Microsoft's New Interoperability Initiative

by CXOtoday Staff    Dec 18, 2008

To increase interoperability among office productivity applications, Microsoft has released documentation detailing its implementation of OASIS Open Document Format (ODF) support in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 which is currently in beta and scheduled for release next year. Likewise detailed notes about the implementation of Open XML in Office will also follow in the coming weeks.

These implementation notes will be useful to developers seeking to enhance the interoperability of their solutions with Microsoft products.

“This step raises the bar for transparent disclosure of how standard formats are supported at a detailed level,” said Dennis Hamilton, document-system interoperability architect.

The implementation notes include the following:

* Details on implementation decisions: When implementing a standard, an implementer may find the text ambiguous or more permissive than is appropriate for that particular implementation. In these cases implementers need to make a choice that best suits their application. This type of information enables developers to see the direction a vendor is taking and make informed decisions about their own efforts to interoperate.

* Details on additional data written into files: File format standards typically allow additional application-specific information (such as certain user customizations) to be written to the file. By providing this information vendors allow developers to correctly interpret the additional data.

* Details on implementation variances: With every application there may be instances where an implementer cannot follow the standard exactly for one reason or another. For example, general industry practice may differ from what is in the specification or users may have made clear that they need something different. In such cases, it is important for vendors to document their approach so other vendors can make fully informed decisions about how they will approach implementation.

Standardization is a useful first step in promoting interoperability, but more collaboration and transparency is required among vendors to achieve the goal. “We encourage other companies to take similar steps to help achieve greater interoperability across the industry,” said Doug Mahugh, senior project manager for Office interoperability. Events such as the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) workshops around the world enable technical vendor discussions, labs and solution-enablement programs that help vendors develop solutions for effective data exchange between product implementations of document format standards.