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December 4, 2006

Novell to support Microsoft Office formats in OpenOffice

Novell Inc has put some meat on the bones of its interoperability agreement with Microsoft Corp, announcing that it has joined the Microsoft backed Open XML Translator project to ensure that its version of the productivity software suite will support Microsoft's Office Open XML formats.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company said it is working with Microsoft and others as part of the previously announced translator project to create translators for importing word processing, spreadsheets and presentations from to Microsoft Office and vice versa.

Microsoft began sponsoring the Open XML Translator project in July in response to requests from government organizations for interoperability between its Office productivity suite and the OpenDocument Format.

Novell said it will make the translator available as plug-ins to Novell’s version of the package, with the word processing translator to be available first, by the end of January 2007.

Cooperation on office formats was one of three areas of focus highlighted by Novell and Microsoft when they announced their controversial interoperability and patent peace deal last month.

Format interoperability could be potentially beneficial to many end users given Microsoft’s dominance of the office applications space and the growing popularity of the OpenDocument Format, however some open source supporters will be wary given Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent comments regarding potential patent infringements in open source software.

The companies last month announced that they will not sue each other’s customers for patent infringement, prompting Ballmer to claim that Linux contains Microsoft’s intellectual property and that users of any Linux other than Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system had a balance sheet liability.

Those that have criticized the deal as being divisive will also have noticed Novell’s reference to the translators being available in Novell’s product, although the company has offered its own branded version of the open source applications suite for some time, with support for Microsoft’s Office VBA macros.

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Novell recently contributed the code that makes that possible to the community and said it will do the same with the translator code. Whether it will be accepted given suspicion regarding Microsoft’s motives is another matter.

In the meantime Microsoft has announced that Office Open XML, which is the default format for its forthcoming Office 2007 applications, will be presented for approval by the Ecma standardization group on December 7, and will then be forwarded for ISO approval.

The standardization of the Office file formats can be seen as a direct response to the success of the project and the OpenDocument Format it originated. ODF was approved as an ISO standard in May and has been adopted by a number of closed source application suites, such as Sun Microsystems Inc’s StarOffice, and IBM Corp’s Workplace.

Corel Corp, developer of the WordPerfect suite, announced last week that it will support both ODF and Microsoft’s Open Office XML format.

It has also been adopted by local governments agencies, notably Massachusetts, Extremadura in Spain, and Bristol in the UK, while national projects are underway in France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Brazil, amongst others.

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