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To read comments to this article, go here
Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 11:22 AM EDT

Microsoft appears to be floating a balloon to see what the reaction will be. Andy Updegrove has blogged that the company's position now is maybe they'll support OpenDocument Format if there is enough customer demand:
It seems that "wait and see" is still Microsoft's stated policy, meaning that it is keeping a back door open to the possibility of supporting OpenDocument in the future.

Where do I get that? Nick Tsilas, a Senior Attorney at Microsoft I know, corrected me on this, emailing me about ten days ago as follows:

Andy, this is not accurate. I think what we have said is that features are dictated by customer demand and, until the Massachusetts-related activity occurred, Open Document was not even on our radar screens.

I later got back to Nick, and asked him whether he could confirm that this is current Microsoft policy. In an email on which he copied Microsoft General Manager of Information Worker Business Strategy (I had earlier interviewed Alan in connection with the article), Nick replied:

Yes-- I can confirm that the [above] is the company position. For us this has been, and will continue to be a matter of evaluating the flow of customer requirements, and this is a new issue. For example, while the timing may be suspect to some, our pdf development was the result of evaluating customer requirements.

So there is no line drawn in the sand, nor (to put it another way) has Microsoft painted itself into a corner. If OpenDocument picks up steam, a back door for support is ajar.

I am glad to see some progress, and I will applaud if Microsoft decides to do a 180 and support OpenDocument Format after all, subject only to a revision of emotion if their support turns out not to work well on purpose.

There is some misinformation in the blog entry, which is surprising since Updegrove is legal counsel for OASIS. The newly formed Open Document Fellowship was not formed by OASIS or any company, to my understanding. It's individuals, and it's growing like hot cakes, by the way, in case Microsoft wishes to know how people feel.

Here's how they feel: they want easy interoperability, they want clean XML, they want to be able to access documents 100 years from now without having to depend on Microsoft or any company, and they want Microsoft and FOSS to get along, and that means license terms that don't exile the GPL.


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