Even as its pushes the OpenDocument Format, OpenOffice.org -- and new member IBM -- are trying to deliver better compatibility with Microsoft Office. Good idea.
This week, as its annual conference gets underway in Spain, OpenOffice.org released a version 2.3 update of its open source Office suite that offers improved compatibility with Microsoft Excel as well as needed security, performance and database improvements.
And OpenOffice 3.0, which is planned to be released during next year's Openoffice.org annual conference, will deliver on import filters for the recently released Office 2007, said John McCreesh, marketing project lead for openOffice.org.
OpenOffice 3.0, McCreesh said, will also offer a new business-intelligence class Report Designer, a rewrite of the chart module introduced in version 2.3, a fully native Mac OS X version, more work on extensions, many more localisations and an enhanced online update facility.
The news comes as IBM unveiled on Tuesday a new product called IBM Lotus Symphony, a new suite of word processing, spreadhseet and presentation applications based on OpenOffice that will be released as free open source software. According to IBM, the Symphony suite will support OpenDocument and Microsoft Office formats.
It is important for powerful companies such as IBM to inject some energy into Openoffice as a way to drive more adoption and growth of the OpenDocument format, open source desktop, and presumably the Linux desktop.
No doubt, spreading adoption of OpenDocument is paramount to driving growth for the open source desktop. But it is equally -- if not more -- important for these open source Office suites to be compatible with Microsoft Office, which still owns 95 percent share of the market.
Customers won't adopt any open source desktop -- whether it is fbacked by Sun, Novell, Red Hat or IBM -- if it doesn't offer seamless compatibility with Microsoft Office.