Microsoft is to support an open-source project that will help users convert Office suite documents into the rival OpenDocument format.
Microsoft is to launch the Open XML Translator project on SourceForge.net, a widely used site for hosting code-sharing projects.
The software will allow Office applications to open and save documents in the OpenDocument (ODF) format.
OpenDocument has emerged as an alternative in the government market, where organisations are concerned about their data being locked into Microsoft’s proprietary data formats.
The state of Massachusetts in the US is one of ODF’s high-profile advocates, and the Indian government is also looking at widely adopting the data platform.
OpenDocument is an XML-based format developed under the auspices of standards group OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.)
Microsoft has previously refused to offer native support to ODF, citing lack of demand, so the move will be seen as a reversal of that policy.
However, Microsoft may be moving in this direction in an attempt to convince its existing lucrative government customers that they have nothing to fear from using Microsoft products, and that their data will not be locked in.