Microsoft says that they're not yet willing to support OpenDocument, but will do so if their customers demand it. It looks like they won't have to bother, because someone else is going to do the job for them.
A couple of days ago I got an intriguing email from Adam Kennedy letting me know of some interesting news to come: a press release announcing that some good people down under were going to help Microsoft with their OpenDocument support problem.
That press release has now been issued, and here are some excerpts:
Melbourne — 20 October 2005
Open Source Victoria, Australia’s government-funded open source industry cluster, has formed an alliance with Phase N to develop an open source solution to bring Open Document Format capabilities to Microsoft Office users. Called OpenOpenOffice or O3, it will allow Microsoft Office users to read and write Open Document Format (ODF) files….
“Through universal adoption, Open Document Format will bring, for the first time in our industry’s history, the reality of friction-free interchange of office documents between different office suites,” said . “The major hold-out here is Microsoft, who refuses to support ODF – a decision that seems based on self-serving reasons, to protect the near-monopoly of their high-priced Office suite. The ones who will suffer are the users.”
“We believe that Microsoft Office users should have a choice as to which format they store their documents in,” [said OSV convener Con Zymaris.]
According to an earlier private Blog post by Kennedy, helping out Microsoft will actually be quite easy. He confirms this in the press release:
“The amazing thing about the O3 concept is how simple it is,” said key O3 developer Adam Kennedy. “Just take the Word-to-ODF filters from the OpenOffice.org suite, and put them into Office in reverse. Microsoft has made it trivial to write plugins for Office using .NET, and the OpenOffice.org team has put a huge effort into their document conversion filters. So all that’s left is to connect the two together via some simple SOAP calls using C# and Perl, and then make sure it is easy for people to install into Office.”
“By not supporting ODF, Microsoft is placing its interests ahead of its users, who will be barred from entering this new sphere of document interoperability. This is another sign that the vendor cares little for offering interoperability and choice to its customers. The open source community equates such vendor stubbornness with damage, and much like the Internet, we will route around it. If Microsoft won’t offer choice to its Office users, we will do it for them,” concluded Zymaris.
So, how easy is “easy?” According to the OpenOpenOffice.org Website:
The main feature of this plan is simplicity. It requires no new concepts to be explored, no significant development, and leverages the huge existing body of work already created by the OpenOffice.org developers, the CPAN module authors, and the Microsoft .NET and Office teams. Initial ballpark estimates are for less than 2,000 lines of code and a few hundred hours of development time to get to an initial stable release of O3. [emphasis added]
I suspect that we’ll be hearing more thunder in the months ahead. This time, it may be the rending sounds of once-impregnable walls as they come crashing down.