No OOXML in Office 2007 service pack

The next Service Pack for Microsoft's Office 2007 will feature native support for ODF and PDF formats, but won't include the newly-ratified version of its own OOXML format until "Office 14".

Office 2007 Service Pack 2, which is due early next year, will include support for the open-source ODF, Adobe's PDF and Microsoft's own PDF alternative, XPS.

Microsoft offers support for ODF in its current version of Office but only if additional software is downloaded separately and installed.

"Microsoft is going to be providing support for three new file formats directly in the Office product," said Erich Anderson, vice president and general counsel for Europe.

The company says it will also join a technical committee that is discussing a newer version of ODF. It didn't say how long it would support ODF or whether it would support successive versions of ODF.

Curiously, however, Microsoft has no plans to update the OOXML specification in the Service Pack.

"Microsoft has defined a roadmap for its implementation of the newly-ratified International Standard ISO/IEC 29500 (Office Open XML). IS29500, which was approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in March, is already substantially supported in Office 2007, and the company plans to update that support in the next major version release of the Microsoft Office system, codenamed Office 14," the company said in a press statement.

Microsoft may have decided to have improve support for ODF after complaints about the poor performance of its existing translators.

The British government education agency BECTA has complained to UK and EU competition authorities that the translators have limited functionality and are poorly integrated.

The European Commission responded cautiously to Microsoft's statement.

"The Commission would welcome any step that Microsoft took towards genuine interoperability, more consumer choice and less vendor lock-in," it claimed.

Thomas Vinje in Brussels, a lawyer who has represented clients opposed to Microsoft, said the announcement is meaningless unless Microsoft makes ODF the default standard when people opened Office. If ODF is not the standard its presence "won't matter because the vast majority will not use it."

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.