The Translator project is among the 30 most active on SourceForge and has been downloaded more than 50,000 times, Paoli said, adding that while he is unaware of any code having been written by anyone from the open-source community, many community members have made technical suggestions, as well as found and reported bugs. "This release is further evidence of our commitment to interoperability. The Translator project was conducted in the open, there were regular releases of the updated code, allowing everyone to participate and comment on it. A beta of the Translator, both in read and write, was also released on SourceForge last summer," Paoli said.For example, if a user starts with an ODF format, which is not full-featured, and they then open the document in Office "with almost no problems," they can then change it, he said, as long as those changes were within the features supported by ODF. But, if they started to use some of the complex Word features, there would "of course not be fidelity at the end." But the open nature of the project meant that developers could now see what was missing in ODF and then work to improve this, Paoli said, noting that the ODF standard was currently taking place. For his part, Matusow said that Microsoft fully expected the Translator to provide significant input for the ODF as to where the fidelity of the format needs to be improved, given that it will highlight the shortcomings and differences between the two formats. Standardization was also a big part of the discussion, he said, noting that Ecma International had voted last December to approve Ecma 376, making Open XML an industry standard. It was also now being considered for approval by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), he said. Matusow then took aim at IBM, the sole dissenter when the standard was up for a vote at Ecma, saying the company continued to contradict its commitment to encourage innovation in the open-source community. Read more here about how Microsoft hit back at its Open XML critics. "Yet, in a situation where we are now putting forward a way to build bridges and enable these things, clearly product competition now comes to the fore and Microsofts product is in competition with Workplace or other ODF-based elements. But we are going to continue to look for ways to build bridges and work with competing companies and find resolutions to these issues," he said. Given that IBM was among the many voices asking Microsoft to standardize the formats it was using, "this trajectory is exactly what they were asking for: us to take it to a standards body and have it become a standard. But, clearly, this doesnt jive with their current commercial goals around not only the products they are delivering, but also in the services space, where it behooves them to have a more complex environment, not a less complex one," Matusow said. The second phase of the project, developing translators for Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, will again be developed with three partners: IT solution provider Clever Age, which will write the code; and ISVs Aztecsoft, which will test the code; and Dialogika, which will test the code in the context of the specific tablets used by European governments internally. This phase, which will begin in February, will have the same open model and license and will also be posted to SourceForge, Paoli said. Customer technology previews will be posted to SourceForge starting in May, with the final versions scheduled to be available in November. "We will be using a lot of the learning and portions of the actual software that has already been developed for the document translator. This next phase will also ensure that the three components in the specification are covered: documents, spreadsheets and presentation," Paoli said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Asked about how seamless the experience would be for users, Paoli cautioned that "at the end of the day the formats are very different. Their designs are very different and their functionality levels are different. So, of course, there are scenarios that will work better than others."