Microsoft has released a new software development kit for programmers interested in working with the company’s controversial Open Office XML file formats (the name has since been shortened to the misleading “Open XML”).
On the surface it would seem that such a move means better cross-application compatibility between various office suites, but unfortunately the new SDK is limited and doesn’t even support the version of OOXML that has been tentatively ratified by the ISO standards body.
Given that the new SDK supports the version of OOXML that shipped with Office 2007, rather than the one that may end up with ISO certification, many see the new SDK as an attempt to undermine open source development.
Since the new API includes a whole host of soon-to-be-deprecated features, it would appear to be near useless for developers wanting to support an ISO approved standard.
Microsoft has already admitted that it will be very difficult to support the revised version of OOXML in its own office suite, which probably doesn’t lend outside developers much confidence about supporting it in their apps.
Other limitations in the new SDK include a dependancy on the .NET framework, which isn’t surprising given Microsoft is heavily invested in .NET. But if the goal is better cross-application support, tying the API to a proprietary development framework strikes us an an odd way to go about it.
As with most things surrounding OOXML, the new SDK and APIs appear to be little more than a smokescreen designed to garner Microsoft some positive press.
In end the end we suspect the whole debate will be rendered moot by upcoming web apps like Zoho and Google Docs, which may well end up replacing the desktop office suite before OOXML can ever gain the foothold Microsoft is looking to secure.