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.
As I've been saying for the past 6 months, our goal with these formats was to open them up so that anyone could build solutions on top of them. We see this as a huge opportunity for Office to play a more vital role in business applications. It's something that we benefit from and so do our customers and partners. I posted about this a couple months ago, and if you're interested you should go back and read that post (http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/09/29/475340.aspx). Here are two points I really want to stress:
At the XML conference last week, there were a number of folks I talked to who had already done a lot of work with the 2003 XML formats. With the work we'll do in ECMA, we are guaranteed to have a first class specification that fully describes every detail of our formats. In addition, we'll provide plenty of tutorials, best practices, and all kinds of tools to help folks work with the formats. We released the Beta 1 for Office '12' last week and we're already starting to receive a ton of great feedback.
I'll talk a lot more about both the license change as well as the standardization effort over the coming months. It's something I'll obviously stay heavily involved with and I'm really excited about it. I hope you are too.