Redmond (Washington) – In a statement to TG Daily, a Microsoft spokesperson has officially denied that the company is making plans to support OpenDocument Format (ODF), the XML-based file structure developed for Microsoft Office’s open-source competitor, OpenOffice.org.
“We have no plans to directly support the OpenDocument format at this time,” reads the statement, e-mailed to us this afternoon. “Our standards-based formats for Office 2003, as well as our announcement that XML will be the default file format in Office ’12,’ have been extremely well received by customers and partners, including over 330,000 developers who are leveraging Office’s XML support already. We fully expect partners, independent companies, and competitors to provide converters between our Open XML formats and the OpenDocument formats, and are aware of a few projects along these lines already.”
By acknowledging third parties who produce format converters, Microsoft’s statement appears to indicate it has no plans to radically change their operating circumstances.
The story leading up to Microsoft’s denial today has more twists and changes of possession than a pro hockey game. It began last week, with Corel’s general manager for office productivity, Richard Carriere, in an interview with BetaNews‘ Ed Oswald, expressing dissatisfaction on the adoption rate of ODF. Corel is a member of OASIS, the consortium responsible for developing the format. “The reality is that, today, this standard is not adopted or being used, period,” Carriere told BetaNews. Corel remained supportive, he said, of the notion that an open standard doesn’t force customers to rely upon one single vendor. “But the reality is that there’s no adoption of these standards,” he continued, “and, as far as I know, there still needs to be some development to make it into a real product.”
In a personal blog posting, responding to the BetaNews interview, OASIS’ legal counsel Andy Updegrove chastised Corel for not supporting ODF more fully. Updegrove’s comments implied that Microsoft’s 2000 financial investment in Corel may have been partly behind Carriere’s stance. This, plus other significant uproar among the open-source community, has since led Corel spokespersons to reassert the company’s strong continued support for OASIS and OpenDoc, and to issue a statement today to that effect.
Was Microsoft somehow to blame, even indirectly, for Corel’s displeasure with ODF’s progress? At an information technology executives’ conference yesterday, Microsoft’s new chief technology officer, Ray Ozzie, told a CNET reporter that his company would not be opposed to supporting the Open Document Format on principle. It was really only a matter of resources, Ozzie stated, citing that the upcoming Office 12 suite had already been announced to support a radically new XML-based format of its own, along with not only its pre-existing Office formats but also Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) as a fallback.
Ozzie’s comments, coupled with news early this morning about Corel’s statement perhaps being matched with news from another company, led to a fresh wave of completely opposite speculation that perhaps Microsoft would announce as soon as today that its upcoming Office 12 suite would support ODF as a fallback position, along with PDF. Microsoft is an OASIS member, working with the consortium on other standards announced today, including Web Services Secure Exchange (WS-SX), a security mechanism for SOAP transactions. But Microsoft’s denial to us this afternoon puts the ODF rumor to rest. The other company with ODF news today turned out to be Novell, whose participation in the OASIS body was apparently upgraded, with the addition of a new voting representative from that company.