OOXML backwards compatibility led Microsoft to ODF

Summary:Microsoft blames backwards compatibility issues and changes made during the ISO ratification process for its decision to support ODF instead of OOXML in Office 2007

...not to implement Vista due to interoperability issues. According to Taylor, pressure from the Commission and other policy makers has forced Microsoft's hand.

"Microsoft only does things when it has absolutely no choice, and here it has no choice," said Taylor. "Becta officially recommended that UK education doesn't upgrade to Office 2007, and referred Microsoft to the Office of Fair Trading over OOXML last October. The European Commission has confirmed its investigation into OOXML. We've known for a long time the direction the Commission is going, and it's getting more and more vocal."

According to Taylor, Microsoft supporting ODF is a sign both of economic and political pressure.

"If Microsoft doesn't support ODF it will lose more," said Taylor. "There's also political pressure — in the UK central government and various government departments are looking into open source. It's a sign of the times."

Microsoft's not supporting OOXML until Office 14 was "very strange", Taylor added. "It really is leftfield. It does look like a tacit acknowledgement that the OOXML issue is too hot to handle. After all, the British Standards Institution is in the high court at the moment over it. Maybe this is a calming gesture."

Other members of the open-source community are also sceptical about Microsoft's move. Pamela Jones, founder of Groklaw, said she would believe Microsoft was moving towards open source only when it provided more proof it was becoming genuinely interoperable.

"I wish I could wholeheartedly applaud the Microsoft announcement about native support for ODF, but I can't," wrote Jones. "Of course, it's better to have native support for ODF, no matter what motives may have influenced Microsoft's announcement, and I'm glad about that for the sake of end users. But it hasn't happened yet. Was the word 'vapourware' not coined for Microsoft? In any case, I'm in the 'I will believe it when I see it' category."

Topics: Developer


Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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