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Created: June 02, 2005.
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Microsoft Announces Adoption of XML for Default File Formats in 'Office 12'.


Microsoft Corporation has announced its plan to use XML schemas in the new "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats" for its next version of Microsoft Office editions, now referenced under the code-name "Office 12." Although binary formats will be supported as well, for example in the ZIP package format and the 'Excel 12 Binary Workbook (.xlsb), Office 12 will use XML in its "default" file formats for Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, which "are expected to be released in the second half of 2006."

The new XML file formats are designed as an "extension of the WordprocessingML and SpreadsheetML schemas introduced in previous versions of Office," and are intended to be interoperable with binary formats in Office 2000 and later. Free tools will be made available to "enable users of Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003 to open and save to the new formats. Documents created with the current binary file formats in Office also will be fully compatible with Office 12 applications, so workers can save documents to their current formats and exchange those documents with people using 'Office 12'; when they upgrade to 'Office 12,' they can continue to use their existing binary documents."

Similar to the XML-based technology documented in the OASIS Standard Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument), the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats use ZIP to package and compress constituent parts of compound XML documents.

A white paper "The Microsoft Office Open XML Format: Preview for Developers" provides details on the XML File Structure. Each file is composed of "a collection of multiple XML parts describing file data, metadata, customer data. Non-XML parts supported as native files" (e.g., images, VBA projects, OLE objects), and XML structures support the encoding relationships that define any specific file structure. ZIP itself provides the wrapper, or container, providing compression and CRC-based integrity checking for individual file components.

According to this white paper, the new, XML-based file formats advance the extensive XML integration capabilities of the Microsoft Office System by separating document content from document presentation information. The different types of data that comprise an Office document are stored within each file as discrete, ZIP-compressed XML components. For example, rather than embedding an image in the document data, the application can store the image as a separate part that can be referenced by the document data. This feature allows other applications access to the image, without requiring that they extract it from the rest of the application data. The individual parts within the container that make up the file are defined by published, fully documented XML specifications."

The ZIP technology supports both openness and robustness: openness because "there is no reliance on any particular software application to provide access to the document contents," and individual components can be extracted from the package without affecting the other parts. "The new file formats enable applications and systems to access the contents of documents and spreadsheets for queries or updates without manual interaction or repetitive data entry, boosting worker productivity while delivering valuable new information to a company. With this interoperability, new documents can be created rapidly and automatically from a range of data sources, with or without the use of Microsoft Office applications, and data mining of existing data can be conducted more quickly and easily."

Robustness is enhanced because a file corruption in one subcomponent of a ZIP package can be detected, and need not affect processing of the other parts: "Because the Open XML Formats segment, store, and compress file components separately, they reduce the risk of corruption and improve the chances of recovering data from within damaged files. The file compression engine algorithm performs cyclic redundancy check (CRC) error detection on each part to help ensure the part has not been corrupted. If one part has been corrupted, the remaining parts can still be used to open the remainder of the file. For example, a corrupt image or error in an embedded macro does not prevent users from opening the entire file, or from recovering the XML data and text-based information."

Microsoft's design in the Open XML Formats also attempts to support data privacy and security: "personally identifiable or business-sensitive information (for example, comments, deletions, user names, file paths, and other document metadata) can be clearly identified and separated from the document data. As a result, organizations can more effectively enforce policies or best practices related to security, privacy, and document management, and they can exchange documents more confidently. Similarly, files containing content such as OLE objects or Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code can be identified for special processing." Corporate strategy might dictate a solution by which all private information is filtered out of documents before they are emailed to remote locations.

