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Microsoft Opening Office XML Formats 356

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-does-that-mean-exactly dept.
sriram_2001 writes "Microsoft has opened up the XML schemas for Office 2003, thereby silencing a lot of criticism. This could potentially open the way for several government contracts as certain governments have made open standards (and not open-source) a pre-requisite. In their FAQ, Microsoft not only says that open source developers can distribute software built using them, but also that they'll make all future updates available using the same terms. Here is the Official Microsoft Site and CRN and Techworld have stories about it."
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Microsoft Opening Office XML Formats

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  • by caluml (551744) <slashdot&spamgoeshere,calum,org> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:53AM (#11519758) Homepage
    No, no matter what they do, we'll still hate them, right? :)
    • by christurkel (520220) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:00AM (#11519813) Homepage Journal
      Where's the catch? I mean, there has to be for MS to open up one of the keys to its kingdom. Even if Open Source apps can't use it, commercial ones like WordPerfect can. MS would have to compete on merits, not on their monopoly, from now on. That doesn't sound something MS would want to do.
      • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:05AM (#11519850) Homepage

        Where's the catch? I mean, there has to be for MS to open up one of the keys to its kingdom. Even if Open Source apps can't use it, commercial ones like WordPerfect can. MS would have to compete on merits, not on their monopoly, from now on. That doesn't sound something MS would want to do.

        It's the lesser of two evils for Microsoft. The thought of being excluded from the government contracts for not being open would probably make Microsoft's management squirm.

        The reason being is that we would probably see the widespread deployment of some non-MS office suite as a result and this would work towards loosening their strangle-hold on the desktop productivity suite.

        By opening formats, they can get in on these contracts. So while it may still damange their business model it will damage it less than not opening formats.

        Simon.

        • by hey! (33014) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:38AM (#11520025) Homepage Journal
          Well, a lot depends doesn't it?

          It isn't enough to say that the file formats are open and available to open source develpors, if the features the file format supports are patented. For example, suppose that Microsoft had patented pivot tables. An open source spreadsheet could read the file, and recognize the pivot table, but have no recourse other than to throw up a note in the user's face saying something to the effect, "This space is supposed to be occupied by a pivot table, but we don't do them."

          Now, that said, the patent game might have have started to late for Microsoft, in that the things that matter most to the users might already be in the public domain.
          • by mukund (163654) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @12:38PM (#11520444) Homepage

            FUD. It sometimes helps to read the linked pages.

            Q. The patent license associated with the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas states that "Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas." What does this statement mean and to what specific patents and/or patent applications does this statement relate?

            A. As an industry leader in the design and development of innovative computer technology, Microsoft has made a significant investment in research and development (R&D). With an annual budget of nearly $7 billion, Microsoft's R&D commitment is among the highest of the world's major technology providers, both on an absolute basis and as a percentage of sales. Like other major technology providers, Microsoft routinely applies to governments around the world to obtain patents on our inventions. A patent establishes ownership of an invention, enabling the patent owner to benefit commercially from investments in innovation. A patent is granted if government patent examiners conclude that an invention is a true innovation compared with existing technology. Microsoft has been awarded thousands of United States patents, and our worldwide portfolio continues to grow.

            Under the patent license for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas, Microsoft offers royalty-free rights both to its issued patents and patents that may be issued in the future as an outcome of the patent process. To learn more about Microsoft's intellectual property policy and to find links to government patent offices, we encourage you to learn more about Microsoft Intellectual Property at the Microsoft Web site.

            We have chosen a simple and straightforward licensing approach that should appeal to a wide variety of potential licensees because it broadly covers all applicable patents and patent applications instead of only those that are enumerated.

            • by zurab (188064) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @01:05PM (#11520662)
              Under the patent license for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas, Microsoft offers royalty-free rights both to its issued patents and patents that may be issued in the future as an outcome of the patent process.

