24th October 2017
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May 22nd, 2017 Cat: Bisnis Online

I’d like to find one review, just one, that doesn’t completely rave about how Microsoft Office is the most perfect office suite on the planet, has always been, and always will be. There are certainly competing products, WordPerfect Office, StarOffice and Lotus Symphony for example, But it is still Microsoft’s Office that wins all the way. The competition couldn’t even compete with Office in one area, like the popular Word. Until now. Anyone who uses Word 2007 would notice that the program defaults to saving documents in a .docx file format – the x in there stands for XML. And in XML lie all the problems. A tiny software company called i4i sued Microsoft for plagiarizing its programming work to give Word its XML capability, and it won. And the court in Texas but ruled against Microsoft says they can’t sell Word in the US anymore the way it is. Microsoft’s competitors in the office suite market must really be rejoicing; who would’ve thought that they would get such a break? When people can’t buy Microsoft Word, they might look at some competing products, is the hope. Well, they don’t need to order the champagne already; Microsoft was always preparing for this eventuality, and stocked up on Office packages that had that feature removed. And Microsoft Office 2010 doesn’t include it, from the get-go. So what is this all about really?

The little Canadian company that is in the center of all of this, i4i, used to be a partner in Microsoft’s business; they licensed their XML editing technology to Microsoft back when Word 2003 was sold. But then Microsoft decided to roll their own, and unhitched i4i. But they didn’t really do any programming; they just went ahead and used i4i’s coding without telling them. Microsoft just doesn’t want to pay up. And i4i has been suing them ever since. They just finally won, and not only must Microsoft’s stop selling Word this way, they must pay the little company about $300 million as well.

So how does this affect you and me? Well, for a short time you won’t be able to buy Microsoft Word at any stores that carry the regular version; they’re not going to come after you and take away your existing copy of Word, but if you have automatic updates turned on, they will make a little modification to your installation in the US, and make it so that it won’t save in the .docx file format anymore. If you try to open a previously-saved .docx file, it will open it, but if you’ve put in any real geekery in there with what they call Custom XML markup elements, well, those particular features won’t open in those documents. This isn’t really a big deal; no one even knows these things exist, live alone knows how to use them. The only big deal is that Microsoft was made to stop freely taking advantage of its cash cow.

But what if it puts the whole ODF initiative at risk? Open Document Format is a real boon to the open-source community. We can’t all afford to buy Microsoft Word. If the open-source effort is affected, that would be something to worry about.

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