Microsoft has used many tools to maintain control of dominant control over office productivity products. It attempted to use patents to prevent competitors interoperating without special license. Then the patents were struck down in the US. Microsoft has now stepped back from that strategy and given commitments that nobody would be sued for using their new Word XML formats. However, the competing Open Document Format made popular by OpenOffice and now a ISO Standard has forced Microsoft to provide customers with some support for interoperability. In this article we see Microsoft starting an Open Source project that will provide support for ODF interoperability.
The interesting thing is that there is already a Open Source project called the Open Office to MSOffice Converter that is providing the means to convert between Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer. The Microsoft effort, which can be found on SourceForge here, is working with the Clever Age, the developers of the original project, and is using materials from that project, which explains why is is licensed under the same BSD terms. It looks like Microsoft are providing very little in the way of actual code to the project, rather providing "Funding, Architectural & Technical Guidance and Project co-coordination". A Blog from Brian Jones, a program manager at Microsoft, details the release of the project.