Microsoft has touted themselves many times before as champions of interoperability. They have assured us that they are the most compatible software vendor around. And yet, their latest update for the fairly popular Office 2003 takes a huge step backwards in making everything work. It seems that SP3 for Office 2003 disables the ability to open old versions of Microsoft-formatted documents, ranging from documents created in older versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others.

Even some fairly new software has its files blocked from Office 2003 as well, such as Word 2004. The reasoning? Security of course. Microsoft cites security concerns over older formats of documents creating a hazard, and for those still wanting to access old files they suggest a registry-hack workaround. A registry modification just to open old files? That seems a bit ridiculous - with how big they are on check boxes you'd think it would be trivial for them to include such a feature.

For people and perhaps businesses who have large amounts of documents in older formats, they might end up turning to alternative office suites. This decision from Microsoft seems poorly guided at best.