Earlier this week, Microsoft (MS) quietly announced that it will finally start to make good on a promise announced last May to open up its flagship productivity package, MS office, to third-party file formats.

MS has been under intense pressure from governments and other major users to make its Office suite compatible with the open source Open Document Format (ODF), popularized by free productivity suite competitor Open Office. A number of governments, agencies and educational authorities at all levels made a point, over the past two years, of announcing that they were considering switching from the MS Office system to the Open Office or other alternatives. Some actually did so — and suffered none of the evils MS predicted they would encounter in abandoning MS Office.

ODF support for Office will appear in Office 2007 Service Pack (SP) 2, scheduled for release sometime in the first half of 2009. MS has also specifically promised to include Adobe’s popular Portable Document Format (PDF) in Office. However, PDF is not specifically being promised for Office 2007 SP2.

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