Microsoft seems to be in the spirit of giving this holiday season.
On Tuesday, the company released details about its implementation of Open Document Format 1.1 -- and Open XML -- for its forthcoming Office 2007 Service Pack 2, due early next year.
More specifically, the Redmond, Wash. software company has shed more light on its implementation decisions -- and variances on those decisions -- to assist in the integration process and provide to third party developers more information about additional data that is written into files. This information should allow developers to make their applications -- proprietary and open source -- more interoperable with Office 2007. The ODF 1.1 notes are available now. Information about Microsoft's Open XML (ECMA 376) will be available within weeks, Microsoft promises.
"This type of information enables developers to see which direction a vendor is taking and make informed decisions about their own efforts to interoperate, " according to a Microsoft statement about the documentation's release.
And this is what it says about the release of additional information written into files. "File format standards typically allow additional application-specific information (such as certain user customizations) to be written to file," Microsoft said. "By providing this information vendors allow developers to correctly interpret the additional data."
It's Redmond's latest gesture at providing more transparency and interoperatibility, as part of its sweeping Document Interoperability Initiative, announced last March just before the ISO anointed Microsoft's controversial Open XML as a standard.
Earlier this month, Microsoft released a viewer and translator designed to improve interoperability between OOXML documents and applications such as OpenOffice and Firefox.
Summing up these efforts are mere PR stunts for regulators would be a mistake, said one Microsoft platform executive at a dinner meeting recently.
Robert W Duffner, a former IBMer who nows serves as a senior director of platform strategy for Microsoft, emphasized that the last batch of goodies included a viewer that allows uses to view OOXML-based Microsoft Office documents from a web browser like Firefox or OpenOffice desktop -- without having Office installed. To him, it proves that Microsoft is opening up for real.
Developers have complained for years that Windows and Office are too closed and that the secret sauce to integration --the so-called hidden APIs -- never made it to documentation. More recently, ODF backers claimed that Microsoft's OOXML was too flawed to be conferred the status of a standard, and poorly documented.
We shall soon see if the new documentation is of any value to the open source world.