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Microsoft aTwitter About Interop

Outlook's rendering of HTML e-mail in Word came under fire again this week on Twitter after David Grenier wrote a blog entitled "Microsoft to ignore web standards in Outlook 2010 -- enough is enough" and launched a tweet campaign on FixOutlook.org. So far, 20,000 and counting....

Grenier who started the Email Standards Project based on this same issue when Outlook 2007 switched from IE (used in earlier versions) to Word to render HTML emails, reports:

After testing the latest beta of Outlook 2010 and seeing the same poor standards support as 2007, a senior member of the Outlook team confirmed they plan on continuing to use Word to render HTML emails. Not only that, but early tests indicate that HTML support in the Word engine has not been improved in any way. Same bugs. Same quirks.

Microsoft came out swinging in a response to the FixOutlook tweeters on its Microsoft Outlook Team blog. William Kennedy, corporate vice president, Office Communications and Forms Team, said:

The Email Standards Project, which developed the website that promotes the current Twitter campaign, is backed by the maker of "email marketing campaign" software.

First, while we don't yet have a broadly-available beta version of Microsoft Office 2010, we can confirm that Outlook 2010 does use Word 2010 for composing and displaying e-mail, just as it did in Office 2007. We've made the decision to continue to use Word for creating e-mail messages because we believe it's the best e-mail authoring experience around, with rich tools that our Word customers have enjoyed for over 25 years.

Kennedy also claimed:

There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability.

The timing of this latest dust-up dovetailed nicely with a visit to our Framingham offices earlier today by Craig Shank, general manager of Microsoft's Interoperability Group and Jean Paoli, general manager of the Interoperability Strategy Team. They declined to comment on the specific Outlook issue but outlined Microsoft's current approach to interoperability in broad terms.

"The Internet has changed everything," said Shank, from the enterprise to the cloud to the device level. "The user level and the purchaser level has a strong expectation that connectivity will be seamless. The developer level recognizes that there is work involved in order to get there."

Microsoft recognizes that its technologies have to work in a mixed IT environment. The company is taking a "structured approach" based on customer focused scenarios, according to Shank, in four areas: products, collaboration, developer resources and formal standards.

It's been about 18 months since Microsoft unveiled its Interoperability Principles, which included the pledge to engineer upcoming products under new the guidelines and upload reams of technical documentation for Microsoft protocols for six key products, Office 2007, SharePoint Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 among them. Since that announcement in February 2008, the Microsoft IE team changed course midstream and pledged to make IE8 Web-standards complaint. In May, MindTree Limited released version 1 of the OpenXML Document Viewer, which enables users to read .docx files as HTML.

This month, a new Interoperability@Microsoft blog and the Interoperability Bridges and Labs Center site should make Microsoft's multiple interop efforts easier to track.

Principles are one thing, real-world implementation is another. The Outlook 2010 beta technology smacks of Windows with Walls. As a developer, is it any easier to exchange documents, integrate Office and SharePoint with third-party products or use Web Services as a bridge to non-Microsoft technologies than it was 18 months ago? Express your thoughts on the Web below or drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 06/25/2009

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