This week, Google announced through a very short update to its official Google Apps update feed that Google Docs will be dropping export support for older Microsoft Office formats.
As of October 1st, Google plans to eliminate the ability for Google Docs users to export their documents in Office 1997-2003 formats. Specifically, users will no longer be able to export their Google Docs documents in .doc, .xls, or .ppt formats. This applies to both Google Apps and Google Apps for Business, Government, and Education.
Users will still be able to use newer Microsoft Office .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files, as well as a plethora of other XML formats, including the .odf OpenOffice format.
Users who use versions of Microsoft Office from Office 2003 and later should see no trouble in adapting to the change. On the other hand, users who still use .doc and other antiquated Office files on a regular basis could run into trouble. Considering the amount of people who still use very old versions of Microsoft Office, those who prepare documents through Google Docs would be well-served to check with the people they send their files to and make sure they are able to access them.
Though pulling support for a feature that already exists and works is odd, it is an indication that Google is on-board with the push toward XML and other more open formats. The change might just be the push that some businesses and governments need to update their productivity software.