Blogger: Guy Creese
According to a post at OpenOffice.org Ninja, OpenOffice.org 3.0 is planning to support the reading and writing of OOXML documents. This will not occur in the immediate future: OpenOffice.org 3.0 is about six months away (with OpenOffice.org 2.4 shipping in the meantime) and the screenshot included in the post shows a lot of work still needs to be done. However, this means that sometime in 2008 OpenOffice.org users will be able to easily share documents with workers or partners who are using the Microsoft Office 2007 default file formats.
What's interesting here is this appears to be a change in the OpenOffice.org stance from seven months ago. On August 15, 2007, Michael Brauer noted in a blog post, "First of all, Sun's OpenOffice.org developers are only working on import filters, that is, filters that read OOXML documents into OpenOffice.org. We are not working on export filters, that is, filters that save OOXML documents."
Whether it's a shift or not, the OpenOffice.org plan to import/export OOXML documents strikes me as both pragmatic and smart--although I'm sure the coding will be an absolute bear (see this post on the difficulty of importing shapes from OOXML). Most companies--and almost all end users--aren't interested in the ODF/OOXML debate: they just want to get their work done. Towards the end of 2008, OpenOffice.org users will be collaboration peers with enterprise users who use Microsoft Office 2007 (the vast majority) because they'll all be using the same file format. At that point, some smart enterprises are going to say, "Hey, this pretty full-featured office suite plays well with my documents--and best of all it's free. We should look at switching from Microsoft Office."
Don't get me wrong--I don't think there will be a mass migration to OpenOffice.org 3.0. You can find plenty of blog comments where people say they prefer the fit and finish of Microsoft Office to that of Google Apps and OpenOffice.org. Furthermore, Microsoft has made sure that the tight integration/synergy between Office 2007 and SharePoint 2007 doesn't go unnoticed.
Nevertheless, I think we will start to see pockets of OpenOffice.org usage, especially if the economy continues to go south and IT departments start looking for ways to economize. Let's be real--if an IT department figures it can decrease its Microsoft Office license fees by a fifth by replacing 20% of its Office installs with OpenOffice.org--and without taking a huge hit in productivity or training costs--it will do so. Several years ago, people would have laughed if you'd said Apple would soon have 14% of retail PC market share in the U.S.--yet that's happened. Get ready for some interesting times.