Novell OpenOffice to Support Microsoft Office Open XML

One of the major contributors to the leading open source alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite announced early this morning it will be offering additions to OpenOffice enabling it to support Office 2007's new XML-based Office Open XML format, not as the default, but as an alternative for reading and writing .DOCX files.

For its share of this morning's statement, Microsoft began referring to its suite's format without the word "Office," using instead the designation "Ecma Open XML." Last Wednesday, a version of that format was submitted for general approval by the ECMA standards organization - the same one which helped Microsoft institute its version of Netscape's JavaScript as a standard. A vote on approval of Ecma Open XML is scheduled for this Thursday, and today's announcement of Novell's support most likely all but assures its passage.

In order to make OpenOffice -- not really a Novell-branded product -- support Office (Ecma) Open XML, it plans to release the code for "translators" for .DOCX into the open source community next month, most likely through the OpenOffice.org Web site. Translators for other Office 2007 default formats will follow soon thereafter.

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Novell CTO Nat Friedman this morning acknowledged that it will continue to support OpenDocument Format (ODF) as OpenOffice's default "because it provides customer choice and flexibility."

But with ECMA adoption of Ecma Open XML now likely, with the format enjoying support among the world's top three word processors (Corel WordPerfect being #2), and with its next step probably being worldwide adoption by the International Standards Organization, this and other key arguments for ODF are finding the rug pulled out from under them. By the end of this week, Office 2007's default formats may no longer be "owned" by Microsoft.

As ECMA President and CEO John Venator wrote last Wednesday, "Our members believe that approval of Open XML by ECMA as an open standard will be a key advancement to the IT industry and provide critically needed choice in the document format space allowing for greater vendor independence and reduced lock-in...The approval of Open XML by ISO will enhance the choices available to public agencies and provide significant benefits including cost savings to their constituents."

"OpenOffice.org is very important to Novell," added Friedman, "and as our customers deploy Linux desktops across their organizations, they're telling us that sharing documents between OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office is a must-have." Microsoft's business division vice president Chris Caposella this morning acknowledged Novell's contribution to (Office) Open XML.

Suddenly the landscape looks very different, as by the end of this week, the world's most widely distributed and supported document format will at last be an open standard...but it won't be ODF.

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