Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage program for detecting unlicensed copies of Windows has a less than sterling reputation as I’ve mentioned previously, but that didn’t keep Microsoft from quietly implementing it on Friday for Microsoft Office under the name Office Genuine Advantage:
Microsoft on Friday made an anti-piracy check by Microsoft Office XP and 2003 mandatory for users of most versions of the application suite, the company said.
The news comes on the heels of Microsoft’s controversial announcement earlier this month to add more anti-piracy checks to the upcoming Windows Vista operating system. There are differences, however, between the two, said Ashim Jaidka, director of the Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program.
“Vista’s Software Protection Platform wasn’t ready at the time we needed to make a decision [about anti-piracy] in Office 2007′s development,” said Jaidka. Instead, the counterfeit sniffing OGA technology is based on Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), the framework used by Windows XP. “It’s a variant of that, and an extension of WGA.”
Beginning Friday, users of Office XP and 2003 must prove to Microsoft that their software is legitimate to download add-ons from the Office Web site.
Office 2007, which is set to debut later this year and early in 2007 to businesses and consumers, respectively, will also require OGA, said Jaidka.
Similarly, as of January Microsoft will also make users validate before they can obtain updates from Office Update…
Critical updates aren’t affected however. Ed Bott already has mentioned a run-in that John Walkenbach had with a bogus OGA validation failure in beta Office 2007 and given WGA’s track record, there would seem to be more to come.
The press release, though, is titled Microsoft Expands Document Interoperability:
Expanding on its customer-focused commitment to interoperability, Microsoft Corp. today announced the creation of the Open XML Translator project. The project, developed with partners, will create tools to build a technical bridge between the Microsoft® Office Open XML Formats and the OpenDocument Format (ODF). This work is in response to government requests for interoperability with ODF because they work with constituent groups that use that format. In addition to being made available as free, downloadable add-ins for several older versions of the Microsoft Office system, the translation tools will be developed and licensed as open source software. The translation tools will be broadly available to the industry for use with other individual or commercial projects to accelerate document interoperability and expand customer choice between Open XML and other technologies.
The latest such government was that of Belgium where it oddly enough appeared that the OpenDocument Foundation was going to save Microsoft’s bacon by providing translators just like those Microsoft is now proposing to develop.
Microsoft is developing the translation tools in collaboration with the France-based IT solution provider Clever Age and several independent software vendors, including Aztecsoft in India and Dialogika in Germany. A prototype version of the first translator added to Word 2007 will be posted today on the open source software development Web site SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net/projects/odf-converter), under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, where anyone can submit bugs and feedback or contribute to the project. The complete version of the Word translation tool is expected to be available free from the download site by the end of 2006, with add-ins for Excel and PowerPoint expected in 2007. Older versions of Office will have access to the translation tool via a free Compatibility Pack, which also provides free updates to enable Open XML format support.
I suppose it’s less embarrassing to do it with partners after Microsoft’s previous adamant refusals to provide native ODF support. In any case, this has to be chalked up as a victory for the Open Document Format advocates. Microsoft does get points for folding their hand after the bluff became untenable, but one wonders whether the months of bad publicity were really worth it.
Ina Fried at CNET:
A U.S. appeals court has upheld a ruling that Microsoft’s Office software infringes on a Guatemalan inventor’s technology, lawyers for the inventor said Friday.
Morrison & Foerster said that on Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington affirmed a verdict that Microsoft’s Office software infringed on a patent held by Carlos Armando Amado. In June 2005, an Orange County, Calif., jury awarded Amado $6.1 million, ruling that Microsoft’s method of linking its Access database and Excel spreadsheet infringed on Amado’s technology.
“This ruling signals the validity of the patent and confirms Microsoft’s liability of infringement on Mr. Amado’s software program,” Vince Belusko, a Morrison & Foerster partner, said in a statement. A Microsoft representative did not immediately have a comment.
Since the jury verdict last year, Microsoft has altered Office, alerting businesses back in January that they will need to upgrade to the modified version.
We mentioned the required patches back in January.
Phil Windley at ZDNet explains as part of his discussion of Landmines at the Patent Office:
If your company uses MS Office (and who doesn’t?) you may soon be deploying a patched version of Office so that Microsoft can get around a patent infringement suit that they lost. Seems that Guatemalan inventor Carlos Armando Amado was granted a patent in 1997 that covers some method that Access and Excel use to exchange data. Because Microsoft paid for $8.9 million for infringements between March 1997 and July 2003, any existing installations of Office 2003 can stand but new installations will need a patched version that no longer infringes.
New Office XP installations need patching too as explained at the second link.