The Microsoft "Preview" white paper discusses "Macro-Enabled Files versus Macro-Free Files" as one strategy to allow users to reduce security risks. The proposed file extensions for 'Word 12' include .docx for XML macro-free documents and .dotxfor macro-free templates. Corresponding pairs are .docm and .dotm for the macro-enabled XML documents and templates. Similar variations are noted for 'PowerPoint 12' and 'Excel 12' files. "The default 'Office 12' documents saved in the Open XML Format are considered to be macro-free files and therefore cannot contain code; this behavior ensures that malicious code residing in a default document can never be unexpectedly executed. While documents can still contain and use macros in 'Office 12,' the user or developer will be required to specifically save these documents as a macro-enabled document type. This safeguard will not affect a developer's ability to build solutions, but will allow organizations to use documents with more confidence."

Customer-defined XML schemas are said to be enabled by the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats to the extent that support is provided for "mapping customer-defined schemas into the content of Word and Excel files. Office documents using the Open XML Format allow you to add your own data and content beyond what Office-based properties offer, for example, for advanced document profiling. Developers can create their own custom-defined XML and place it in the file as 'just another' part. Support for custom schemas enables the inclusion of specific XML vocabularies in Office documents, helping integrate critical business data into the information worker's document authoring environment."

Provisional information from Microsoft in the white paper "New File Formats for 'Office 12'" says that the "specification for the format and schemas will be published and made available under the same royalty-free license that exists today for the Microsoft Office 2003 Reference Schemas and which is openly offered and available for broad industry use." Critics of Microsoft's patent licensing terms for XML Schemas, including many open source developers, will likely not be impressed by this promise. Microsoft partners who already have patent cross-licensing agreements will likely not find the terms especially onerous, but the story remains to be played out some 12-18 months from now ("the second half of 2006") when the XML formats and 'Office 12' products are released for licensing and purchase.

Debate continues on the question of what is meaningfully open as a document format: the "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats" (or "Open XML Formats") are labeled "open", as is the OASIS "Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument)", recently approved as an OASIS Standard. Many will argue that the "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats" are indeed not open, because they are proprietary, under the control of a single private corporation, not produced by any recognized "open" standards body, and because users must agree to the terms of Microsoft's patent license agreement. Based upon statements from Richard Stallman (president of the Free Software Foundation and the author of the GNU GPL), eWEEK asserts that "the royalty-free license under which Microsoft plans to make its upcoming new Office Open XML Formats widely available is incompatible with the GNU General Public License and will thus prevent many free and open-source software projects from using the formats."

Bob Sutor (IBM) argues that one characteristic of a "real open document format in 2005" is that it be "available on a royalty-free basis and has no restrictions that might limit its use for any reason in any software, be it customer-unique code, a vendor product or open source." An "open" specification, in the minds of some, is not one controlled by a private corporate entity who has authority to change the format specification at its sole discretion and authority to unilaterally set the terms for permissible usage under a license agreement.

An open standard placing no restrictions that might limit its use for any reason in any software [including] open source may be a standard that can be implemented without asking someone's permission, and without requiring that every developer building on freely distributed source code go back to all the patent holders to formally execute separate license agreements. Subsequent to the XML Formats announcement, Microsoft faced a challenge from the Apache Software Foundation on this key limitation, reminiscent of the stalemate in the case of Microsoft's patents on the Sender ID antispam specification "submitted" to IETF. According to an InfoWorld report, the WS-Security specification as licensed by the IP owners faced problems of compatibility with open source licenses because of a non-transfer clause.

From the Microsoft Announcement

In a move to bring new levels of data interoperability to its customers and new market opportunities to technology providers throughout the industry, Microsoft Corp. today announced that it is adopting industry-standard Extensible Markup Language (XML) technology for the default file formats in the next version of Microsoft Office editions, currently code-named "Office 12."

The new file formats, called Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, will become the defaults for the "Office 12" versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which are expected to be released in the second half of 2006. To ensure that developers, partners and IT professionals have the tools and information they need to deliver Office-based solutions using the new file formats, Microsoft will begin discussing details about the new XML file formats at the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2005 Conference next week in Orlando, Fla.

Sessions on the Office Open XML Formats at the show will cover the benefits of the new file formats, including smoother data interoperability, better security, improved error recovery and dramatically reduced file sizes. Show sessions also will outline the kinds of comprehensive training and support Microsoft will offer IT professionals for the new formats.

