How open is the new MS Office?

Microsoft says it's opening up its Office desktop software by adding support for XML--a move that should help companies free up access to their shared information. But there's a catch: Microsoft has yet to disclose the underlying XML dialect that it's using. The software giant intends to make Extensible Markup Language (XML) a supported file format--in addition to existing proprietary formats--for its upcoming Office 11 desktop software, which is in the hands of about 12,000 beta testers. XML is a widely used standard for Web data exchange.

With the Office 11 update, Microsoft is allowing files saved in the XML format to be viewable through any standard Web browser. That's a big change from the company's previous stance of using only proprietary file formats. But Office's XML support will allow larger companies to extract and use data from documents more efficiently, according to Microsoft.

The software maker says it plans to disclose additional information on Office 11's XML schemas, possibly when the update ships next spring. Right now, a limited number of beta testers have access to some schema information. But it's unclear how complete the information Microsoft intends to release will be. Whether the company will disclose enough to allow interoperability with competing programs, and whether the schema information will be governed by licensing terms, are still unknown.

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News source: ZDNet

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