Microsoft will adopt open document standards following government battle

Microsoft has confirmed it will start supporting the Open Documents Format (ODF) in the next update to Office 365, following a lengthy battle against the UK government.

In 2014, Microsoft went against the government’s request to support ODF, claiming its own XML format was more heavily adopted. The UK government refutes the claim, stating that ODF allows users to not be boxed into one ecosystem.

Typically, Microsoft Office documents can only be opened with a few applications. Google Docs has a conversion tool for changing the format, but other productivity suites like Apple’s iWork and LibreOffice cannot utilise Office documents.

This new government victory forces Microsoft to enable users outside the Office ecosystem to download, view and edit documents without owning Office or subscribing to Office 365.

It is a u-turn move by Microsoft, possibly because of the UK government’s repeated court trials demanding the open standard be brought onto Office. Microsoft has not confirmed whether this update will be available worldwide, or just in the UK.

Office has quite a hefty lead on other productivity suites, but the growth of Google Docs in personal and business computers has started to get Microsoft worried. The recent iOS and Android adoption shows it is willing to go to new extremes to win back customers.

Google already support all sorts of open standards, meaning it cannot be attacked by the UK government for not supporting.