In an interview conducted by news.com's Ina Fried, Steve Sinofsky, the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of Office, noted that his company had received 120,000 user requests for PDF support, which the company just announced for Office 12, but no demand for the OpenDocument Format (ODF), which represents the idea that Microsoft's file formats need to be more open. Apparently the State of Massachusetts, with 80,000 employees, isn't Microsoft's idea of a customer. When asked specifically about Massachusetts, Sinofsky replied:
"We've always felt that the primary value that we deliver to people is not in the format that the information is stored in but in the tool that's used to create the format. At the same time, what the format does is it affords us a way of delivering scalable, robust secure applications. There are engineering reasons why we invest in different formats over time.
Yet, from a marketplace perspective, we continue to focus on the experience. That's why you see the new user experience in Office 12 as being a really big focus. We think, at the end of the day, that's where customers make their decisions about what's really valuable."
Microsoft apparently believes that its file formats are core intellectual property that add value to the user experience (ultimately, the "engineering reasons" Sinofsky alluded to must have some user benefits). For some customers, having more open, unencumbered (not just a perpetual, royalty free license) file formats trumps whatever engineering reasons Microsoft presents. Now that the differences between OpenOffice/StarOffice, which support ODF and PDF, and MS Office aren't so great, Massachusetts has an alternative. Maybe Microsoft just walks away from this battle, but that wouldn't be typical of Gates and company...