Microsoft will Open Outlook .PST FormatBy BuildHome at 01/12/2010 07:37
The Microsoft Office Interoperability team on Monday announced that it would make the Outook .PST file format – which stores email, calendar entries, and contacts – accessible to third-party developers. The move means that other software, both on the client and on servers, will be able to access and manipulate the data using any programming language.
Significantly, it will also mean that the actual Outlook program, part of the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software, will not need to be installed. The team intends to fully document how data is stored, how to access it, and the actual structure of the PST file.
It's worth noting, however, that Microsoft has merely stated its intent to open the PST format, and not provided a timeframe in which it will do so.
"This documentation is still in its early stages and work is ongoing. We are engaging directly with industry experts and interested customers to gather feedback on the quality of the technical documentation to ensure that it is clear and useful," Paul Lorimer, group manager of Microsoft Office Interoperability wrote in a blog post. "When it is complete, it will be released under our Open Specification Promise, which will allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way."
A result of Microsoft's Interoperability Principles, announced in early 2008, the move seems designed to broaden the audience for Outlook/Exchange, though not requiring Outlook to be installed to use the format would seem to reduce demand for purchased copies of the software.
This open-sourcing of the Outlook/Exchange infrastructure comes on the heels of Apple's decision including support for Exchange/Outlook accounts in its latest operating system version, Mac OS X 10.6, or "Snow Leopard". On the other hand, opening up the format may lessen the appeal of Snow Leopard's inclusion of the feature. Apple has made much of the fact that you can access Exchange accounts in its OS without purchasing extra software, while in Microsoft's own OS, Windows 7, you need to buy a copy of Outlook to do so. Of course, any computer with a Web browser can access Exchange accounts through Outlook Web Access, but this new development and Apple's support mean that locally installed mail clients other than Outlook will work with Exchange accounts.
By Michael Muchmore, ExtremeTech