funny)

      by Uncle Focker (1277658) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:53PM (#23495960)
      But what if the hooker they hired kept biting your dick? That's not very pleasant...
    • Re:MS BJ's (Score:4, Funny)

      by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:31PM (#23496462) Homepage

      "I think that Microsoft could announce tomorrow that they are giving out free blow jobs to anyone who uses Linux. As soon as the first blowjob was given out, someone would find something negative about it."
      What are the chances that you would remain virus free if you accepted free blowjobs from Microsoft? ...

      (Just because one is paranoid, doesn't mean M$ isn't out to get you)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by StormReaver (59959)
      "I think that Microsoft could announce tomorrow that they are giving out free blow jobs to anyone who uses Linux. As soon as the first blowjob was given out, someone would find something negative about it."

      I know people here sometimes say that Ballmer can suck their dicks, but they don't mean it literally. If you noticed him unzipping your pants and puckering up, wouldn't you have a few terrified comments too?
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:51PM (#23495940) Journal
    Embrace (where we are now)
    Extend (aka 'break')
    Extinguish (where we'll end up)

    Nuff said
  • by Andy Updegrove (956488) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:55PM (#23495990) Homepage
    Kevin J. O'Brien, reporting in the International Herald Tribune [iht.com], reports that the ODF update will in fact permit users to "adjust Office 2007 settings to automatically save documents in the rival format." A knowledgeable source tells me that this report is likely to be accurate.

    Andy

  • They walk on ice. (Score:2, Informative)

    by kiehlster (844523)
    This is happening because the negative attention they've gotten recently. Office 2007 has gotten a bad review thanks to a over-thought user interface, so they hired an Adobe UI guru [news.com] to correct that. OOXML hasn't gotten any acceptance from the community so introducing it now will just further the negativity. I'm sure this move toward ODF is to bring more approval as they scrap Office 2007 and bring something better in version 14. By then they'll try to put some positive spin on OOXML as they release a be
  • A bit misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:17PM (#23496304) Homepage

    The summary is a bit misleading. Current Office 2007 documents fail to validate as transitional OOXML because of some very minor differences. For example, the final standard changed an attribute value from "yes/no" to "true/false".

    All major ODF implementations, including OpenOffice, fail to validate against ISO ODF 1.0 for similar reasons.

    Thus, to make some big deal of Microsoft not immediately slipstreaming in an update to Office to 100% conform to OOXML, while ignoring the fact that OpenOffice still doesn't fully conform to ODF so long after ODF 1.0 was ratified is a bit hypocritical.

  • by benjymouse (756774) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:19PM (#23496334)
    I know that the common perception on slashdot is that ODF is the only format we need because of its OO heritage. That is frankly a naïve position. The format was backed by IBM, Oracle and Sun for a reason. Right now MS' selling point for Office is features. Some would call it bloated - but MS Office still has more features than OO. That may not be that important to the vast majority of users, but it is a selling point nontheless.

    Imagine a situation where MS could not leverage the feature advantage, because the standard persistence format could not represent the advanced feature set. Ink comes to mind; it's actually part of OXML but there's not anything like it in ODF. Representatives for Microsofts competitors could fight any extension (invoking the "err on side of caution" argument) of the format until OO/StarOffice was prepared to implement the feature as well. But that would actually stiffle innovation and hurt the customers who could actually realize a productivity gain from new features.

    By creating a situation where we have two formats and already a situation where one is larger and with more features specified, Microsoft has got a situation where they can let the "conservatives" drive (or not) ODF, and Microsoft can be the primary driver of OXML, although they can now only make suggestions and requests. In short they have a situation where they stand a better chance at exposing the hidden agendas of their competitors representatives should they ever try to hold back Microsoft innovation in Office for compettitive reasons.

    I don't believe for a second that the motives of IBM, Oracle and Sun were always free of hidden agendas. Of course they saw their involvement (and influence through merits) in ODF as a way to gain some control over the future of MS Office. Office has always been one of MS' best cash cows.

    You can argue that we don't need any more innovation in the office productivity area. But that would be an opinion and not something you should base a standard upon.
  • It's about sales (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aduzik (705453) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:21PM (#23496354) Homepage
    Office is Microsoft's biggest-selling product by revenue, even more than Windows. Since governments are mandating open formats, Microsoft has no choice but to implement ODF if they want to keep selling those lucrative enterprise agreements. Getting OOXML approved as a standard format was a huge win for them to be sure, but governments could (and will) just as easily standardize on ODF, especially given all the problems with OOXML. Microsoft used to rely on file format lock-in as a sales tool, but it seems now compatibility and (gasp) quality are Microsoft's selling points for Office. They're doing what it takes to maintain those huge sales.
  • by quazee (816569) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:37PM (#23496536)
    http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2008/may08/05-21ExpandedFormatsPR.mspx [microsoft.com]

    Also, ODF will be allowed to be configured as the default format for documents.
    SP2 will also include support for PDF and XPS export.
  • by Benanov (583592) * <brian.kempNO@SPAMmember.fsf.org> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:42PM (#23496600) Journal
    It seems like that all of the really-close-but-not-quite naming schemes meant to cause confusion have finally confused even Microsoft's *marketing* people.

    I have a feeling this will get turned on its head: "oh, we really meant OOXML, sorry!"
  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:30PM (#23497212) Homepage

    "About two hours ago, Microsoft announced that it will update Office 2007 to natively support ODF 1.1, but not to implement its own OOXML format.
    I almost thought Microsoft went good... but then it came:

    Not until Office 14 is released (no date given so far for that) will anyone be able to buy an OOXML ISO-compliant version.
    But they had me there for a moment... Just for 2 secound I actually thought they were going to do something good - without a ulterior motive... But they're still implementing OOXML in the future...
  • First OOXML is not approved by the ISO yet. So by Office 14, the ISO will approve of a final format and OOXML support can be added to Office 14 and I am sure Microsoft will release retropatches for older Office versions to support it as well. Most likely going back as far as Office 2000 or Office 97.

    Microsoft knows that OpenOffice.Org, Star Office, IBM Lotus Symphony, and other office suites already support ODF, and Microsoft does not want Office 2007 to be the pink elephant that does not support ODF, and Office 2007 users couldn't open up ODF format documents from friends and coworkers, and would flock to Office 2007 alternatives to open them up. Microsoft knows that would cut into Office 2007 sales as most ODF office suites are free to download and use.

    Microsoft also knows that many governments have already decided to support ODF format documents, and if Office 2007 doesn't get ODF support, sales will go to Microsoft's competitors.

    There have been massive online campaigns for ODF and against OOXML, this is Microsoft's way of silencing critics of Office 2007 that it does not support a true open standard.

    Microsoft knows that MS-Word and PDF documents have already started to be replaced with ODF documents. Also the old RTF format no longer meets the needs of Internet documents anymore and MS-Word format is just a modified RTF format. Just as Adobe lost control of who uses the PDF standard, Microsoft knows that they can get control of the ODF format from Sun/IBM etc as well.
  • by quantaman (517394) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @06:56PM (#23498604)
    When I say this sounds like a good sign...

    But almost every time stuff like this happens, Microsoft eventually ends up playing their old tricks.

    It would be cool if they surprised us this time, but they have far too great a credibility dept for me to think anything particularly good will come from this move.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @03:49AM (#23501976)
    From FTA:
    Moreover, it would also join both the OASIS working group as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 working group that has control of the ISO/IEC version of ODF.

    How long until they bribe the working group and we find that ODF includes specifications like "word wrap like office 95"?

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