Microsoft supportive, not supporting, ODF project

Is David Berlind splitting hairs when he emphasizes that Microsoft is keeping ODF support at arm's length?

So, in light of the news that Microsoft is sponsoring an open source project to convert from Office to ODF and back again, has Microsoft turned a 180? David Berlind don't think so. Writing in the Between the Lines blog, Berlind writes:

Between some liaising with the project that Microsoft says will be the responsibility of one of its product managers, Microsoft's financial backing and jumpstarting of the project as well as the software giant's public endorsement of it, Microsoft is clearly very supportive of the project's existence.

But that's very different than offering ODF support or putting ODF into Office, or any of the other themes captured in mainstream and even tech headlines, Berlind says.

Microsoft is not putting ODF support in Office. It's not releasing its own translator. It's not offering free software. It's not offering an open source document format and it's certainly not supporting the OpenDocument Format (at least not in the way that most users interpret the words support when they see it in a technology headline).

At any rate, the announcement caused more press attention for little ODF than any news yet, which might mean more traction for the format's adoption.

Meanwhile, Microsoft employee and ZD blogger John Caroll sees not weakness but strength in the move.

Microsoft clearly didn't want to support ODF. The fact that they now do, however, is a sign that they have realized that ODF is less of a threat than they once thought. That's a good thing to realize, and I hope that realization percolates elsewhere across the Microsoft product ecosystem. Microsoft will always want control over the formats it uses in its products. That doesn't mean, however, that the right option is to make it hard to use other file formats.