Thanks to a lot of speculation, many were beginning to believe that Ubuntu would/could be next in the deals that Microsoft has been striking up with Linux vendors. Thankfully, some folks brought up the question on Mark’s blog, and he replied:
“Neither Canonical nor the Ubuntu project have any interest in signing an agreement with Microsoft on the back of the threat of unspecified patents. We have consistently (but politely ) declined to pursue those conversations with Microsoft, in the absence of any details of the alleged patent infringements.
Speaking for myself, I welcome Microsoft’s openness to the idea of improving interoperability between free software components such as OpenOffice and Microsoft Office, and believe that Microsoft’s customers, many of whom are now also Linux users, will appreciate Microsoft’s efforts in that regard. I have substantial reservations about the quality of the specification for Microsoft’s OpenXML document formats and do not believe that Microsoft will limit it’s own Office implementation to that specification, which makes the specification largely meaningless as a standard. A specification which Microsoft won’t certify as being accurate as a representation of Office 12’s behavior, and will not commit to keeping up to date in advance of future revisions to MS Office, is not a credible standard.
Instead of OpenXML, I would urge Microsoft to join the ODF working group. They are already a member of OASIS, I believe. Their participation in ODF would be genuine engagement with an open standards process. Microsoft would benefit from the innovation that comes from clean, well written standards that are widely implemented. They would have a large share of a larger market.
After many years of participating in the free software community I know that neither I nor any other free software programmer has any desire to infringe on any intellectual property (trademark, copyright or patent) of any other person or company. Many of us are motivated precisely to ensure that we work on platforms which DON’T cross that line. So it is somewhat offensive to be threatened with an allegation of an IP infringement. I’m sure Microsoft doesn’t realise that its actions are being received in that light, otherwise they wouldn’t continue. But it is getting rather tiresome. I would be very happy to see the details of any alleged patent infringement so that we can engage with Microsoft more constructively on the subject.”
Hooray for the Ubuntu project!