              I don't see the magic words there like: sub-licensable, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable. Maybe they do this in the actual license, but it doesn't say that in the paragraph that you quoted. Without it being sub-licensable and irrevocable, it's no good for GPLed and other free software.
              • by chill (34294) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @02:31PM (#11521261) Journal
                In the letter [microsoft.com] to the European Union's Interchange of Data between Administration (IDA) commission, there are these lines:

                The technical documentation is available on the Internet for anyone to copy and read

                The schemas are based on the W3C standard for XML

                The license is royalty-free

                The license is perpetual

                The license is very brief and available to anyone


                I believe that covers your questions about "worldwide" and "perpetual".

                However, the license itself plainly states you are not allowed to sub-license. The only case for revocability stated is: "Microsoft reserves the right to terminate this license grant if you sue Microsoft or any of Microsoft's affiliates for patent infringement over claims relating to reading or writing of files that comply with the Office Schemas. This license is perpetual subject to this reservation."

                However, it does seem quite broad:

                "Microsoft hereby grants you a royalty-free license under Microsoft's Necessary Claims to make, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise distribute Licensed Implementations solely for the purpose of reading and writing files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas."

                I can see an LGPL library for handling MS-OFFICE formats. Also, remember the GPL addresses copyrights and NOT patents, which this license covers. You right your own code, it is your copyright, not Microsoft's.

                -Charles (IANAL)
            • WRT to the above statements, it still doesn't say you will be allowed to match Microsoft Office's features. Only that you will be able to use any file format ideas that they have patented.

              I'm not a big fan of Fear, but when considering legal consequences, Uncertainty and Doubt are sometimes a good thing.
      • by crazy blade (519548) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:14AM (#11519893)
        MS would have to compete on merits, not on their monopoly, from now on. That doesn't sound something MS would want to do.

        Yes indeed. But think about it: do they really have a choice?

        Since governments are requiring use of open standards, it seems only reasonable that they would be forced to do that. Every corporation has transactions with government(s), so they would be forced to either support some other office format, or open up their own. Of the two options, opening up their own format is the smarter one: given their current dominance it is more likely that other office suites will employ it for reasons of compatibility, which removes the stress and cost of adding support for an open format from MS. In addition, MS can keep developing its format and let others play catch-up every time it rolls out some new version of it.

      • The catch is they'll get the contracts signed, and they will release the schemas for the future versions of Word Documents, but after this revision they'll probably rename Word to something else to get out of their obligation.
      • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:29AM (#11519972) Homepage Journal
        Where's the catch?

        Remember the discussions a while back about MS patenting some of their XML encoding schemes? This could well be part of a nefarious plot. Sorta like what happened with the GIF format, y'know. We all start writing software that uses some of MS's XML, some of our software is widely used, and then 10 years from now, MS says "Oh, BTW, you're violating several of our patents. Yes, we said you could use the open parts of our XML, but we didn't say you could use the patented parts."

        Legalities of such things can be very, very tricky. See also the various discussions here in which people confuse the various kinds of "IP", such as patent, copyright, and trade secret. Permission to use a copyrighted thing is not the same as permission to use a patented thing, and that's different from permission to use a trade secret.

        Before doing anything with any MS "IP", it might be wise to consult a good IP lawyer.

        Microsoft has been applying for patents at the rate of several per day. This costs time and money. Presumably there's a reason they're doing this.

        In the case of giant corporations, paranoia is always in order. They can easily bankrupt the rest of us with legal fees.

      • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @12:37PM (#11520432) Journal
        I've seen two good "catches", but let me propose another one -- trusted computing. They can open the document format all they want, but even if they only use standard PGP encryption, they can still lock it down later by making certain "copy-protected" documents available only to a trusted copy of Word running on a trusted PC.
      • by Jason Earl (1894) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @01:00PM (#11520620) Homepage Journal

        The point that you are missing is that Microsoft isn't really competing with WordPerfect or OpenOffice.org in the office suite arena. When it comes to office suites Microsoft is primarily competing with old versions of MS Office. Most MS Office users are still using MS Office 2000 (or earlier) that don't read the fancy new XML formats. If Microsoft can get the U.S. (and other) governments to adopt their new XML formats then millions of MS Office users will have to upgrade to a new office suite that reads the new formats. Some of these folks might take advantage of OpenOffice.org or WordPerfect's ability to read these file formats (assuming that these programs do a fairly good job of reading and writing these formats), but most will simply purchase new copies of MS Office.

