Microsoft announced on Sunday that Office 12 would support saving documents in PDF format.
The company claimed to be receiving over 120,000 requests a month for such a function, and said that it would be available in all Office applications that generated documents, reports or diagrams. It will appear in the second public beta of the product, due in the first quarter of 2006.
Darren Strange, Microsoft's UK Office 12 product manager, told ZDNet UK: "The users are looking for a simple way to exchange information in an open way they understand. It's an open, published standard and we're delighted to include it."
Microsoft is also introducing its own XML Paper Specification (XPS), he said, "which is in the same solution space. That's built into Vista, and we hope that it will become the prevalent standard in the longer term, but we'll support PDF as well. XPS will have viewers built into the platform and we'll have a significant development platform, which is not the case with PDF."
Strange said that there would be partner opportunities to develop solutions using the platform's capabilities, "for example, to generate output on the fly from XML formatted documents."
When asked why with such great demand over time for PDF support it had taken until now to include it, he said "It's already available in Office for Mac and Live Meeting, so it's a development. Admittedly, it was in Live Meeting when we bought Groove Networks, but we didn't take it out. These things take time."
But Microsoft still has no plans to support OpenDocument, the OASIS standard file format for productivity applications, within Office 12.
"We're not hearing any interest from customers. Compared to PDF there isn't that sort of demand. If there was, I'd think we'd be interested in developing it," said Strange.
However, Tim Bray, the director of Web technologies at Sun, told the OpenOffice.org conference in Slovenia last week that OpenDocument has the potential to transform the world as much as the HTML standards did for the world through the Web.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has also recently decided to use or purchase systems that support only OpenDocument and Adobe's PDF, which it considers to be open enough.