Microsoft's mixed messages over ODF

Software maker is to support the ratification of OpenDocument Format as a standard, but says it has no plans to support it within Microsoft applications

Microsoft has no plans to support OpenDocument Format in its own applications by default, despite the fact it has backed the ODF for ANSI accreditation.

Nick McGrath, director of platform strategy for Microsoft UK, told ZDNet UK on Thursday: "In a nutshell, ODF doesn't meet the needs of Microsoft applications." McGrath said that applications such as OpenOffice, which runs on ODF, would not fully support documents created in Microsoft applications such as Office 2007, which runs on the rival Open XML standard (OXML). This echoed a comment made last week by Microsoft, where the software giant criticised IBM over its support for ODF.

"The functionality of Office and the functionality of OpenOffice — it's like chalk and cheese," said McGrath.

However, John McCreesh, marketing project lead, firmly rebuked McGrath's comments.

"That's patently untrue because millions of people create a document in Word and open it in Writer [the OpenOffice equivalent]," McCreesh told ZDNet UK. "To say the file format can't be used in both applications is nonsense. Microsoft doesn't support ODF because it doesn't control it. There's no technical reason why it couldn't. Having launched OXML, Microsoft would find it very difficult to support ODF. It has backed itself into a corner we hope market pressure will back it out of."

McCreesh said that Microsoft's act of backing ODF for the ANSI standard was a "novel turn up for the books" and that he hadn't "the faintest idea" why. "Maybe Microsoft has suddenly seen the light. And maybe world peace has broken out and there will never be famine again," said McCreesh.

In a press statement on Wednesday, Microsoft said it was backing the ODF ANSI bid in the interests of interoperability.