        When Microsoft changed their MS Office formats in Office 97 lots of Microsoft customers were very very upset. This time around Microsoft knew that it couldn't force customers into a format change, and so it is doing everything in its power to convince folks to start using the new formats. Everyone deals with the government, and so making the XML formats a government standard actually works in Microsoft's best interests. The fact that the formats are open is basically a red herring. Microsoft knows that its competitors are going to reverse engineer their formats no matter what happens. Microsoft also knows that using the patents that they have offensively would be an expensive PR disaster. Lots of large organizations would get nervous about MS formats if Microsoft started suing people.

        Microsoft wants people to use their XML formats. The fact that this also will help keep OpenOffice.org's formats out of the government sector is nothing more than a bonus. Microsoft is far more worried that people will continue to use Office 97 indefinitely than it is about OpenOffice.org taking over the world.

        • by after fallout (732762) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @03:08PM (#11521489)
          I think this is exactly what is happenning. Microsoft owns the office suite arena. As of right now they have nothing to really worry about in any of the other office suites. The only thing that they have to think about is all the users of older versions of MS Office.

          If they can get away with opening their document and getting some of the OSS people to think that it is a setup that they are going to use at some point in the future then the better for them.

          One of the bonuses for them is that they already have this document format implemented. So they have a head start on what they expect to be the de facto standard.

          This move might even be the best way for Microsoft to compete with open source. That is they must keep ahead of open source. They create something new, release it, then open up the format (which would be reverse engineered if they didn't; it also looks good that they are playing along with OSS), and as soon as competeders catch up they release something new again. As long as whatever they release is better than the one before it then not only do they generate profits but they remain a step ahead of everyone else.

          I bet they are expecting the open source community to do some innovation as well. With their format open and based on xml there should soon start appearing multiple xsl methods of generating xhtml from the word documents. Their licence might even be compatable enough that they could use the best of these xsl documents to make word save html files. The best part of this for them is that innovation done by the open source community is free innovation for microsoft. Meanwhile innovation by microsoft takes time and energy for the open source community to decipher.
      • Where's the catch? I mean, there has to be for MS to open up one of the keys to its kingdom.

        Not at all. Sure, Microsoft is a monopoly, and their sales and marketing people aren't above screwing people over to maintain their dominance. (As are most sales and marketing people.) But remember, the heart of the company is bunch of aging computer hippies who blundered into their market domination.

        These guys have created a bunch of R&D teams that seem to be dominated by MENSA types who are thoroughly con

    • Not necessarily, but there is plenty to hate with MS beside their files formats.
    • This is a huge mistake for microsoft. What is to prevent everyone from switching to openoffice if everything interoperates perfectly? Also, what does this mean for OASIS? I'm not complaining but this is rather...unexpected.
      • This is a huge mistake for microsoft. What is to prevent everyone from switching to openoffice if everything interoperates perfectly?

        Because when you come down to it, Word and Excel are very capable, mature office programs. Open Office just doesn't feel right yet, and I don't think it's a limitation of the document format that causes it.

        Other office apps have been fairly compatible with MS Office documents for some time.
  • Nooo... (Score:4, Funny)

    by sandstorming (850026) <johnsee AT sandstorming DOT com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:53AM (#11519761)
    Just when you thought you could escape clippy the office paperclip through open source...
    • Re:Nooo... (Score:3, Funny)

      by bwalling (195998)
      Just when you thought you could escape clippy the office paperclip through open source...

      Shows what you know - we're talking about XML, whereas paperclips are made of metal.
  • Wait.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bizpile (758055) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:53AM (#11519764) Homepage
    ...does this make them Communist sympathizers?
  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by savagedome (742194) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:56AM (#11519781)
    open source developers can distribute software built using them, but also that they'll make all future updates available using the same terms

    My area code is 666 and I just looked outside. It's completely frozen too. Yup.
  • Seriously. Better document conversion? Smaller file size?