"Microsoft Office Open XML Formats have the potential to make a hugely positive impact on workers' effectiveness and productivity without requiring a minute of additional training," said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Office at Microsoft. "Customers have asked us for improved file and data management; improved interoperability; and open, royalty-free, published file format specifications — without sacrificing backward compatibility. We're confident that by adopting XML-based default file formats, we are delivering the tools that will help IT professionals address these challenges, while enabling developers to integrate Office even further into their customized solutions."

Building on XML Momentum

Although today's announcement marks its strongest use yet of XML in Office, Microsoft has supported the industry standard in its productivity technology since Office 2000, when the company introduced XML within the HTML file formats supported by Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It has steadily broadened that support in Office XP and Office 2003 and with the introduction of Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003.

Customers and the technology industry at large have moved rapidly to adopt XML as a core mechanism for structured data interchange. According to Microsoft research, more than 1 million developers are currently developing solutions using Office 2003, and more than one-third of them are using XML in their solutions. Gartner Inc. estimates that the use of XML-enabled e-forms will at least double through next year and that 40 percent of knowledge workers will use XML-aware content-creation tools by 2007. [1] Forrester Research Inc. predicts that XML will become one of the dominant document formats for archiving data by 2008. [2]

"Making XML the default Office file formats is, for me, the culmination of a 35-year dream," said Charles F. Goldfarb, the inventor of the markup language technology and author of The XML Handbook. "In 1970 we had just one system that could share documents between an editor, a back-end database and a publishing package. Now Microsoft is enabling hundreds of millions of people to routinely create XML that can interoperate with every kind of back-end system and Web service. I foresee a whole new range of advanced information-sharing scenarios, with improved workflows and enhanced individual and organizational collaboration."

Compact and Robust File Formats

The Microsoft Office Open XML Formats announced today provide smaller file sizes and improved recovery of damaged or corrupted files. They also help improve security through greater control of file content:

  • Smaller file sizes. Because they offer file sizes that are significantly smaller than comparable Microsoft Office 2003 files, the new formats will reduce data storage needs and costs for customers. Smaller files also take up less space as e-mail attachments or as downloadable files, so customers' bandwidth needs and costs are expected to decline as well. The smaller file sizes are enabled by a combination of industry-standard ZIP compressed files technology that automatically compresses each component within the file as well as the reduced overhead of an XML format.

  • Greater data recovery. The enhanced data-recovery capabilities of the new file formats include the ability to open and use the undamaged parts of a file when only one component — for example, a chart or image — is damaged, as can be the case with truncated e-mail attachments or damaged storage media. In addition, Microsoft Office Open XML Formats have technology to detect and attempt to fix corrupted files when workers open them. These capabilities are based on the formats' structures, which segment a file's data storage into discrete components that can be scanned, maintained and managed independently.

  • Improved security. This file structure also enhances security, because files with potentially hazardous code can be more readily identified and managed, and because personally identifiable information or confidential content — such as document comments — can be stripped out of files before they are moved out of the network.

Better Data Interoperability

The interoperability capabilities of the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats enable Microsoft Office applications to directly access data stored in systems outside those applications, such as server-based line-of-business applications. These third-party applications, in turn, can access data stored in the new Office file formats.

"Intel is excited to work with Microsoft to deliver business value through platforms that are more agile, protected and connected," said Renee James, vice president and general manager of the Software and Solutions Group at Intel. "Internally, we've already achieved major process improvements with XML and the Microsoft Office System. We developed a knowledge capture tool, which includes Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 and Intel Xeon server and Intel Centrino mobile technologies that transformed the way we collect and share information for our manufacturing facilities. That project had an internal rate of return of 99 percent. Based on this and similar experiences, we are eagerly anticipating the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, which businesses can effortlessly use to integrate applications, simplify access to information and increase effectiveness."

The new file formats enable applications and systems to access the contents of documents and spreadsheets for queries or updates without manual interaction or repetitive data entry, boosting worker productivity while delivering valuable new information to a company.

