"We have had a great track record of shipping a new release of Office every two to three years," he said. "This release took us about two months longer than three years, and so there were a set of customers we worked with on an individual basis to talk through how they felt about the relationship, what they saw coming from Microsoft and the value they were seeing from those annuity" agreements. We feel very good about how that has turned out. It was a very short window of two months, and I dont think it has caused any major customer issues for us." Microsoft remains committed to shipping a major release of Office every two to three years, he said. Many Microsoft business customers bought their software under such agreement, which gives them the rights to any version of Office that ships during the three-year window of that contract.Asked if there will be a more formal linkage of the development and release cycles of Office and Vista going forward, given that they are being released simultaneously this time around, Capossela said it was serendipitous, having the products come to market together. "I cant say it was the plan we had at the beginning. I dont think it is a critical thing for us to do every time," he said. "We certainly need to be aware of what the product road maps are across the company so that we understand what kinds of technical dependencies we should take, but it isnt something where we sit down and say that every new version of Office should happen at the same time as Windows. "We, the Office team, really think of ourselves as a software vendor that builds on top of the Windows platform, and we look to them to tell us what the key platform capabilities are that we should take advantage of to build a great application. We then look at that list to see what is right for the Office user base, and take it from there," he said. With regard to
claims by a group of its competitors that Vista will perpetuate practices found illegal in the European Union nearly three years ago, including the charge that the Open XML platform file format is designed to run seamlessly only on the Microsoft Office platform, Capossela said that no other company puts anywhere near the resources that Microsoft does behind open standards, which is something the company is proud of.
Read more here about how Microsoft has hit back at its Open XML critics.
"With regard to the Open XML standard, there are a couple of things I would say. This is now an Ecma standard, and we are working hard to make it an ISO standard as well. We have also worked very closely with a number of other companies on this standard, and so it is an industry effort," he said.
It is also a fully documented, completely open file format, so "anyone who writes a Java-based application that runs only on Linux can create Open XML files that Word or Excel running on Windowsand soon the Apple Macintoshwill be able to open. So to say this is only an Office thing just is not accurate," he said.
Even the most anti-Microsoft software developer, who only writes, say, Perl script applications running on Linux servers that never touch any Microsoft product, could use those languages on those platforms, to write out content into this XML format.
Click here to read about how Microsoft won Ecma approval for the Office Open XML format.
That content could then be read and written back by Word on a Windows machine, or by Word on a Mac, or read and written to by some other application written in another language that has nothing to do with Microsofts platform, he said.
If they want to create an XML file that Word can open, "its not that hard, and it is also something we think people will do en masse over the next couple of years," Capossela said.
It is Microsofts job to get third-party developer support behind the format, and "were hard at work on that. But it is important for the facts to be clear: You do not have to be running any Windows machines or using any Microsoft development tools to build cool applications that use the format," he said.
This is the same scenario as building "cool applications that use HTML: It doesnt have to be Internet Explorer that reads that HTML, it can be Firefox running on a Linux machine," Capossela said.
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"We are very committed to doing as best a job as we can, but obviously we want to make sure that the quality of the product is right. We dont want to ship it just to make some date," Capossela said.