New Microsoft strategist spruiks open standards

Native ODF support in Microsoft Office a possibility

Microsoft may be at the centre of a dubious intellectual property agreement with Novell involving open source software, but that hasn't stopped the company trumpeting its work on open standards, which may even lead to native OpenDocument format support in Office.

Microsoft Australia's new platform strategy manager, Sarah Bond, said there is a place for standards as it drives competition and "it drives that desire to be more innovative".

Microsoft's OpenXML Translator is an open source project which allows Microsoft Word to open and save OpenDocument format (ODF) files. Version 1.0 was released earlier this month and is available for download.

Bond said while she is not aware of any initiative within Microsoft to provide native ODF support in Office, she did not rule out the possibility if the market demand was there.

"At the moment it is a small user base," Bond said. "Our effort is targeted towards the majority of Office documents and the customer base."

Bond took over the role from Martin Gregory four months ago and has been busy talking to customers about the virtues of the Microsoft stack over the competition.

On last year's landmark marketing and IP agreement with Novell, Bond also talked up the benefits the deal will bring for interoperability between Windows and SUSE Linux.

"It is what customers have asked us to do [and] the feedback we have received is not about patents but about the two vendors working together," she said. "The future is solid as both Windows and SUSE Linux will interoperate and be manageable."

"I feel positive about benefits in the short term and this calendar year customers will begin to benefit from it as the engineering has already started."

Demonstrating this, Microsoft's Port25 blog has started advertising positions in the company's open source software lab to work on Microsoft and SUSE Linux interoperability.

Bond said there have been a lot of requests about what the agreement means and many customers are excited about virtualization, directory integration, and a single management for mixed environments.

Regarding the 350,000 SUSE Linux support certificates Microsoft pledged to distribute over five years as part of the deal with Novell, Bond said there have been some enquiries from local customers but "that's a marketing and sales program".

If the open source industry is worried about software patents, Microsoft certainly isn't with Bond saying customers needn't be concerned as "the trust is there" and Microsoft "will be open" about its patents and intellectual property.

"Customers that have chosen Novell have patent indemnity," Bond said, adding general open source developers can "go for it" without any risk of patent litigation.

"At a company level, our future is tied to the value of IP and the business benefit from that," she said. "It comes down to the commercial reality of being in business."

Vendor agreements or not, Bond said customers generally don't want to get involved with patent discussions.

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