With this interoperability, new documents can be created rapidly and automatically from a range of data sources, with or without the use of Microsoft Office applications, and data mining of existing data can be conducted more quickly and easily.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates discussed the need for these types of interoperability solutions when he unveiled the company's "New World of Work" vision at the Microsoft CEO Summit two weeks ago. Today's announcement is the first delivery on Gates' promise of "information solutions and IT fundamentals" that provide open XML standards and out-of-the box rapid development tools with which corporate developers can build and extend applications that incorporate business system information.

Open and Royalty-Free Formats

Microsoft Office Open XML Formats are fully documented file formats with a royalty-free license. Anyone can integrate them directly into their servers, applications and business processes, without financial consideration to Microsoft.

The open, royalty-free license will help ensure that third-party developers can easily integrate the file formats with their tools, enabling them to build solutions that provide universal access to Microsoft Office-based data without needing Microsoft Office applications and authoring tools.

Microsoft expects this to help create new market opportunities throughout the industry as developers and technology providers create innovative solutions that take advantage of the new technology and favorable economic model. For example, they can offer archiving solutions that allow workers to access Microsoft Office files long after those workers have ceased to use the version of Office with which the files were created.

Compatibility and Support for Customers and Partners

Compatibility with previous versions of Microsoft Office will help ensure that the new formats can be adopted readily by the millions of people who use Microsoft Office daily. For example, people and organizations using Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 — which account for the vast majority of Microsoft Office users — will be able to open, edit and save files using the new formats, thanks to a free update available as a download from Microsoft that enables those older Office versions to work with the new formats.

Documents created with the current binary file formats in Office also will be fully compatible with "Office 12" applications. So workers can save documents to their current formats and exchange those documents with people using "Office 12" — and when they upgrade to "Office 12," they can continue to use their existing binary documents. This compatibility will also help ensure that third-party solutions based on current versions of Microsoft Office continue to function properly.

Customers and partners will learn new details about the new file formats at Tech-Ed 2005 next week in Orlando. In the months leading up to the release of "Office 12," Microsoft will provide further technical information about the Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, including draft versions of the schemas, to help ensure that developers and IT professionals can be prepared to take advantage of the formats before product shipment.

People interested in the new file formats and the next version of Office can get additional information at a preview site,, beginning Monday, June 6, to coincide with the start of Tech-Ed.

From the Interview with Steven Sinofsky

"Microsoft Makes XML the File Format for the Next Version of Microsoft Office." Q&A: Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky explains how making XML the default file format is likely to help customers cut costs for data storage and bandwidth, improve security and boost data recovery. Excerpts:

"... We began XML support for Office with Office 2000, when we introduced XML-based document properties, and then continued with Office XP, when we introduced SpreadsheetML, a way to use XML with the Excel file format. In Office 2003, we introduced Microsoft InfoPath 2003, an information-gathering program that is entirely based on XML. WordprocessingML was a way to use XML with the Microsoft Word file format. We also included support for XML-based Web services integration with several of our programs to ensure data could be easily transported into and out of the desktop applications to back-end systems.

The Microsoft Office XML Open Format introduces significantly enhanced XML formats for Microsoft Word and Excel, and the first XML format for Microsoft PowerPoint. The formats use consistent, application-specific XML markup and are completely based on XML and use industry-standard ZIP-compression technology.

The new formats improve file and data management, data recovery, and interoperability with line-of-business systems beyond what's possible with Office 2003 binary files. And any program that supports XML — it doesn't have to be part of Office or even from Microsoft — can access and work with data in the new file format. Because the information is stored in XML, customers can use standard transformations to extract or repurpose the file data.

We made it a priority to ensure that customers and the industry at large can adopt "Office 12" with the least effort possible, benefit from its new file format, and continue to gain maximum benefit from their existing Microsoft Office files. So, the first thing that flows from that effort is full backward compatibility with the versions of Microsoft Office that the vast majority of people and businesses are already using: Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003. Customers who use these versions can download a innovative, free patch we created that allows them to open, edit and save files using the new format from within their earlier versions of Office.

