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[via Brian Jones]

Living up to the promise, Microsoft is pushing to make their new XML document formats in the new Office 12 to eventually be an ISO standard.  Brian puts it best:

This should really help everyone feel certain that these formats will always be available and fully accessible. We are going to work with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba to form a technical committee at ECMA International that will fully document all of our schemas so that anyone can understand how to develop on top of them. This is obviously a huge step forward and it really helps to increase the value of these document formats because of the improved transparency and interoperability. This will help to create a large ecosystem built around these formats that will support them in a large number of different scenarios for customers.

In addition to this move towards standardization, we are also going to make some changes to our licensing approach. I've definitely heard the concern from folks over the past few months around the licenses. We want to make this issue much simpler as well as address the core concern, which was that some folks thought we might somehow sue people for using the formats. Obviously we don't want anyone to have that concern, so in order to clear up any other uncertainties related to how and where you can use our formats, we are moving away from our royalty free license, and instead we are going to provide a very simple and general statement that we make an irrevocable commitment not to sue. I'm not a lawyer, but from what I can see, this "covenant not to sue" looks like it should clear the way for GPL development which was a concern for some folks.

If you’re in the O12 Beta, check out the new ZIP formats.  Just save a Word/Excel/PowerPoint document in the default file type (*.docx for example), rename it to .zip, and open it up… you’ll see the goodies and all.

» Standardizing the Microsoft Office Open XML formats

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