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Microsoft, Massachusetts Fight May End

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Although Microsoft has long espoused its Office Open XML format as a suitable alternative to the OpenDocument Format supported by many other tech firms, the company has committed to bridging the two technologies.

This could be the final bell in the bout between Microsoft and the state of Massachusetts over file formats. Microsoft announced the initiation of the Open XML Translator project, where they and partners will create tools to enable users of the Office productivity suite to do something Microsoft had resisted for some time: save files in OpenDocument Format (ODF) filetypes.

The announcement has to be cast within the context of Microsoft’s ongoing battles with the state of Massachusetts over document formats. The State had called for replacing proprietary file formats with open ones to ensure electronic document preservation.

Microsoft stated it would not enable ODF compatibility for Office. The prospect of Massachusetts tossing out thousands of copies of Office in favor of an ODF-compatible product posed a considerable financial issue for Microsoft.

In May 2006, Massachusetts issued a request for information for an OpenDocument Format Plug-in for Microsoft Office Suite. That may have led to Microsoft’s formal support of developing one.

Microsoft did take a jab at ODF in its statement announcing the Translator project. They present Open XML as a more comprehensive solution to file formatting issues, while claiming “ODF focuses on more limited requirements.”

When developed, the Translator tools will be freely available under open source licenses. A prototype of the Translator plug-in for Word 2007 has been made available under a BSD license.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Microsoft, Massachusetts Fight May End
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