Today Microsoft announced that the XML file formats to be supported by default in the Office "12" product will be open.
"We are going to bring the Microsoft Office Open XML formats to a standards body with the intention of eventually making the formats an ISO standard. This should really help everyone feel certain that these formats will always be available and fully accessible. We are going to work with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba to form a technical committee at ECMA International that will fully document all of our schemas so that anyone can understand how to develop on top of them. This is obviously a huge step forward and it really helps to increase the value of these document formats because of the improved transparency and interoperability. This will help to create a large ecosystem built around these formats that will support them in a large number of different scenarios for customers.This is great news, for various reasons, but what this means to consumers is this, if your data is stored in Office 12 file formats, in the future the question will not be if you will be able to get to your data, but how you will get to it. I've had documents in several file formats that have eventually died and getting the data out has been a real chore. This kind of commitment is a great thing for everyone involved. I hope it is well recieved.