Microsoft Announces Adoption of XML for Default File Formats in 'Office 12'
Microsoft "Office 12" XML File Formats to Give Customers Improved Data Interoperability and Dramatically Smaller File Sizes
Developers and IT Professionals Attending Tech-Ed Conference Next Week Will Get First View of New Way to Develop Integrated Office-based Solutions
Redmond, Washington, USA. June 01, 2005.
In a move to bring new levels of data interoperability to its customers and new market opportunities to technology providers throughout the industry, Microsoft Corp. today announced that it is adopting industry-standard Extensible Markup Language (XML) technology for the default file formats in the next version of Microsoft Office editions, currently code-named "Office 12."
The new file formats, called Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, will become the defaults for the "Office 12" versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are expected to be released in the second half of 2006. To ensure that developers, partners and IT professionals have the tools and information they need to deliver Office-based solutions using the new file formats, Microsoft will begin discussing details about the new XML file formats at the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2005 Conference next week in Orlando, Fla.
Sessions on the Office Open XML Formats at the show will cover the benefits of the new file formats, including smoother data interoperability, better security, improved error recovery and dramatically reduced file sizes. Show sessions also will outline the kinds of comprehensive training and support Microsoft will offer IT professionals for the new formats.
"Microsoft Office Open XML Formats have the potential to make a hugely positive impact on workers' effectiveness and productivity without requiring a minute of additional training," said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Office at Microsoft. "Customers have asked us for improved file and data management; improved interoperability; and open, royalty-free, published file format specifications — without sacrificing backward compatibility. We're confident that by adopting XML-based default file formats, we are delivering the tools that will help IT professionals address these challenges, while enabling developers to integrate Office even further into their customized solutions."
Building on XML Momentum
Although today's announcement marks its strongest use yet of XML in Office, Microsoft has supported the industry standard in its productivity technology since Office 2000, when the company introduced XML within the HTML file formats supported by Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It has steadily broadened that support in Office XP and Office 2003 and with the introduction of Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003.
Customers and the technology industry at large have moved rapidly to adopt XML as a core mechanism for structured data interchange. According to Microsoft research, more than 1 million developers are currently developing solutions using Office 2003, and more than one-third of them are using XML in their solutions. Gartner Inc. estimates that the use of XML-enabled e-forms will at least double through next year and that 40 percent of knowledge workers will use XML-aware content-creation tools by 2007.  Forrester Research Inc. predicts that XML will become one of the dominant document formats for archiving data by 2008. 
"Making XML the default Office file formats is, for me, the culmination of a 35-year dream," said Charles F. Goldfarb, the inventor of the markup language technology and author of The XML Handbook. "In 1970 we had just one system that could share documents between an editor, a back-end database and a publishing package. Now Microsoft is enabling hundreds of millions of people to routinely create XML that can interoperate with every kind of back-end system and Web service. I foresee a whole new range of advanced information-sharing scenarios, with improved workflows and enhanced individual and organizational collaboration."
Compact and Robust File Formats
The Microsoft Office Open XML Formats announced today provide smaller file sizes and improved recovery of damaged or corrupted files. They also help improve security through greater control of file content:
Smaller file sizes. Because they offer file sizes that are significantly smaller than comparable Microsoft Office 2003 files, the new formats will reduce data storage needs and costs for customers. Smaller files also take up less space as e-mail attachments or as downloadable files, so customers' bandwidth needs and costs are expected to decline as well. The smaller file sizes are enabled by a combination of industry-standard ZIP compressed files technology that automatically compresses each component within the file as well as the reduced overhead of an XML format.
Greater data recovery. The enhanced data-recovery capabilities of the new file formats include the ability to open and use the undamaged parts of a file when only one component — for example, a chart or image — is damaged, as can be the case with truncated e-mail attachments or damaged storage media. In addition, Microsoft Office Open XML Formats have technology to detect and attempt to fix corrupted files when workers open them. These capabilities are based on the formats' structures, which segment a file's data storage into discrete components that can be scanned, maintained and managed independently.
