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OpenOffice Blesses Microsoft-Novell Pact


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OpenOffice Blesses Microsoft-Novell Pact

By Gregg Keizer, TechWeb Technology News

The Microsoft-Novell pact was welcomed Friday by OpenOffice.org, which said it's delighted as long as the deal leads to improvements to the group's free open-source applications suite.

Microsoft and Novell announced their pact on Thursday. It includes patent protections, support cooperation, and co-development agreements. Among the latter is a promise to improve interoperability between Microsoft's Office and Novell's distribution of OpenOffice.org, the free business application suite.

"We're going to be building translators between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice to ensure that we have interoperability, compatibility at that level," promised Jeff Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer, during a press conference Thursday.

OpenOffice.org welcomes that goal. "We'd be delighted to see that," John McCreesh, the marketing project lead of the open-source OpenOffice.org group, said Friday. "We're very keen for anyone to make enhancements, as long as they benefit everyone."

Novell, said McCreesh, has been an exemplary open-source development partner, and has fed improvements and changes it's made to its version of OpenOffice back to the suite's code base. "I'd expect them to continue doing so," McCreesh said. "If they use Microsoft funding to do that, we'd be even happier."

OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office have been at loggerheads as some governments have argued this year and last that the proprietary document formats of the latter lock them into using Microsoft's applications. Instead, agencies in the U.S. and Europe have argued that an open-source document format should be dominant.

"Microsoft's recognition of OpenDocument means they understand that people want to own the information they've made with [Microsoft] Office products," said McCreesh, who called the Novell deal a win for open-source.

Microsoft acknowledged Friday that the move was made to answer just those kinds of calls by customers.

"We heard from customers and governments that they wanted strong document interoperability between Office and OpenOffice," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager of intellectual property and licensing. "The debate was always about an either/or choice. Should everyone use ODF [OpenDocument Format] or should everyone use Microsoft Office [Open XML]?" said Kaefer. "But users don't have to choose one or the other."

The deal with Novell, said Kaefer, will focus initially on an ODF-Open XML translator for Microsoft Word, but similar tools for other applications in the suites, such as their respective spreadsheets, would be addressed later. A timeline for the release of the translators hasn't been set. "We expect that by Jan. 1 we'd have a clear idea about the timelines," Kaefer said. "This will certainly be [a project] of months, not years."

The development of the translators will be run as an open-source project, he added, and the results would be available under a license, likely the BSD license, which Kaefer called "permissive open-source," rather than the GPL (General Public License), which he dubbed restrictive. "If OpenOffice.org likes what we come up with, they could take it," Kaefer said.

This isn't the first time that Microsoft has moved to add ODF capability to Office. In July it cranked up an ODF project with several partners; a prototype of an Office 2007 ODF translator has been posted on SourceForge.

That move was seen then as a reversal of Microsoft's prior position, for it had repeatedly said it would not natively support OpenDocument in Office. The deal made with Novell took the shift even further. But Kaefer said it was a natural transition. "We're bringing two of the most significant productivity suites in the market together," he said.

Kaefer could not confirm that a converter -- whether the one in development and posted to SourceForge in beta, or one from the new Novell cooperation -- would be available by the time Office 2007 ships. The newest edition of the suite, the first upgrade in three years, will launch Nov. 30. It's expected to hit retail early next year.

In other productivity suite-related news out of the Microsoft-Novell deal, the two companies said Thursday that the long-running lawsuit between them over the latter's WordPerfect word processor and Quattro Pro spreadsheet had not been resolved.

"We were able to clean up almost everything, but not that," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, during a question-and-answer at the end of Thursday's press conference.

Novell filed a lawsuit in November 2004 that accused Microsoft of trying to "eliminate competition in the office productivity applications market during the time that Novell owned the WordPerfect word processing application and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet application."

Novell had sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel Corp. in March 1996 for approximately $170 million.

source = http://www.techweb.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=193501757

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  • 1 month later...

You dug up a 7-week old post for that?

And Novell forked off OO to make their version support Microsoft Open XML. Guess the OO people didn't consider that possibility when they praised this deal.

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