Microsoft Corp. announced that it is adopting XML technology for the default file formats in the next version of Microsoft Office editions, currently code-named “Office 12.” The new file formats, called Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, will become the defaults for the “Office 12” versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are expected to be released in the second half of 2006. The interoperability capabilities of the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats enable Microsoft Office applications to directly access data stored in systems outside those applications, such as server-based line-of-business applications. These third-party applications, in turn, can access data stored in the new Office file formats. Microsoft Office Open XML Formats are fully documented file formats with a royalty-free license. Anyone can integrate them directly into their servers, applications and business processes, without financial consideration to Microsoft. People using Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 will be able to open, edit and save files using the new formats, thanks to a free update available as a download from Microsoft that enables those older Office versions to work with the new formats. Documents created with the current binary file formats in Office also will be fully compatible with “Office 12” applications. So workers can save documents to their current formats and exchange those documents with people using “Office 12” — and when they upgrade to “Office 12,” they can continue to use their existing binary documents. Microsoft will provide further technical information about the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, including draft versions of the schemas, to help ensure that developers and IT professionals can be prepared to take advantage of the formats before product shipment. People interested in the new file formats and the next version of Office can get additional information beginning Monday, June 6 at a preview site, http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview

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