Microsoft's document format has been criticized due to its incompatibility with other software. With the release of Office 2007, the company is changing the default Office file format to new XML-enabled formats. The move also marks an effort to simplify the development of document processing systems with an Office interface.
"We know that developers want to programmatically interoperate with documents and set fields in Word documents, address a range in Excel, both to put data in and get data out," said Jay Roxe, lead product manager in the .NET Developer Product Marketing Group at Microsoft. "That is where I see the XML functionality in Office becoming increasingly important. We are just at the beginning of seeing how developers are going to take this over."
According to Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft, Open XML results in a new application infrastructure, which he refers to as the document processing infrastructure.
"The basic idea is there is some client logic in Office that helps you put the information into the document, but then does the processing on the server," Helm said. "You could always do this, but it was tough to crack because of the binary format. Microsoft did not give good APIs for getting data out of anything but Office."
Combined with the new UI in Office 2007, the move to XML could make the use of competitive products more attractive to some companies, Helm said. "There will be more training and deployment problems for Office 2007 than with previous versions. This raises the question for small organizations about whether it is time to switch," he said. "My guess is that the numbers that switch will be small, but I could be surprised."