Document Interop from Microsoft

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 07, 2008

The issue of document formats, especially where Microsoft and standards are involved, has a long and messy history. We've seen lots of arguments over just what "open" means, and various people have pushed governments and organizations to adopt ODF as a more open alternative to Microsoft's Open Office XML set of formats. But Microsoft says it's turning over a new leaf, with its recent announcement of new interoperability principles in late February.

This week the company took a step towards implementing those principles, with the launch of the Document Interoperability Initiative. The basic plan here is to round-robin test different implementations of ODF, OOXML, and translation software in various products, with an eye towards finding the pain points and eliminating them. Such testing has a long and honorable history in software and standards, and has generally been a good thing.

So far, though, participation in this new initiative seems to be limited. Perhaps Microsoft rushed to get this together to prove that they mean open business, but the only open source company involved in the first round of meetings is Novell. Other participants (DataViz, Mark Logic, Nuance and QuickOffice) all produce closed-source products that work with one or another open format.

If the idea here is to prove that Microsoft gets along with and wants to support the entire document-based community, they're going to have to do better than that. Until fully open-source projects such as OpenOfice and NeoOffice sit down at the table, suspicions will remain that Microsoft continues to guide the interoperability testing for their own benefit.

What do you think Microsoft's intentions are?