Microsoft has explained that the move is in response to governmental requests for interoperability with OpenDocument format, and that the tools will be developed with the aid of French company Clever Age and India’s Aztecsoft and Dialogika of Germany.
"This tool promises to be a very significant development in the trend towards practical open document standards and, critically, customer-friendly means to move between them," said Andrew Hopkirk, director of the e-government operability framework programme at the UK’s National Computing Centre.
The move marks a departure from the traditional stance of Microsoft of keeping a strong hold of its own source code. The company has also, in the past, spent time and money fighting OpenDocument at every turn.
It is believed that the final tool will ship at the end of 2006, with converters for Excel and PowerPoint arriving early in 2007.