Already being lampooned as FUD by OASIS general council Andrew Updegrove (OASIS is the the consortium that stewards the OpenDocument Format), Microsoft has posted a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that it hopes will address any of the confusion around its convenant not to sue (developers who implement its file formats in their software) as well as questions that have arisen as result of the submission of its file formats to Ecma International. Last week, Ecma formed a technical committee (TC45) to steward an XML-based standard that's based on the Microsoft submission. The FAQ also comes in advance of another important hearing (was the only link I could find that shows the schedule but doesn't editorialize) that's being held this week in Massachusetts regarding that state's effort to standardize on the electronic file formats that it will use for the storage of public documents. The FAQ addresses one of the major questions that has been raised since the covenant not to sue was published; whether or not it will apply to the formats that were submitted to Ecma in addition to the current (and somewhat obsolete) Office formats it addresses. Says the FAQ:
The CNS [(covenant not to sue)] currently applies to the Office 2003 specifications because they are the only ones currently available that are complete. As the up-to-date specifications are released to Ecma, they will be posted on the same Web site and we will apply the CNS to them.
At first glance (I'm currently at the Syndicate Conference in San Francisco so I'm skimming), the FAQ doesn't appear to have answered some of the questions I think are worth answering in sufficient detail. That, by the way, isn't smoking gun evidence that Microsoft is disingenuously ducking some of the more important questions. Until Microsoft officially answers them (or refuses to answer them), it just means that they still need answering. In my replies to comments from ZDNet's readers who responded to my blog about Ecma's procedures, I noted that it's actually in Microsoft's best interests to overcommunicate on the issue and provide as much clarity as possible. I'm still trying to get more details from the Redmond, WA-based company. Stay tuned.