Microsoft has no plans to tweak its Office productivity suite for Linux anytime soon, despite the growing popularity of open source on the desktop, according to a company executive.
Speaking at the LinuxWorld conference in London on Wednesday, Nick McGrath, Microsoft's head of platform strategy, said that the software maker had no intention of porting Office to any of the Linux desktop distributions.
"Microsoft is 100 percent focused on Windows: We have invested billions of dollars in it. We have created Office for the Mac but--and I thought I had been clear on this already when I said 'No'--we have no plans at this time to build Office on Linux," he said.
McGrath made the comments as part of a LinuxWorld panel debate headlined "Where is the Innovation? Does free software development lead to proprietary, or is it the other way round?"
The Microsoft executive was replying to a question from a member of the audience, which seemed to be made up mostly of open-source advocates. The audience member noted that Microsoft had ported Office to Apple Computer's Macintosh, to tap into the Mac desktop market, and asked why would it not to the same for the Linux desktop.
Linux desktop software is rapidly gaining on the Apple operating system's small share of the market. Analysts disagree over how the market for operating systems on desktops and laptops is carved up, but agree that Microsoft's share is above 90 percent. Linux has been reported to have a market share of upwards of 3 percent, and there has been speculation that Apple's market share could reach 5 percent in 2005, on the back of the success of the iPod music player.
Eric Raymond, a prominent figure in the open-source community, told ZDNet UK recently that a release of Office for Linux isn't even that desirable, since alternatives such as StarOffice and OpenOffice.org are already available.
"The important move would be to document all (Microsoft's) file formats and communications protocols, make the documentation publicly available, and make a binding promise not to sue or harass people who write open-source software to interoperate," Raymond said.
Matt Asay, the director for Linux Business Office at Novell, also taking part in the panel on Wednesday, said that Microsoft would never put its Windows desktop position at risk by building Office for Linux. However, he said that the open-source community should stop focusing what Microsoft or hardware vendors are doing around Linux and let the market decide its fate.
"We need to get over our fixation with Microsoft. The question is not what Microsoft is doing. It is, what are we doing? The open-source movement is a bottom-up, not top-down, action," Asay said.
"We should be talking about how we can use the benefits of open source and Linux to leapfrog what's out there at the moment. After years of eating into Unix, Linux is finally starting to take market share from Unix on the server," Asay added.