It will be at least another three years before Office conforms to an international standard for sharing documents with Open Office, a standard that Microsoft pushed hard and that riled Open-Document-Format fans.
Microsoft said on Tuesday it will support the "strict" implementation of the Office Open XML spec - officially called 29500 and ratified by the International Organization for Standardization in April 2008 - "no later than" the next major release of Office, codenamed Office 15.
Microsoft releases big new versions of Office every three years, so it will be five years and two versions of Office after Microsoft convinced standards representatives to accept the spec that it pushed as an alternative to ODF, which humanity - well, the open-source industry and its supporters - had lined up behind.
Ahead of that, Microsoft's Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will provide partial adherence to the strict version of the spec: It will let Office 2007 users read Office 2010 documents created using the OOXML file formats, but Office 2007 users won't be able to create documents for Office 2010 users.
Microsoft explained the delay to implementing the strict version of 29500 by saying it needed time for customers and partners to transition.
"We have decided to prioritize compatibility and interoperability with existing implementations," lead standards professional in the Office interoperability team Doug Mahugh blogged Tuesday. He promised that when the full spec is fully implemented, anyone will be able to create documents in applications like Word or Excel using the OOXML file formats - not just read or view them.
Mahugh was responding after Microsoft was lambasted for failing the standards test on OOXML in Office 2010, due next month, by the normally anonymous and controversy shy ISO that approved the spec.
Alex Brown, who presided over the ISO vote in April 2008 that ratified the spec as ISO convener of the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting, accused Microsoft of acting in bad faith for implementing a "transitional" variant of the OOXML spec and not the strict version in Office 2010.
The transitional version is based on a copy of the spec rejected during a vote of ISO members in 2007. The spec was re-drafted before it was accepted in 2008.
"If Microsoft ships Office 2010 to handle only the Transitional variant of ISO/IEC 29500 they should expect to be roundly condemned for breaking faith with the International Standards community. This is not the format 'approved by ISO/IEC', it is the format that was rejected," Brown wrote.
He said OOXML is at a crossroads, and that without a change by Microsoft, it's doomed to failure.
Brown threw back at Microsoft the words of Microsoft's then Office senior vice president Chris Caposella who said in 2008: "We've listened to the global community and learned a lot, and we are committed to supporting the Open XML specification that is approved by ISO/IEC in our products."
Mahugh claimed that Microsoft's plans for Office 2010 had already been locked down by the time of the April 2008 vote, but it had worked to support the transitional version in the software.
He said that Microsoft started working to move toward strict support as soon as the final text was finished and that Microsoft's work is taking Office closer to the strict version. This included investing resources in migrating from Vector Markup Language - and old technology co-developed by Microsoft - to the XML-based Drawing ML for "many" features. ®