October 3, 2005 1:13 PM PDT
Newsmaker: Microsoft says Office beta coming in NovemberSee all Newsmakers
Microsoft has been gradually opening its Office formats for years, adding support for options such as Rich Text Format and HTML. But the pressure on Redmond to open things up further has continued, most recently with the state of Massachusetts issuing a mandate that its software purchases support a rival format, OpenDocument. This week, Microsoft announced that, with the next version of Office, it will support saving files to Adobe's Portable Document Format, or PDF.
In an interview with CNET News.com, Microsoft Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky said the company gets 120,000 requests a month from people who want to save their Office documents in PDF format, making it one of the most requested features.
While logical, the move raises questions about how the PDF support will coexist with Windows Vista's move to its own page description format, known as Metro.
Some clues may emerge when Microsoft releases the first beta of Office 12, something Sinofsky said will happen in November. While clear on the timing, Sinofsky didn't provide many clues on what else to expect in the beta. Microsoft has talked about general areas it hopes to improve with Office 12, as well as the program's new look. However, the company has yet to release a reckoning of what new features the program will pack.
Sinofsky also addressed how Microsoft views the controversy surrounding Massachusetts' mandate for the OpenDocument standard.
Q: PDFs have been popular for a while. Why add them now to Office?
Sinofsky: We've had an ongoing investment in opening up Office, starting back with Office 2000 and the HTML file format, Office 2003 with XML, and recently the announcement of the open XML format for Office 12. We think it is just a natural fit with that evolution. It's been a feature area that has been under development for the whole product cycle; we just chose to announce it this past week.
How does this fit with Metro, the new document format being established with Windows Vista?
Sinofsky: Right now we are still in the process of talking publicly about different investments that we've made with Office 12. We have a beta coming up in November. This week we chose to talk about the PDF investments that we've made, in particular.
Obviously Vista will natively support Metro, so if somebody is running Office 12 in Vista they will have the ability to save and print using Metro. Is it too early to say if Windows XP users will be able to do the same?
Sinofsky: The way that we have talked about the (Metro) feature, it will work for all applications on the platform. For Office 12, since we haven't disclosed the whole feature set of the product, today we are really focused on telling folks about the PDF support that we've added.
You mentioned that there is a beta coming in November. What are people likely to see? How far along will things be by this point?
Sinofsky: When we come out with our beta, it will be our Beta 1. That's the first of the betas, so it will be in the kind of shape that people normally expect Beta 1 to be in.
Do you think this might open some doors in Massachusetts and other states that might be considering some kind of OpenDocument mandate?
Sinofsky: I can't speak specifically for any particular location. We're very excited about the investments we've made in opening up Office. This just speaks to our commitment for customers to have a choice in what types of open formats they want to work within the Office applications.
If Microsoft can add HTML and XML and now PDF-saving options, wouldn't it be fairly easy to support the OpenDocument format?
Sinofsky: I certainly wouldn't say it would be fairly easy. In fact it would be a very substantial undertaking. Frankly, we've had no demand from our customers for this feature.
We get over 120,000 requests every month for PDF support from our Office Online Web site. We chose to announce out PDF support to our MVPs (most valued professionals), a group of power users, writers, trainers consultants, VARs. They've been asking for this feature
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