Microsoft announcement that they would support an Open Source project to allow conversions between Office Open XML (OOX) and OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF) provoked a lot of reactions. To have a measure of the "noise" made on the internet by this announcement, just type 'ODF "Clever Age" Microsoft' on Google - you'll have almost 25,000 results! (a pity that all those pages are not pointing to Clever Age's web site, that would have boosted our ranking ;-). Many reactions were positive, people applauding the fact that Microsoft did not persevere into a close-minded attitude regarding other formats and interoperatbility. But as usual, some people also manifested skepticism, wondering why Microsoft suddenly changed its mind (is it an "embrace, extend, extinguish" attempt?) and trying to find the "trap" that was necessary hiding in this attitude.

There is especially one thing that surprised people quite a lot, it is Microsoft's choice to support an Open Source project to accomplish the work. Why did they not develop it by themselve? Why Open Source? A lot of explanations (I should say: suppositions) were given, all of them trying to reveal Microsoft's real (and necessary bad) motivations. From what I heard during our discussions with Microsoft, I understand that they could not make the developments internally due to political reasons (in such a big company, changing people's minds takes time...), so they decided to ask a partner. Why Clever Age is another story that I may tell some day...

Now, why an Open Source project? From my point of view, things are quite (maybe a bit too) simple: they did not decided to, we (I mean: Clever Age) did! Actually, during the discussions that took place before the project launching (for information, the project started on june 1st, 2006), we suggested to have this project managed as an Open Source project so that we could benefit from user feedback and potential contributions. Clever Age is used to contributing and even leading Open Source projects, so we knew the advantages we could take from such a model. Well, I recognize that if Microsoft had disagreed with this idea, the project would not have been Open Source - but I don't think it would have been so if we had not suggested the idea. Fortunately, the managers we spoke to at Microsoft were receptive to those arguments, and there we are.

But there must have been discussions internally in Microsoft before accepting the proposal, for sure. They knew that if they accepted to launch an Open Source project, they would be at the center of the attention - with the risk of beeing criticized for whatever - good or bad - reason. And they were entirely right: not longer than four days after the announcement, a thread started on Groklaw about Microsoft having "grabbed" some code for "its" ODF plugin. And in the next few hours, several web sites reported that Microsoft had copied most of the code of its plugin from another Open Source project... First, the code was not (and is still not) Microsoft's property - it is and it will remain Clever Age's. Second, the piece of code was taken out of a book from J. D. Eisenberg (we mentioned its origin in our code) and was extremely simple - it did certainly not deserve such a discussion... We (I mean: Microsoft and Clever Age) wasted a lot of energy just to stop this rumour - posting answers, contacting the authors, making our own announcement on SourceForge, etc. Well, I suppose that's the counterpart of working on such a sensible project...

Now the pressure has fallen down, we don't feel like being watched by the entire earth any more. Until the next announcement from Microsoft?