Next, the current .doc, .xls, and .ppt binary file formats will be fully compatible with "Office 12." People can save to these formats from "Office 12" without concern. When "Office 12" is installed, the default file format can be set to whichever format a person chooses, which is particularly helpful in a managed desktop environment. This will help to ensure that people who use "Office 12" can continue to work with third-party solutions based on earlier versions of Office, as well as with their colleagues, suppliers, customers and others who haven't yet upgraded to "Office 12." In addition, documents will always be saved in the same format that they started in, which will make working with server-based documents or e-mail attachments in a workgroup setting completely seamless.

In the months leading up to the release, we'll provide more information about the new format — including drafts of the schema — to ensure that developers and IT pros can be prepared long before the product ships.

A key benefit of the new format is substantially smaller file sizes — up to 75-percent smaller than comparable Office 2003 files. This is one of the advantages we get out of using the combination of XML and ZIP technologies for storing our files. Since XML is a text based format which compresses very well, and the ZIP container supports compressing the contents, we are able to achieve these significant reductions in file size.

That compression means smaller Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations — although compression and decompression happens automatically and users are never asked to ZIP or UNZIP files. Imagine all the documents stored across an enterprise and you can see how the benefits of a smaller file size will add up quickly in reduced bandwidth to share them over the network and reduced storage requirements to archive them.

With more and more documents traveling through e-mail attachments or removable storage, the chance of a network or storage failure increases the possibility of a document becoming corrupt. So it's important that the new file formats also will improve data recovery — and since data is the lifeblood of most businesses, better data recovery has the potential to save companies tremendous amounts of money.

One area of feedback that was very clear from our customers is the need to identify and protect the sensitive information that they store within documents. Comments, tracked changes and document metadata are the types of information they don't want leaking outside their firewalls. The Office XML Open Format stores each type of data as a separate tag within the file, making it easy to detect and remove specific types of content. For example, the comments that are stored inside a document as part of a review can be detected and removed before the document travels outside the company. In fact, a developer could write a solution to ensure that Web pages that are about to be published do not contain documents with embedded comments.

The Office XML Open Format also helps to improve security against documents with embedded code or macros. By default, the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint file formats will not execute embedded code. So, if a person receives an e-mail message with a Word document attached, he or she could open that attachment knowing that the document would not execute harmful code. The Microsoft Office XML Open Format will include a special-purpose format with a separate file extension for files with embedded code, enabling IT staff to quickly identify files that contain such code..."

Commentary on "Open" Document Formats

Microsoft's assertion that the Office Open XML Formats are open because the company is offering them "royalty-free" and has "moved away from binary content that no one can access" does not play well as an "openness" story, according to a number of industry leaders, as documented in this section. Subsequent to the XML Formats announcement, Microsoft faced a similar challenge from the Apache Software Foundation, reminiscent of the Sender ID stalemate in which Microsoft demanded explicit, formal execution of a license agreement by all implementers. See the InfoWorld story for details.

  • "Open Document Formats: 'Open' Must be More Than a Marketing Term." Posted by Bob Sutor. Blog on Open standards, open source, open minds, open opportunities. June 07, 2005. And don't miss the entertaining followon of June 15, 2005 from James Governor's MonkChips, "What is Open? Ask IBM. It's a Four Letter Word. A Sutor-ble apology." Excerpts from Sutor's blog:

    "... To me, that document formats for 'office' applications should be completely open, not hindered by patents, and not owned by a single vendor is just obvious. I wasn't brought up to think otherwise, and so this whole business around why everyone should be rushing to implement the new OASIS Open Document format standard is a big 'duh' (that is, slap-yourself-in-the-head-obvious)...

