A bright new "What's New" graphic graced the Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas page this morning, announcing that Office's XML file formats, which are currently supported in Office 2003, will be the default in the next version, Office 12. The XML Reference Schemas are licensed by Microsoft to any developer royalty-free, much like many open source licenses, including the license for OpenDocument, the recently approved competing standard from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).
The licensing behind both of these standards allows any developer to distribute or sell programs that read and write these file formats without paying licensing fees or violating patents. This is great news because it could mean that office documents will display correctly in competing programs, such as OpenOffice.org, Corel WordPerfect Office, and IBM Lotus SmartSuite. Though I rather like Microsoft Office and I have no plans to switch at the moment, an open file format should help cut prices and drive innovation.-- Adam Carhede