  • A luke warm welcome (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:57AM (#11519786) Homepage
    .. I'd have to look at the license before I rejoice about this news. If Microsoft really did open up it's document format that would be a big bonus for everyone..

    But in the back of my mind, I've got a feeling this is "embrace and extend" all over again. They might well give the outward appearence of openness while in fact restricting the license in such a way that it really doesn't change the situation.

    I don't know.. i just can't trust a convicted monopolist with this stuff.

    Simon.
  • Hold on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xpilot (117961) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:57AM (#11519787) Homepage
    Is this thing GPL-compatible? It doesn't say...all I could find is the following:

    The terms and conditions of these licenses differ in material respects. We believe you can distribute your program under many open source software licenses so long as you include the notices described in the licenses for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas. On the other hand, some open source licenses may include specific constraints or restrictions that might preclude development under the Office 2003 XML Reference Schema licenses. You should check with your legal counsel if you have questions about a particular open source software license.

    "That may preclude development" sounds fishy. Knowing MS hates the GPL, they might have made it GPL-incompatible. I can't wait till Pamela Jones scrutinizes this. Before I read the Groklaw version, I'm holding back the celebration.
    • More exactly:
      note that the patent and copyright provisions in the license for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas require you to include a notice of attribution in your program.
      Mind the word "program". Readmes likely do not count. You'll have to spell it nicely in the About menu, the splash screen, etc ... and create one if needed.
      • Re:Hold on... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gorgonzola (24839)

        Depends on whether they have included an additional definition of 'program' or not. In all EU jurisdictions there is a legal definition of a 'computer program' that does include README files and such distributed with the code (executable or source). Having a more restrictive definition would open up a whole can of worms in those jurisdictions.

        And yes, I do have a law degree and am specialised in IT-law

  • This was the one thing that kept Microsoft dominant.
  • Ok.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gral (697468) <{kscarr73} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:58AM (#11519796) Homepage
    and how much does the Version that creates these "Open" formats cost? Isn't the version that creates these formats the "Professional" version only. Oh wait, OpenOffice.org does these already. :-)
  • No GPL? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:59AM (#11519807)
    I was interested by this section :

    "Q. Can I distribute a licensed program under an open source software license?
    A.

    Yes. There are many open source licenses available in the developer community. One useful place to review the various licenses that have been approved by the open source community is at Open Source Initiative.

    The terms and conditions of these licenses differ in material respects. We believe you can distribute your program under many open source software licenses so long as you include the notices described in the licenses for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas. On the other hand, some open source licenses may include specific constraints or restrictions that might preclude development under the Office 2003 XML Reference Schema licenses. You should check with your legal counsel if you have questions about a particular open source software license."

    Correct me if I'm wrong but doesnt this preclude them being used in GPL works? Wasnt it something like this i.e. an advertising clause, which lead to the forking of XFree86 ?
  • wel... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SQLz (564901)
    Hopefully its compatable with the GPL. I figure they basically had two choices, look good and open the format or look bad and loose to open office or other packages. Running Open Office is, in my opinion, along the road to swiching to Linux. MS had no choice.
    • Re:wel... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:04AM (#11519833) Homepage
      The word is lose, first of all.

      And I don't think Microsoft is really afraid of Open Office... I tried using Open Office, and after a day of trying to figure out how to do what I did in MSOffice, I just went back to using MSOffice. It does what I need it to do and how I need it done.

      And your comment about the "road to switching" is pretty funny. That would be like saying "Installing and using eMule is "along the road to switching" because it's open source.

      Maybe your IPs were banned for a reason?
      • Thats funny. I went into OpenOffice not expecting it to not be the same. And instead of just continuously bitching about how I couldn't find the options in the same place as MSWord, I read a little documentation. An hour later I was a pro. Its not that hard, but yes you do have to learn it. Its a new interface.
        • But can you convince an entire department that they should stop working for an hour to read a little documentation? No. Won't happen.

          I'm not going to re-learn how to use a word processor so I can switch from something I know to something I don't.
          • Re:wel... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by awing0 (545366)
            The choice for me was easy, pay hundreds for Microsoft Office, or learn to use a mostly familiar, but different interface. I can't justify spending a week's income instead of just learning Open Office in my spare time. Office 2003 Pro retails for about $400.