    OASIS has just standardized their Open Document format and we're starting to see announcements of early implementations. Microsoft has just announced their next proprietary 'open' XML format, which is not the OASIS format but nevertheless reads like the description of that. It won't be available in released product form until sometime in 2006. There are other vendor word processors that use their own flavors of XML formats.

    These are some of the characteristics of a real open document format in 2005:

    • it is supported by multiple applications with demonstrated interoperability
    • it is preferably produced but at least maintained by a standards group with representation from many companies, organizations, and individuals
    • is therefore not under the control of a single vendor who can change the format and the licensing at its whim
    • and is available on a royalty-free basis and has no restrictions that might limit its use for any reason in any software, be it customer-unique code, a vendor product or open source.

    I know that I can go back and process [my] LaTeX documents from 1992. If I use a real open document format today, I know that I'll be able to use that format 5, 10, 25 years from now especially if it is in XML and especially if I'm not relying on one vendor to provide backward compatibility. Beyond my own documents, I care that this is also the case for my company's documents and my government's documents. Given multiple applications in the same area that support the same open document format, I will use the one that does its job most efficiently and provides the best user experience. I will not allow myself to get locked in by a vendor on the basis of the format in which it saves its documents.

    I want to end this by being prescriptive on what I recommend you do if you care about this as I do:

    • Insist today that the provider of your office applications (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software) tells you that they will support the OASIS Open Document format.
    • Insist today that the provider of your office applications allows you to easily set the OASIS Open Document format as the default 'save' format for your documents. That is, you should not have to go to a lot of trouble to avoid using proprietary formats.
    • Insist that any XML document format you use is available under a license that does not restrict how it can be used or how it can be implemented. Get this in writing and insist that the license is completely clear on these points. If it prevents implementation under the GPL, for instance, tell the provider that it is unacceptable.
    • Get a commitment from your office applications provider to join and contribute to the OASIS Open Document technical committee.
    • Ask your CIO when you will be able to use office applications that support open document formats.
    • Ask your local and federal governments when they will be supporting open document formats.

    I'm very pragmatic about this: I don't expect everyone to change overnight. What we need to do is commit to migrating to open document formats in a short, but realistic timeframe. How open do you want to be next year? It's time to start making it happen for document formats..." [see context for complete text]

  • "Defining Open Standard, Simply." By Simon Phipps. SunMink Blog. June 03, 2005. Excerpt:

    I was going to write a long piece about Microsoft's announcement that they are copying all the design points of the OASIS OpenDocument format and using it in the next version of Office, but I don't need to because Stephen O'Grady has. I asked a whole load of European Commission folk about it this week and no-one is fooled — they want a genuinely open standard, please.

    An open standard is one which, when it changes, no-one is surprised by the changes. Admittedly I'm not surprised when Microsoft repeatedly and apparently arbitrarily changes its interfaces and formats and jerks developers around but I meant 'not surprised' in the sense that the change process was open to involvement and contribution by all, not in that way. The OASIS process by which OpenDocument was defined is such a process and indeed Microsoft, being an OASIS member, did visit and could have easily steered the format to suit their legacy needs — the format is in fact vendor-neutral. Instead they chose to read the overview and then re-implement it. Jean Paoli's comment Sun standardized their own. We could have used a format from others and shoehorned in functionality, but our design needs to be different reeks of NIH and lock-in when you take that fact into account..."

  • "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats: 'We Already Got One'." By Stephen O'Grady. tecosystems blog. June 02, 2005. Excerpt:

    "First, the good news. As many of you have seen by now, at 12:01 AM ET last night, Microsoft announced rather extensive — and pretty much open — support for XML based formats for its next gen Office iteration, due next year. Yes, that includes Powerpoint and Excel (but not OneNote, sadly). Indeed, the default save format will be XML. could there be bad news? Well, as they say in Monty Python's The Holy Grail, It's very nice-a, but we already got one. As Tim Bray notes, many of the other heavyweights in the technology industry have been collaborating on just such an XML based, open format referred to with the unexciting but descriptive moniker Open Document Format.

