Microsoft is taking new measures to prove that the "open" in its Office Open XML (OOXML) document format belongs there.
In response to feedback from the national bodies who are involved in Microsoft's ISO standards bid for OOXML, Microsoft is changing how it is making Office binary-format information available. Microsoft is going to put the binary-format documentation on the Web; make a binary-to-OOXML conversion tool available as an open-source license on SourceForge; and make the documentation available under its Open Specification Promise (which is basically MicroSpeak for a pact not to sue).
Microsoft went public about its plans to open up around OOXML interoperability on January 16, two days after the European Commission announced it was opening a pair of new Microsoft-related antitrust probes. One of those probes is focused on Office and OOXML interoperability. (For the record, I requested more information from the European Commission regarding exactly how OOXML fits into its latest investigation and got no response.)
Microsoft invited more than a dozen journalists to its headquarters on the 16th to hear more of the back-story around its OOXML work in anticipation of the ISO OOXML standardization vote in late February. (No, I was not among them.) But Microsoft officials denied that the event and the news had anything to do with the EC probe, and said the timing was coincidental.
Microsoft Office Program Manager Brian Jones blogged about Microsoft's latest moves on January 16. This isn't the first time Microsoft will be making the binary-format information available to third parties, Jones noted:
"It is important to note that substantial use is being made of both the Binary Formats and Office Open XML in the marketplace today. Many products (such as OpenOffice.org) support the Binary Formats. Microsoft has indicated that many companies and public institutions have received the documentation for the Binary Formats, and are working with it at this time, and can create mappings between the Binary Formats and Office Open XML."
So far the only "real" binary-to-OOXML translator that exists is the Sun Open Document Format (ODF) Plug-infor Microsoft Office. A number of other companies (Apple, Adobe, Novell and Microsoft itself) do this translation as part of adding support for OOXML to their wares, but don't make standalone translators available.
Meanwhile, speaking of ongoing politics around OOXML and its ODF rival, the ODF Alliance has posted a white paper rebutting the findings of a Burton Group study, released late last week, that found OOXML a better solution for IT pros than ODF. The ODF Alliance and its backers claim the Burton Group study includes a number of inaccuracies.