            The choice of an IT department is all about TCO and productivity. Will dumping Microsoft Office and moving to OO save money? You'll need to retrain, and productivity will be lower until everyone is comfortable with the new environment. But, you won't h
      • Re:wel... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dammital (220641)

        I tried using Open Office, and after a day of trying to figure out how to do what I did in MSOffice, I just went back to using MSOffice

        Few people are going to be fully productive after only a day fiddling around with either OO or MSO. They are both *big* programs, with lots of features and layers of cascading pulldowns.

        What you're saying is that you've got better things to do with your time than learn another interface. I understand; inertia can be a powerful thing. If you've already decided that yo

  • Hooray! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mistersooreams (811324) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:07AM (#11519854) Homepage

    Yes, they are mainly doing this to get government contracts.

    Yes, they are probably doing this to get good PR among geeks.

    But hell, they're still doing it!

    Let's try not to be too cynical, Slashdotters. Microsoft is doing a good thing here. This doesn't forgive them for all the other naughty things they do, not by a long shot, but it's still a big deal and a big step forward.

    Hip hip hooray!

  • by Carl (12719) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:08AM (#11519857) Homepage
    Q. How do I get a license? A. The license is available when you download the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas [microsoft.com] from the Microsoft Download Center.

    Tried to download this thing to see if it had acceptable (re)distribution terms for inclusion in GPL-compatible programs like AbiWord, KOffice or OpenOffice.org. But all I could find was some xsdref.msi file.

    How does one open/extract such a thing? Does anybody has the distribution terms as clean/clear text file?

    • for those of you not running windows here is the license text:

      Legal Notice
      Permission to copy, display and distribute the contents of this document (the "Specification"), in any medium for any purpose without fee or royalty is hereby granted, provided that you include the following notice on ALL copies of the Specification, or portions thereof, that you make:

      Copyright © Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Permission to copy, display and distribute this document is available at: http://msdn.mic
      • Actual usage license (Score:3, Informative)

        by swiftstream (782211)
        That's only the license for the specifications; here the license for actually using the specifications to write software.
        (from http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpate n tlicense.asp [microsoft.com])

        Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License

        Published: December 3, 2003 | Updated: January 27, 2005

        This document is intended to expand upon the rights that Microsoft grants to certain Microsoft® Office 2003 XML schemas. As described in this document, the technical specifications for the schemas include right
    • You can use Wine to install MSI files.
    • by Eil (82413) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @01:51PM (#11520972) Homepage Journal
      To those who might have skipped over the link in the parent, go back and click on it. Microsoft wasn't feeling charitable today: the European Union is very close to deciding whether to support either OpenDocument (developed by the OpenOffice and KOffice teams) or Microsoft XML as their "official" document format and OpenDocument had the lead, but not by much... Microsoft's XML formats were technically superior, the biggest drawback was that their schema were closed.

      So, the fact that they're now open is not particularly good news for the open source community. It's like the browser wars all over again...
  • err... the catch? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whowho (706277) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:12AM (#11519881)

    To quote:
    Q. Is Microsoft committed to making any future updates to the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas available under the same terms and conditions as the licenses offered on November 17, 2003?
    A. Yes. Microsoft is committed to making updates to the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas available under the same terms and conditions as the licenses offered on November 17, 2003. At the same time, Microsoft reserves the right to change its policy and/or the terms of the licenses with respect to future versions of Office.

    So what does that mean? They are "committed" but on the other hand "reserve the right to change"? How is that committed?
    Does this mean they can create an update to Office, alter slightly the schemas, close it and/or require royalties, etc?
  • GPL incompatible (Score:3, Interesting)

    by internet-redstar (552612) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:14AM (#11519891) Homepage
    Of course it's Microsoft...

    You can only use the 'patented and copyrighted' scheme when you 'include the notices described in the license for Office 2003'.


    This makes it GPL incompatible. Period.

    Next!

