Back in April I wrote about “Lock-In” and mentioned Microsoft as a company that locks customers in using proprietary data formats. Well, sure enough they go ahead and announce a major change in the data formats for the next generation of Office (due entirely to my comments I’m sure). They are promising to keep the XML formats open and publically available for anyone to use. This means that software makers will be able to easily access the documentation for the file formats and create applications that can easily read and extract information from Office documents created in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. This also means it should be easy to write in files into those formats as well.
Using a simple XML format is great move for Microsoft and for consumers. It will make their format all that more ubiquitous since independent developers will be able to treat it as an open standard and use it for their applications. That will make things simple for developers. Consumers may then have fewer proprietary file formats to deal with, making their lives simpler. Microsoft will have a huge selling point and will generate good will with this move.
This is good news all around, unless you were banking on the next generation of Office software to really flop. I look forward to seeing this come to fruition in 2006.