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Microsoft Ups Commitment to Bridge Gaps Between Open Source and Ecma Office Open XML


Microsoft believes that the IT industry has evolved to the point where a long-term foundation must be put into place to drive greater collaboration across open source and proprietary software companies that will ultimately yield increased benefits for all customers.

As part of this ongoing effort to promote and facilitate interoperability and innovation, the company continues to expand the Open XML- Open Document Format (ODF) Translator project. The project, developed with partners, seeks to create tools to build a technical bridge between Ecma Office Open XML Formats and ODF. Recently, Microsoft announced that Turbolinux, a major distributor of Linux software suits in Asia, will be joining the project.

It is both companies’ hope that this new collaboration will help in the creation of localized versions of the translators for Asian language customers. To learn a bit more about the progress being made by the Open XML-ODF Translator project and the value that Turbolinux will provide as a member of the Sourceforge project community, PressPass spoke with Jean Paoli, co-creator of the XML 1.0 standard and Microsoft’s general manager for interoperability and XML Architecture, and Mio Matsuda, manager, International Business Division, Turbolinux, Inc.

PressPass: The Open XML-ODF project celebrated its one year anniversary in July. What is the challenge that the Open XML-ODF Translator is trying to address?

Paoli: We know that some customers may want to work with multiple file formats and that translators between Ecma Open XML and ODF are tools that enable this. We are undertaking this effort as an open source project to enable ODF supporters and experts, whether they want to assume an official role in the community the way Turbolinux is, or simply contribute and help ensure that the translators are as high quality as they can be.

PressPass: What are the challenges that customers in Japan and China face that the Asian versions of the translators will address? Matsuda: Turbolinux will optimize the translators for the Japanese and Chinese markets, for example, by providing better support for the use of multi-byte character encodings, and expect to use them to enable OpenOffice to read and write Open XML documents. Customers in Japan and China have always struggled with the disparities between the different encoding used in Europe and the United States and Asia. By resolving those issues and integrating Ecma Open XML support in OpenOffice, customers in Asia will be able to take full advantage of Microsoft Office suite and office suite in ways not possible prior to this effort.

PressPass: Where does the translator project fit into Microsoft’s overall vision for customer choice and interoperability?

Paoli: We believe in addressing the key interoperability needs of our customers through solutions that deliver interoperability by design. To address interoperability challenges, we draw upon a diverse tool set that includes how we design our products, collaboration with third parties and access to our technologies and standardization. The translator project is an example of how we collaborate with third parties to deliver interoperable solutions. In addition to this, we have made the Ecma Open XML formats the default formats in the 2007 Office system and have made Compatibility Packs available for download that enable earlier versions of Office to work with Ecma Open XML; we have brought the Ecma Open XML specification under our Open Specification Promise to grant royalty-free use of any Microsoft patents necessary to implement the formats to the widest community; and we have supported the standardization of Open XML to pass control of the evolution of the standard to the community.

PressPass: What was Turbolinux’s prior relationship with Microsoft?Matsuda: Turbolinux has signed a license contract with Microsoft. We provide software that allows our Linux Desktop
customer to play Microsoft Windows Media Video and Audio.
PressPass: What is the benefit to Microsoft of having Turbolinux join this project?

Paoli: Microsoft benefits because its customers will benefit. Turbolinux has expertise in localizing technologies for the Japanese and Chinese markets and expertise working with ODF formats. It will bring that expertise to the Open XML-ODF translator project on SourceForge. This will help bring this interoperability technology – and the choice it enables – to users of document formats in these important markets.

PressPass: How does Turbolinux benefit by joining Microsoft in this project?

Matsuda: Through this project, Turbolinux believes that we can provide our customers with better compatibility between the Windows operating system and the Turbolinux Desktop Linux operating system. Compatibility between operating systems has been a major problem for consumers. This project enables greater customer choice of operating systems, depending on their needs.

PressPass: Why can’t Microsoft do the work themselves?

Paoli: The Open XML-ODF translator project is taking place on SourceForge so that ODF experts can take part to ensure that it is high quality. It has been one of the most popular projects on SourceForge, which indicates the importance of the work and the interest in the project and we welcome the input of companies like Turbolinux to ensure we’re representing the needs not just of Microsoft Office customers, but all customers with the translator tools created here.

PressPass: Why Turbolinux? What do they bring to the table?

Paoli: Turbolinux has, among other things, great expertise in localizing technologies for the Japanese and Chinese markets. It also has experience in working with the ODF formats as a distributor of OpenOffice. These are two of the reasons why Turbolinux’s decision to participate in and support the development of the translator is good news for customers, particularly those that work in Japanese and Chinese languages.
PressPass: What is happening to the localized translators after they are completed?

Paoli : The translators will be available for download by anyone, at no charge, from the SourceForge project site. Microsoft will also make them available for download from its Web site.

PressPass: How will these joint efforts affect the industry?

Matsuda: Our effort will provide more choices for customers, and in turn create
a healthier market environment. We hope to serve our customers better, and
this joint effort will certainly increase our customer satisfaction.

PressPass: Does that mean we should expect similar ODF translator collaborations in the future?

Paoli: The work around the Open XML-ODF translator is a great example of what’s possible when commercial open source vendors and commercial software companies collaborate to address the interoperability needs of our customers. We welcome the input of anyone who wishes to participate in the Open XML-ODF translator project. It’s our hope that this will become the first of many such efforts, as we think it will ultimately enrich the industry and the innovations we can bring to market – whatever our business models – for our respective customers.


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