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:24AM (#11519940)
      Answer me this: the GPL is incompatable with pretty much every other Opensource license out there (other licenses may be GPL compatable but that doesnt mean it works both ways), so why should everything be GPL compatable? Thats pretty much the first thing that comes up in discussions on slashdot 'is it GPL compatable?' or 'why couldnt they just use the GPL?'.

      The way the GPL is currently written means GPLed projects can take from most other non GPLed projects without giving anything back, which I thought was one of the reasons for opensource?
      • by internet-redstar (552612) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:44AM (#11520062) Homepage
        In the old days...
        I'm talking pre-linux-1.0 now...
        The BSD folks tend to say: nobody will like the GPL because no business will accept it.
        Turns out you were wrong: We live now in 2003 and most of the OpenSource software written is GPLed, and we love it.
        I don't want to say the BSD license is evil, not at all (while BSD supporters are often less friendly wrt GPL)! Yet the GPL is a better guarantee for our freedom as technological people than the BSD license.

        The evolution since the 90s till now has also proven that the GPL license is a more succesfull software license, aside from bringing more freedom to the general public.

        Commercially speaking, the BSD license can sometimes be more interesting, however... not in all cases.

        The way I see 'giving back' is one in which the freedom of the software is guaranteed, so I don't see any problem there.

        Microsoft has just tried another time to:
        1) Have an argument in their discussion with government that their license is 'open enough'.
        2) Work contradictory to anything remotely touching it's only cash cow: MS Office.

    • This is going to be viciously unpopular, but maybe the GPL needs to start looking in the mirror and become more BSD-like in its terms.

      MS opens up their Office 2003 schema, and they can't use it because of their own terms? Just the sort of ammunition Mr. Gates needs. 'See? We tried to be flexible, but they won't work with us!'

      What this might do, however, is move towards a standard document structure that's supported flexibly amongst multiple platforms. Thus, Pages (Apple) and OpenOffice and MS Word all p
      • I don't see why it should, if people want a BSD licence then they can use the BSD licence or one which is similar to it.

        The key reason people would want to use the GPL is to ensure their work isn't just incorporated into someones software and they get nothing back.
    • Term 1 of the GPL states: You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

      Does that make the GPL incompatible with itself?
      • Nope, it explicitly says the GPL needs to be provided. Section 8 can add geographic limitations (as mentioned in another comment), but adding the requirement that a notice has to be included in the program to thank Microsoft or whomever is of course incompatible with the GPL!

        Just as it's - for example - incompatible to add the requirement that the software can not be used for atomic weapon deployement.

        I would vote to append such a statement to the GPL, but Richard Stallman (while I'm sure he's against the

        • Re:GPL incompatible (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tricorn (199664)

          You include the Microsoft-required statement in your copyright notice. Boom, GPL compatible. The GPL allows requiring that copyright notices be left intact. GIve permission for people to remove the Microsoft statement - that way they can take portions of your code and use it in other things that don't (supposedly) infringe on Microsoft's patents.

    • possible way around this?
      Suppose these schema's are GPL incompatible. Would it be possible for software such as Open Office to use the schema's but not include them as part of the distribution? for example- if i downloaded my favorite GPL'd office application -would It be possible to have some sort of wizard download the scheme from Microsoft and then plug-in to my chosen package? That way its technically not a part of the distribution...

      Nick ...
  • by bheer (633842) <rbheer&gmail,com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:16AM (#11519899)
    I thought XML support in Office was limited to the Enterprise versions (and possibly the professional version). Can the cheaper home/academic versions of Office produce or read XML?

  • The license (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dwonis (52652) * on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:20AM (#11519922)
    Permission to copy, display and distribute this document is available at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/odcXMLRef/ html/odcXMLRefLegalNotice.asp [microsoft.com]
  • When a critical mass of businesses and goverments require file formats that are documented and that doesn't require proprietary software in order to access them, then even Microsoft has to play along. I believe that this is a sign of that even MS has realized that their older paradigms just doesn't work anymore.
    1. Patent a closed file format
    2. Create commercial software for the patented file format and make it as widespread as possible
    3. Open up the file format to make it widespread among your opposition
    4. Make legally nonbinding promises about keeping the file format open
    5. Laugh as you watch a great number of Free Open Source Software developers waste their time writing software for the allegedly open file format instead of writing software that could endanger your company
    6. Revoke the open licensing of the file format due
    • From teh FAQ:


      Q. Are the licenses that Microsoft offers under the Open and Royalty-Free Office 2003 XML Reference Schema program perpetual in nature?
      A.

