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Microsoft yesterday announced an alliance with vendors as the first step towards its brave, new world of interoperable software.

The company said existing partners, DataViz, Quickoffice, and Novell were all working on the new "Document Interoperability Initiative" to test incompatibilities and to make it easier to shift information between different formats.

The software giant also said it has released a translator between ISO-approved standard ODF (Open Document Format), the file format used by rivals including Sun and IBM, and Office Open XML (OOXML) for Microsoft's Excel and PowerPoint apps.

"Microsoft has committed to support future releases of the translator taking advantage of the improvements in Microsoft Office converter APIs announced as part of the interoperability principles on 21 February to provide a better integrated experience for customers to open and save ODF files," it said.

Microsoft said last month that it was cracking open the vaults by publishing fuller, and freer APIs for a range of its products.

Although the decision was welcomed, many saw it as a reaction to the European Union's record $1.35bn fine against Microsoft as well as the current brouhaha surrounding its second bid to get Office Open XML (OOXML) ISO-approved. Microsoft could also soon be seeking regulator approval for its takeover of Yahoo!

ISO members from 33 countries got together in Geneva last week to debate OOXML during a ballot resolution meeting.

Delegates who disapproved of Microsoft's file format last September have been given until the end of March to adjust their positions on the format if they wish.

Earlier this week, ODF 1.2 editor Patrick Durusau, who opposed the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard, said he now believes the industry should bring Microsoft's file format in from the cold (pdf).

His argument is that it is now more important that non-Microsoft groups get an input into future Office standards even if they have to compromise over OOXML.

Microsoft needs to bag 66 per cent of votes to see its OOXML format adopted by the ISO. ®

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