Custom XML in Office and external needs

Does the patent dispute stop essential XML links for business?

Richard L from the UK writes:

“This issue of XML is interesting in the UK, as for business users and individuals submitting their tax returns in future both Companies House and HM Revenue and Customs are moving to an XML standard for documents, accounts, returns, etc, which will eventually become compulsory. If Microsoft brain-damages Office so XML can’t be used (or used easily), then that could have a significant impact, and added cost, to a large number of users here.”

HM Revenue in the UK isn’t the only organization that uses XML to transmit and receive data. XML is commonly used for software systems to ‘talk’ to each other. For example suppliers of car parts with car companies.

Some of these organizations will use the Microsoft Office ‘Custom XML’ feature as part of a larger XML based integration.

The recent patent court troubles in the USA mean that new purchases of Word 2003 and Word 2007 in the USA don’t have the Custom XML feature.

But it’s not all bad news and with a little care most organizations should not be affected.

The ‘Custom XML’ issue only applies in the USA and for purchases after 10 January 2010. So Richard in the UK still has ‘Custom XML’ features even for a new copy of Office 2007 bought today.

However non-US users might get caught with a crippled (non Custom XML) version of Office if they aren’t careful. That’s because in some cases, Microsoft has supplied a global fix for their legal problems. Non-USA users could install the Custom XML ‘update’ unnecessarily, download the new version of Office 2007 available from MSDN or apply the new release of the Office Compatibility Pack all of which remove the Custom XML feature.

Office 2010 will have Custom XML features restored in a way that Microsoft says doesn’t breach any disputed patent.