May 22, 2008

Will Microsoft Fully Support ODF?

Officials of the Free Software Foundation have raised questions as to whether Microsoft will follow through with plans to use open document standards.

Microsoft said it plans to begin using the Open Document Format (ODF) "sometime next year," implying that it will add support for ODF when it updates Office next year.

However, the Free Software Foundation said it still has doubts about how open the company's operating systems will be.

"It's a step in the right direction but we are skeptical about how open Microsoft will be," the Foundation said.

Microsoft has been under fire because of the formats used by its Office suite of programs - they are not truly interoperable with software from third parties.

Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, said he remained dubious about "how deep" Microsoft's adoption of the standard would go.

The European Commission, which has fined Microsoft for monopolistic practice, welcomed the move.

"The Commission would welcome any step that Microsoft took towards genuine interoperability, more consumer choice and less vendor lock-in," it said, adding that it would determine whether Microsoft's commitment "leads to better interoperability and allows consumers to process and exchange their documents with the software product of their choice."

The Open Document Format Alliance also has voiced concerns about Microsoft's commitment.

"The proof will be whether and when Microsoft's promised support for ODF is on par with its support for its own formats," said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance.

"Governments will be looking for actual results, not promises in press releases,"

At the moment, Office users can use ODF documents by using a downloaded "translator" program, which some users claim does not work well with parts of the Office suite.

Microsoft recently attempted to create its own standard, the OpenXML format. The International Standard Organization approved its use but the full specification of the OpenXML format has yet to be published.

Mr. Greve said that adoption of ODF by Microsoft would give consumers more choice.

"Support for ODF indicates there are problems with OpenXML that Microsoft cannot resolve easily and quickly," he said.

"OpenXML is something all users want to stay away from. It's not clear if it will ever become an interoperable standard and so users should be very careful using it."

"There will be full choice on the desktop; people could switch to Linux and choose Open Office or other applications that support ODF, like Lotus Symphony or Google Docs. There is fairly large amount of apps to choose from, which can be based on the merits of the application and their personal preference."


On the Net:


Free Software Foundation

Open Document Format Alliance