The Office team continues to impress me how savvy they are about the changing software landscape. In his blog post entitled Open XML Translator project announced (ODF support for Office) Brian Jones writes

Today we are announcing the creation of the Open XML Translator project that will help translate between the Office Open XML formats and the OpenDocument format. We've talked a lot about the value the Open XML formats bring, and one of them of course is the ability to filter it down into other formats. While we still aren't seeing a strong demand for ODF support from our corporate or consumer customers, it's now a bit different with governments. We've had some governments request that we help build solutions so that can use ODF for certain situations, so that's why we are creating the Open XML Translator project. I think it's going to be really beneficial to a number of folks and for a number of reasons.

There has been a push in Microsoft for better interoperability and this is another great step in that direction. We already have the PDF and XPS support for Office 2007 users that unfortunately had to be separated out of the product and instead offered as a free download. There will be a menu item in the Office applications that will point people to the downloads for XPS, PDF, and now ODF. So you'll have the ability to save to and open ODF files directly within Office (just like any other format).

For me, one of the really cool parts of this project is that it will be open source and located up on SourceForge, which means everyone will have the ability to see how to leverage the open architectures of both the Office Open XML formats and ODF. We're developing the tools with the help of Clever Age (based in France) and a few other folks like Aztecsoft (based in India) and Dialogika (based in Germany). There should actually be a prototype of the first translator (for Word 2007) posted up on SourceForge later on today ( It's going to be made available under the BSD license, and anyone can provide feedback, submit bugs, and of course directly contribute to the project. The Word tool should be available by the end of this year, with the Excel and PPT versions following in 2007.

This announcement is cool on so many levels. The coolest being that the projects will not only be Open Source but will be hosted on SourceForge. That is sweet. It is interesting to note that it is government customers and not businesses that are interested in ODF support in Office. I guess that makes sense if you consider which parties have been expressing interest in Open Office.

There already some great analyst responses to this move such as Stephen O'Grady of Redmonk who in his post Microsoft Office to Support ODF: The Q&A has some great insights. My favorite insight is excerpted below

Q: How about Microsoft's competitors?
A: Well, this is a bittersweet moment for them. For those like Corel that have eschewed ODF support, it's a matter of minor importance - at least until Microsoft is able to compete in public sector markets that mandate ODF and they are not.

But for those vendors that have touted ODF support as a diffentiator, this is a good news/bad news deal. The good news is that they can and almost certainly will point to Microsoft's support as validation of further ODF traction and momentum, they will now be competing - at least in theory, remember the limitation - with an Office suite that is frankly the most capable on the market. I've said for years that packages like are more than good enough for the majority of users, and that's been validated by our own usage of the product over the past few years; but Microsoft's suite is better than good enough. I'm interested to see if there's any fallout from the UI overhaul, but for now Office remains the undisputed champ of the Office arena. This means that commercial packages like StarOffice and Workplace, not to mention open source projects such as Abiword, KOffice, and will have to compete more on features and innovation and less on their support for formats such as ODF or PDF.

It'll be good to see the debate migrate away from support for file formats back to exactly which product's features provides the best value for customers. Everybody wins. Mad props to the Office team for making this decision. Rock on.