It’s the giving season, and we saw a major example of that last week when the FTC slapped Intel with a barrage of accusations. This week, it’s Microsoft on the receiving end, with the gift-giver being the US Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, XML specialist company i4i won a suit against Microsoft for infringing on one of their XML technologies, which resulted in a quick halting of Office sales, but not for long.
This recent event is going to be a bit trickier to get through, because it’s not the first appeal Microsoft has lost, so it needs to figure out a way to end this charade fast. As it stands, the US Court of Appeals has stated that as of January 11, Microsoft will be unable to sell the infringing products, which include only Excel and Word, as far as I’m aware.
What’s likely to happen is that Microsoft will either change the functionality (which is a bit hard to understand from a non-developer standpoint), and re-release the software package, then subsequently remove the previous functionality from already-installed versions with the next patch. Or, Microsoft and i4i could negotiate something and leave things be.
It’s important to note that i4i isn’t the usual scum company looking to make a quick buck, as it is responsible for the algorithms present for the specific handling of XML data (the x at the end of recent Office documents denotes XML support), but I’m not quite sure how the code got to be used in the first place. As far as other solutions are concerned, OpenOffice.org users have nothing to worry about… probably because the suite doesn’t support the latest documents , except in a read-only manner.
Microsoft says it’s moving quickly to prepare versions of Office 2007 and Word 2007 that don’t have the “little-used” XML features for sale by January 11, and that the Office 2010 beta “does not contain the technology covered by the injunction,” which can be read in a number of ways. It’s also considering an appeal, so we’ll see what happens next.