Improved security. This file structure also enhances security, because files with potentially hazardous code can be more readily identified and managed, and because personally identifiable information or confidential content — such as document comments — can be stripped out of files before they are moved out of the network.
Better Data Interoperability
The interoperability capabilities of the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats enable Microsoft Office applications to directly access data stored in systems outside those applications, such as server-based line-of-business applications. These third-party applications, in turn, can access data stored in the new Office file formats.
"Intel is excited to work with Microsoft to deliver business value through platforms that are more agile, protected and connected," said Renee James, vice president and general manager of the Software and Solutions Group at Intel. "Internally, we've already achieved major process improvements with XML and the Microsoft Office System. We developed a knowledge capture tool, which includes Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 and Intel Xeon server and Intel Centrino mobile technologies that transformed the way we collect and share information for our manufacturing facilities. That project had an internal rate of return of 99 percent. Based on this and similar experiences, we are eagerly anticipating the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, which businesses can effortlessly use to integrate applications, simplify access to information and increase effectiveness."
The new file formats enable applications and systems to access the contents of documents and spreadsheets for queries or updates without manual interaction or repetitive data entry, boosting worker productivity while delivering valuable new information to a company.
With this interoperability, new documents can be created rapidly and automatically from a range of data sources, with or without the use of Microsoft Office applications, and data mining of existing data can be conducted more quickly and easily.
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates discussed the need for these types of interoperability solutions when he unveiled the company's "New World of Work" vision at the Microsoft CEO Summit two weeks ago. Today's announcement is the first delivery on Gates' promise of "information solutions and IT fundamentals" that provide open XML standards and out-of-the box rapid development tools with which corporate developers can build and extend applications that incorporate business system information.
Open and Royalty-Free Formats
Microsoft Office Open XML Formats are fully documented file formats with a royalty-free license. Anyone can integrate them directly into their servers, applications and business processes, without financial consideration to Microsoft.
The open, royalty-free license will help ensure that third-party developers can easily integrate the file formats with their tools, enabling them to build solutions that provide universal access to Microsoft Office-based data without needing Microsoft Office applications and authoring tools.
Microsoft expects this to help create new market opportunities throughout the industry as developers and technology providers create innovative solutions that take advantage of the new technology and favorable economic model. For example, they can offer archiving solutions that allow workers to access Microsoft Office files long after those workers have ceased to use the version of Office with which the files were created.
Compatibility and Support for Customers and Partners
Compatibility with previous versions of Microsoft Office will help ensure that the new formats can be adopted readily by the millions of people who use Microsoft Office daily. For example, people and organizations using Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 — which account for the vast majority of Microsoft Office users — will be able to open, edit and save files using the new formats, thanks to a free update available as a download from Microsoft that enables those older Office versions to work with the new formats.
Documents created with the current binary file formats in Office also will be fully compatible with "Office 12" applications. So workers can save documents to their current formats and exchange those documents with people using "Office 12" — and when they upgrade to "Office 12," they can continue to use their existing binary documents. This compatibility will also help ensure that third-party solutions based on current versions of Microsoft Office continue to function properly.
Customers and partners will learn new details about the new file formats at Tech-Ed 2005 next week in Orlando. In the months leading up to the release of "Office 12," Microsoft will provide further technical information about the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, including draft versions of the schemas, to help ensure that developers and IT professionals can be prepared to take advantage of the formats before product shipment.
People interested in the new file formats and the next version of Office can get additional information at a preview site, http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview, beginning Monday, June 6, to coincide with the start of Tech-Ed.
About the Microsoft Office System
The Microsoft Office System is an easy way to help more people use information to positively impact their business. Through a system of familiar and easy-to-use programs, servers, services and solutions, users can connect people and organizations to information, business processes and each other — helping ensure that they derive the most value out of information. The Microsoft Office System consists of the 2003 editions of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, Microsoft Office Project and Project Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003, Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, Microsoft Office Publisher 2003 and Microsoft Office Visio 2003. Enabling technologies, such as Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Windows Server 2003, enhance the features and functionality of products in the Microsoft Office System.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See details in the news story "Microsoft Announces Adoption of XML for Default File Formats in 'Office 12'."