      Yes. The licenses for the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas are perpetual. There is no term limit on the licenses.
  • This is huge. Props to Microsoft.

    Too bad it happened shortly after the iWork'05 release. Sure Apple can release downloadable plugins for Pages and Keynote2, can it?
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      This doesn't benefit Apple at greatly, since they already had access to file format information from MS. Or did you think Keynote's PowerPoint import worked by magic? MS have always been willing to license Office file format information - for a price and under NDA. And don't forget that this only applies to the latest version of the file format, which is not very useful considering the number of Word '97 documents floating around.

      The main beneficiary of this is Microsoft. The biggest competitor to Offi

  • Microsoft has only freed up the right to use their XML schemas. This move doesn't change the way they sell Office. They still get their revenue from selling Office.

    Regarding XML schemas, these are free and easy to define anyway. Anyone is free to invent an XML schema. The hard part for any vendor or industry group is getting stakeholders to use the particular XML schema that the interested party publishes.

    Microsoft want customers to use Microsoft's XML schema and not somebody elses XML schema. Thi

    • Microsoft has only freed up the right to use their XML schemas. This move doesn't change the way they sell Office. They still get their revenue from selling Office.

      It sounds like you are saying it is a bad thing for a company to gain money from something they invest time and research money in? Let me ask you what you do, unless you get paid by the government or university, your company is doing the same thing on some level. And if you work for the government, or university you are just adding an extra l

  • by ccady (569355) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:50AM (#11520104) Journal
    Let's take a closer look. On the legal notice page [microsoft.com], we see that "The following license applies to the schema files ... and must be included in any copies that are made of the schema files ..." Thus, if you include one of their XSDs (schema files) in order to parse an Office document, then "No right to create modifications or derivatives of this Specification is granted herein." That pretty much precludes even a BSD license. The "openness" of these schemas includes the ability to use it as Microsoft has defined them, not the ability to modify it as you see fit.
    • On November 17, 2003, Microsoft introduced an open and royalty-free license and documentation for the Microsoft Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas including WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML and Formtemplate schemas. The following license applies to the schema files and technical documentation and must be included in any copies that are made of the schema files and technical documentation. The Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas are available through the Download Center.

      -----

      Legal Notice

      Permission to copy, di
    • Ahh! So you cant take MS format, and embrace and extend it?

      Cool!
  • by Garwulf (708651) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @11:56AM (#11520141) Homepage
    This is actually a very odd and frightening licensing agreement, when you look at it. Now, I am not a lawyer, but I can read a fair amount of legalese (you have to when you're a writer, otherwise you get ripped off), and this seems like a VERY bad document to me. I'm not allowed to quote it all here according to the copyright notices on the Microsoft site, but here is the link: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpaten tlicense.asp [microsoft.com]

    Not too much surprising in the first section. It seems to me that it says essentially that you can use it, and there are patents involved.

    That last paragraph of that section is a bit exclusionary, but again, not surprising - if you break the license, you can't use the product. Pretty standard. But this is where it starts to get interesting.

    You are not licensed to sublicense or transfer your rights. (Quoted from the licensing agreement from the above link under fair use copyright laws)

    This is the first section that makes me scratch my head. Who is Microsoft to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own intellectual rights? They're not prohibiting the transfer of Microsoft's rights, but the end user's.

    Now, my reading of it may be wrong, but it seems to me that the next paragraph is telling me that if I'm a developer using these schemas, and the U.S. State Department releases a document in Microsoft's XML format, then I'm not allowed to open that document and read it, unless I'm going to alter it. That's puzzling to me, as it makes no logical sense. But the real kicker is the paragraph right after it, which really has to be quoted:

    Microsoft reserves the right to terminate this license grant if you sue Microsoft or any of Microsoft's affiliates for patent infringement over claims relating to reading or writing of files that comply with the Office Schemas. This license is perpetual subject to this reservation. (Quoted from the licensing agreement from the above link under fair use copyright law)

    Now this is a very bad clause, and that's the kicker. So if you create a word processor that can read these schemas, and Microsoft steals your technology, regardless of what it is, you're not allowed to sue them if you want to keep your license.

