London, July 13:

Microsoft paying to develop open source software so Office 2007 can hook up with the standardised Op-en Document format? With its reputation? As hard as that might be to believe, last week world’s biggest software firm did just that.

Microsoft is often seen as an enemy of free-to-use-and-adapt open-source software. In 1976, the general partner of a recently formed firm called Micro-Soft — Bill Gates — wrote An Open Letter to Hobbyists saying that free sharing of programmes was in fact theft which would prevent good software from being written. Over the following three decades, the firm has stuck to proprietary software — paid-for program-mes, where the source co-de is hidden or closed from users. MS has also in its software tended to prefer its own document formats, such as Word’s.doc and PowerPoint’s .ppt, leading to charges that it tries to ‘lock in’ users as their document archives would stop being fully accessible if they replaced their MS software. But last week the firm announced that the open source development website SourceForge was hosting a prototype adap-ter for Word 2007, part of the new version of MS Office to be released, allowing the word processor to work with ODF. This is an open standard accredited by the International Standards Organisation and used within software including OpenOffice, an open source rival to MS Office.

Microsoft says the Word adapter should be finished by the end of this year, with adapters for its Excel spre-adsheet and PowerPoint presentation software rea-dy next year. The ada-pters, which MS is paying other software firms to write, will not distributed within Office 2007 but will be easily downloadable through a menu option, joining a pr-eviously announced ada-pter for Adobe’s portable document format.

Windows XP users at disadvantage

LONDON: A spam filter that only correctly identified 80 per cent of spam while mislabelling 20 per cent of legitimate email as junk wouldn’t be very popular. How much worse, then, when the product that’s making such a poor fist of identification isn’t a spam filter, but a Microsoft programme that is meant to identify whether you are running a legitimate copy of Windows. Worse still, the programme — Windows Genuine Advantage, (WGA) — was forced on Windows XP users as part of the regular software update sch-eme, but now threatens to disable the machines.