EU to investigate Microsoft file format support

Microsoft says the move to allow Office to save and edit files in a rival format will give consumers more choice. The EU isn't convinced.

Mike Ricciuti Staff writer, CNET News
Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.
Mike Ricciuti
2 min read

A new plan by Microsoft to allow its Office software to save and edit files in a rival format will face a probe by the European Commission.

The Commission said late Wednesday that it will investigate whether Microsoft's decision to add support for the Open Document Format to Office will result in greater consumer choice.

Microsoft's move, also announced Wednesday, is seen as a concession to regulators concerned about competition and to customers, mainly governments, worried about product lock-in.

"The Commission will investigate whether the announced support of Open Document Format in Office leads to better interoperability and allows consumers to process and exchange their documents with the software product of their choice," the commission said in a statement reported by Dow Jones.

A Microsoft product manager told CNET News.com on Wednesday that the company plans to discuss its move with the Commission. "We have ongoing dialogue with the EC, so we will absolutely have a discussion with them about these steps and get whatever feedback they may have on it," said Tom Robertson, general manager of Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft.

Starting sometime in the first half of next year, Office 2007 will support ODF as a native file format alongside Microsoft's own Office Open XML. Customers will be able to choose one or the other as the default format.

For roughly two years, Microsoft has made available translators that let Office work with ODF documents. The company plans to continue to do that for older versions of Office. Support for ODF, along with the Portable Document Format and the XML Paper Specification, will be built into the next version of Office, code named Office 14.