    Or, put this way, the moment OpenOffice or StarOffice implements these schemas, Microsoft can plunder their source code, and the only way OO or Sun can fight it is to lose the compatibility that would make them competitive.

    The rest is fairly standard stuff, although the indemnity clause is very frightening when considering the clause I quoted above. So, if Microsoft steals your word processor's technology when you're using these formats, they're not responsible for any damage that they cause, including running you out of business, if it comes to that.

    Come to think of it, this is a VERY bad agreement.
    • by RPoet (20693) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @12:01PM (#11520184) Journal
      Or, put this way, the moment OpenOffice or StarOffice implements these schemas, Microsoft can plunder their source code, and the only way OO or Sun can fight it is to lose the compatibility that would make them competitive.

      I thought you said you could read legalese. It says, in the text you quoted yourself, that Microsoft can cancel your license to the schemas if you sue Microsoft for patent infringement in relation to their use of their own schemas. Source code is generally not protected by patents, but by copyright. So your take on this is faulty at best.
  • ...desperate measures. This is akin to if Sony had decided to allow other companies (read competitors) to use the Betamax format in their own VCRs with no license fees. Someone please cue the album: Music to Sell Out By.
  • First they ignore you...
    Then they laugh at you...
    Then they fight you...
    Then you win.

    Guess we're nearing stage 4.
  • .. would be if they would be forced by market or legislative pressure to implement the OpenDocument standard, either as a default or optional export format.

    As it is, they keep *their* format and anyone wishing to make interoperable software is forced to write to *their* format. It's me, me, me across the board.

    Two steps forward (.doc->XML), three steps backwards(M$ proprietary XML), two steps forward (licensable M$ XML).

    Apart from the fact that we now have probably a documented format and XML to
  • by Midnight Warrior (32619) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @12:20PM (#11520310) Homepage

    (and why more companies are starting to care also)...

    Hidden text, unknown OLE links, undo and revision information. Too many things are found floating around a document. Even though PPT isn't part of this equation, Word documents can now have a (relatively compilicated) stylesheet applied against them as part of the "scrubbing" process.

    Be it metadata, or routine edits and changes [coredump.cx], Word is a dangerous portal into a company's opinions or sensitve government data. What everyone wants is the simple, provable method for knowing only their best foot is placed forward.

    While governments play only a minor role in the balance sheets of Microsoft, changes like this solve the only real, outstanding technical hangup governments have with Office (excluding the PPT exclusion).

  • Yeah but... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @12:38PM (#11520445) Homepage Journal
    what about the BINARY formats?
    What's the matter, MS? Chicken? ;-)
  • by melted (227442) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @02:49PM (#11521375) Homepage
    The storage model of Word/Excel/etc. is based around Structured Storage - the storage standard that MSFT includes with every god damn COM toolkit they distribute (including ATL7), and which they've been pushing really hard in the 90's for wider adoption. Nobody cared about it back then, and then XML came in and people started to care even less. The point is, the structure of Word files is not as closed as some would like to think. It's the OLE objects (which in turn use structured storage as well) that make things difficult. But putting their data as binary blobs within XML ain't gonna fix that.

    BTW, the word on the street is, the next version of Office will save all its files in XML. Yep, that's right. XML will be default. Now whether or not it will be compatible with XML Office 2003 understands - that's another question.
  • XML Not Round-Trip (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KidSock (150684) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:09PM (#11524899)
    The last time I looked it didn't look like Word could make the round trip between Word's internal representation and XML. You can import and XML file and you can export programmatically constructed bits but you CANNOT EDIT the document and then export the whole document as XML such that you can manipulate it and then reimport the XML and end up with what you started minus the changes. Without this "round-trip" capability Word's XML capability is basically useless for many apps.

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