Microsoft opening up Office document formats

Aim is to boost government sales

Microsoft is to offer its Word, Excel and PowerPoint document formats as open standards.

Redmond says it will submit its Office Open XML (Extensible Markup Language) document format technology to the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to be adopted as an international standard in time for the launch of the next version of its Office suite, code-named Office 12.

The development comes as a group of technology rivals led by IBM and Sun Microsystems are mobilising a global effort to push the OASIS consortium’s Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) as a global standard format for such documents. The effort was spurred on in part by the well-publicised proposal in Massachusetts requiring compliance with OpenDocument for government documents.

Microsoft executives say the move will help the company win contracts from public authorities.

“We have a few barriers [with government contracts],” says Alan Yates, general manager for Microsoft Office. “It will give governments more long-term confidence.”

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