Customers of Microsoft Office have one more reason to consider switching to an alternative before getting hit with a gigantic upgrade to Office 12 (a.k.a. Office 2007), but they may get a taste of this unpleasantness in advance. CNET News.com’s Ina Fried reports reports that Microsoft is requiring all Office customers to upgrade to a new version right now — to settle a patent dispute that has forced the company to remove code related to how Microsoft Access works with Excel.
You read that right: Microsoft lost a patent dispute, and now its customers pay the price. Microsoft’s promise (back in 2003) to indemnify its customers doesn’t help, as the legal clause requires customers to upgrade immediately.
It’s not such a big deal for customers on the leading edge — you know who you are and how much time you spend on installing patches and service packs. Laggards on the bleeding edge need to install the Office 2003 Service Pack 2 (Office 2003 SP2) for Office Professional Edition 2003 and Office Access 2003, or Office XP Service Pack 3 Patch (Office XP SP3 Patch) for Office XP Professional and Access 2002. The upgrade will mostly likely cause headaches for folks who need to test their Excel macros and Access databases.
Meanwhile, the war between OpenDocument (ODF) and the “Microsoft standard” — which, if won by ODF, promises to unlock the Office monopoly — rages on. Despite the political pressure that forced its CIO Peter Quinn to resign over Christmas, Massachusetts is still in the front lines in the battle over standard file formats. Quinn was investigated by The Boston Globe (and later cleared), but quit anyway. In his first major interview, with Groklaw, Quinn points the finger at Microsoft’s political cronies: “Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin’s office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine.”
But Microsoft hasn’t won yet. According to ConsortiumInfo.org, a blog that tracks standards, Mass. legislators have received letters in support of ODF from the three top technology trade associations: the Massachusetts Network Communications Council (MNCC), Mass High Technology Council (MHTC), and the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MTLC). The standard format is at least one year ahead of Microsoft’s proposed “standard” in ISO adoption, which gives ODF the advantage. However, the ability of ODF to match, or surpass, the ability of Office to accommodate those with disabilities remains an important test.