    The question then becomes why did Microsoft invest its time and energy into creating a duplicate format? [We observe that an] 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mindset seems to be prevalent within Microsoft divisions that have generated quarter after quarter after quarter of sustained revenue growth, but I think that that mindset is going to have to change in a world that's increasingly driven by macro trends like open source and open standards. Are we at the tipping point in the office format equation was a question I debated with a vendor yesterday, and the answer, in my mind, is not yet. But the Open Document Format is still young, and I do think it ultimately has the power to fundamentally alter the context of discussions around office productivity software. Microsoft can be proactive and aggressively compete on that basis now, or they can ignore the demands of governments and ISVs abroad. I know what I'd choose..."

  • "MS Office XML Formats Not OK with GNU." Peter Galli. From eWEEK (June 17, 2005). Excerpt:

    The royalty-free license under which Microsoft plans to make its upcoming new Office Open XML Formats widely available is incompatible with the GNU General Public License and will thus prevent many free and open-source software projects from using the formats, community officials say. In addition, a leading patent official is calling into question the validity and enforceability of the Microsoft Corp. license and suggesting that free and open-source software developers need not comply with its conditions...

    Richard Stallman, the president of the Free Software Foundation and the author of the GNU GPL, has dismissed any benefit to the free-software community from the move. The conditions imposed by the current license governing the use of the formats are 'designed to prohibit all free software. It covers only code that implements, precisely, the Microsoft formats, which means that a program under this license does not permit modification,' Stallman told eWEEK in an interview. 'The freedom to modify the software for private use, and the freedom to publish modified versions, are two of the essential components in the definition of free software. If these freedoms are lacking, the program is not free software,' he said. As the GPL is a 'copyleft' license (a license that makes programs free and requires that all the modifications and extensions of the program also be free), applying Microsoft's restrictive license to a GPL-covered program would violate the GPL..." [Note: see also "The Microsoft License for the Office XML Reference Schemas is not Compatible with the GPL."

  • "Apache Faces Web Services Security Spec Roadblock. Open Source Organization to Meet with Microsoft, IBM." By Paul Krill. From InfoWorld (July 08, 2005). Excerpt here and additional references below:

    "Apache officials hope to iron out licensing issues with Microsoft and IBM pertaining to the WS-Security specification, so that Apache can add the technology to its open source Axis SOAP stack. Axis is envisioned as a Web services engine for deploying SOAs, according to Apache. WS-Security is needed to communicate with .Net systems, said Davanum Srinivas, vice president of services at the Apache Software Foundation. Although WS-Security is available for implementation royalty-free, it still must be licensed from Microsoft and IBM. Apache has raised concerns about this, mostly pertaining to a non-transfer clause that appears incompatible with open source licenses that allow for uninhibited transfer of technologies, Apache officials said. 'The big picture here is that we want users of open source to also be able to be distributors of open source, and that should happen without a requirement to go back to some other vendor for additional terms, to get rights from some other vendor,' said Cliff Schmidt, vice president of legal affairs at the Apache Software Foundation.

    There have been some discussions with IBM and Microsoft about the issue: 'What we know is that there needs to be further clarification from IBM and Microsoft regarding their licenses in order to make this compatible with open source licenses,' Schmidt. said. Being a contributor to Apache, IBM is eager to cooperate with the foundation and is optimistic about reaching a resolution, according to Karla Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM... The issue arose when VeriSign wanted to provide via open source its TSIK (Trust Service Integration Kit) toolkit, which implements WS-Security, to Apache, the Apache officials said.

    Microsoft has not been an advocate of open source technology to the same degree as IBM. Citing staff commitments to the TechEd Europe conference, Microsoft representatives said a company official would not be able to comment on the Apache issue this week. The company released the following statement: 'WS-Security is an open standard at the OASIS standards organization. Microsoft has made a royalty-free license commitment for WS-Security that is consistent with the OASIS IPR policy. In terms of Apache plans, it is best to ask them about any plans they may have'..."

    On the Apache/IBM/Microsoft story, see also:

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