Microsoft's Firefox surprise

Microsoft's Firefox surprise

Summary: The software giant has released a Firefox plug-in. We'll just repeat that: Microsoft has released a Firefox plug-in


Microsoft's announcement of an OOXML plug-in for Firefox is one of those intriguing moments when a tiny piece of the future sprouts through the winter soil.

The plug-in wasn't written by Microsoft — it provided 'architectural guidance, technical support and project management', according to the project page — but by a Bangalore company called MindTree. Yet as the code is released on Microsoft's CodePlex pages under the GPL 3.0-compatible Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL), it's as good a piece of official Microsoft open source as you'll find.

Perhaps the least charitable interpretation of this move is that it provides, effectively for the first time, a decent OOXML viewer (one hopes — it's still incomplete, with things such as pagination missing) that removes the need for non-Microsoft Office users to install OpenOffice to read documents using that format. But competition is no bad thing, right?

More significantly, this is another step on Microsoft's slow evolution from its old mindset, which would have demanded that only IE would have this official capability. Instead, Microsoft is saying that, yes, we know Firefox is important and it does things that we don't do — and that's fine.

You can see this as a move towards capitulation to the new model, where client code is just not as important a strategic base as what's going on in the cloud — and, perhaps, a sign that on the desktop, Microsoft is coming to the same conclusion as it has apparently reached on the mobile platform. Why spend all that money developing expensive browsers, when someone else will do it for you and deliver the punters to your services free of charge?

Whether this move speeds the adoption of OOXML is neither here nor there; like the browser wars themselves, that battle is likely to lose its significance as the IT environment changes in ways that promise to be speedy, unpredictable and exciting. The things that will be fought for — interoperability, the retention of control over your own data, the freedom to make choices based on what's good for you and your enterprise — may not have changed, but this plug-in is a powerful reminder to focus on where the war is going, not on where it has been.


Topic: Apps

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  • Something you may not know about Mindtree...

    We're well familiar with Mindtree. Its corporate anthem, "Imagination, Action, Joy" once featured on ZDNet.,1000002000,2129390,00.htm

    And the company's logo was designed by a spastic. Where other companies pay expensive design consultants to come up with images, Mindtree approached ten children at the Spastics Society of Karnataka and chose one image from their work - to embody those corporate values: imagination, action, joy.

    As Michael Caine would say, not many people know that.
  • Microsoft Offer To Update Firefox.

    Yes it's true, when I opened my "live" account microsoft very kindly pointed me to the firefox update page.
    roger andre
  • Leopards & Spots

    .. comes to mind

    Or, as the men of Troy found out. 'Beware Greeks bearing gifts'.

    Yes I know that's terribly un-PC
  • Just a Theory

    Ah ya see I have a theory, that microsoft are passed by open source linux distros and an ever more bossy and corporate apple in years to come. In turn this will bring innovation back to the front so to speak at microsoft. Hmm leapords and spots? you'll love this one then: MS increased the free storage on their live skydrive today to 25 GBs
    roger andre