There’s been a lot of noise these last few days about the Microsoft Office XML file formats; the world doesn’t need my opinion again. I’d vaguely noted that Mac Office would be a little behind on the new XML, then Simon Phipps shot me links to a couple of closer looks, which shed an instructive light.
Andrew Shebanow does some numbers based on what we’re hearing and tries to estimate how many person-years it would take to implement MSOXML; yow!
The impact is that for the next few months, Mac people, just like Linux and Solaris people and everyone else who doesn’t use Windows, aren’t going to be able to read Office’s native file format. That’s OK, Sheridan Jones suggests a workaround: “For now, we recommend that Mac users advise their friends and colleagues using Office 2007 to save their documents as a ‘Word/Excel/PowerPoint 97-2003 Document’ (.doc, .xls, .ppt) to ensure the documents can be shared across platforms.” Right, then.
Students of message management will be amused at the conversation launched by Erik Schwiebert in Conversion factors. He dives deep on the Mac Office file-format issues. One fairly astounding statement was “there are certainly a variety of XML parsers out there, including libxml, but the only one that ships on Mac OS by default is libxml and it doesn’t support everything that the new file formats need.” Now that’s guaranteed to raise eyebrows in markup-land. Predictably, the comments got a little heated, and it didn’t help when Erik added “libxml didn’t handle the latest open standards that the XML spec details”. I’m trying hard to find a way to see that as anything other than a blatant lie, but it’s tough.
Eventually Rick Schaut (who seems like a Real Smart Guy) pulled aside the curtain of marketing weasel-speak and laid out the actual real engineering issues regarding libxml and MSXML and they’re not surprising or nefarious; but you rarely see such a nakedly exposed linguistic framing gradient.
I should close by saying that I’m a huge fan of the MacBU and think that Mac Office is probably the single best piece of software that Microsoft ships, and that I’ll probably end up buying it.