22 November 2005 Under intense pressure from the European Commission to make its technology less proprietary, Microsoft has announced that it will turn the Office document file format, Office Open XML, into an open standard. The move will ultimately enable customers and technology providers to build applications that work directly with Office documents irrespective of whether they licence the Microsoft software.
The upshot will be that Word, Excel and PowerPoint will be accessible from within other applications; it also means Microsoft’s rivals will be able to integrate their applications much more closely with Office applications.
The company said it is submitting Office Open XML to the European standards body, Ecma International, for open standardisation, supported by a group of major users and technology partners, including Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Statoil and Toshiba. That decision follows a June statement in which it said it would leave behind the multiple Office file formats it has used for more than two decades (.doc, .xls, .ppt and others) and adopt Open XML as the default file format for Office 12, the next version of its workplace applications package due next year.
The latest move is being interpreted as a response to pressure from European governments. While all big users of Office, they have been advocating the use of open source software and want their users to be able to work with Office documents from within these other applications.
Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, said the European Union (EU) and European Commission (EC) had “asked us to do more work on our formats, and we’ve done that.”