Microsoft’s Open XML Project Deemed a Short-Term Fix

Microsoft’s move to set up an open-source project that will allow translation between its Office Open XML format and the OpenDocument Format is a welcome first step, but not a long-term solution to the problem, industry players said on July 6.

They were responding to Microsoft’s announcement of the Open XML Translator project, which will be posted on SourceForge, the open-source software development Web site.

The goal of the project is to allow open participation and the free use of the software, with the source code available under the BSD license.

Marino Marcich, the managing director of the ODF Alliance, an advocacy group of vendors, academic groups and technical organizations in more than 40 countries, told eWEEK in an interview from Europe that Microsoft’s move was a good sign overall and a recognition of the ODF Format’s acceptance by the general public.

“I am not really surprised that they have created the Open XML Translator project, which is a belated recognition on their part that ODF has arrived and that it is the standard of choice by government’s around the world,” he said.

But Marcich was surprised that Microsoft was making this an open-source project, particularly given that there were already several projects already underway to facilitate translation between the two formats.

Click here to read more about how Microsoft bowed to pressure to interoperate with ODF.

While welcoming the Open XML Translator project as a “first baby step,” Marcich did sound a note of caution, saying that it remained to be seen what the Redmond, Wash., software giant would do going forward.

The installable software plug-ins that would be created under the project were also really “only a bridge, a stopgap measure that will probably not be acceptable to government’s around the world over the long term. Plug-ins simply don’t give the benefits of open file formats and standards,” he said.

Converters and plug-ins are not solutions to the problem as governments across the globe want access to their vital records and data and are looking to separate the document from the application, which plug-in technologies do not do, and which would open the market up to greater innovation and more product and price competition, he said.

The translators would also not be perfect, Jean Paoli, general manager for interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft, told eWEEK, as “OpenXML and ODF are very different formats and some hard decisions are going to have to be made when translating from one format to another, like where we have OpenXML features that are not supported in ODF.”

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