Simon Willison’s Weblog


Office goes XML

24th October 2002

Co-Inventor of XML Says Office 11 is “A Huge Step Forward for Microsoft” (via Slashdot). The comments are full of speculation over why Microsoft would open up their file format in this way having gained so much from having an obfuscated format.

I’ve got my own theory. I don’t use Word very often, but when I do I use Word ’97—the same version of Word I’ve been using on and off for the past 5 years. My girlfriend uses ’97, the PCs in the Library at University use ’97 and I’m guessing it has a pretty large penetration. Why? Because as far as I can tell Word really hasn’t improved that much since then. Word ’97 has all the features most people could possibly want from a word processor, leaving very little incentive to upgrade.

Enter XML. With the XMLisation of the Word format Microsoft has suddenly provided people with a real incentive to move away from older versions of Word—XML is (still) the ultimate buzzword and IT departments and those who make the buying decisions for big companies are likely to instantly spot the benefits of the new format: Better (potential) interoperability and less lock-in to MS products. Meanwhile, Microsoft can concentrate on locking up the filesystem instead.

This is Office goes XML by Simon Willison, posted on 24th October 2002.

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