XPS, open, royalty-free, cross platform...really

I just got back from a week in Japan. Thinking back to my trip, I am still surprised at how many times I was asked to confirm that XPS was an open format. I visited a lot of partners that are building XPS hardware or software and I found myself forgetting that in our partners eyes, what we are doing with XPS seems very unique for Microsoft. Although it doesn’t seem that way to me, as we’ve been working on this for years and the idea about building technologies that are open and cross-platform is not a new concept around Microsoft. I do admit that it took us a long time to get to the point where we had all our ducks in a row. We had huge challenges coming up with a very simple and straight forward licensing program, a clear and comprehensive specification (oh my how hard that is), endless coordination efforts between D2, Avalon, Office and other teams and lets not forget the software we are building around XPS (print drivers, viewers, APIs, etc). Nothing short of amazing when I think about it.

But I digress – back to ‘openness’. XPS is available to read, write and render on any platform, royalty-free. An overview of the license up on ms.com says specifically:

Microsoft plans to freely license XPS technology to encourage its use as general-purpose documents. Microsoft will grant a royalty-free copyright license to copy, display, and distribute the XML Paper Specification. Microsoft will also grant a royalty-free patent license to read, write and render XPS Documents. Execution of the licenses will be straightforward and will not require the company to sign and return the license agreement.

That pretty much sums it up. The questions I often get are ‘why’ is Microsoft being so open? It’s really simple. Our customers have heterogeneous environments – Windows, Mac, Unix, different types of business systems running on a variety of platforms and the need to build document archival systems and know they can manipulate the documents a hundred years from now. Printing and scanning companies also need to build XPS devices that certainly don’t use Windows as an OS very often. In the end, the success of XPS is tied to it being accepted and trusted as a document format 1st and foremost. Its’ success is also tied to the idea that we will build great software services around it, that Windows will provide a great platform for XPS, enable develops to build amazing applications that utilize XPS, but that should not preclude anyone else building great software around XPS and any platform.

My last blog entry was about Windows Media Photo being part of the XPS specification. We were concerned that people might think that we were slipping in something proprietary that would make XPS less open. That is not the case. Windows Media Photo license will follow the provisions of the XPS license. We are using Windows Media Photo because we simply wanted to start XPS out with a codec that had better compression and color capabilities that the current codecs on the market.

I’m avoiding, obviously any lengthy opinion about what different legislative bodies define as ‘open’. This seems to be quite a hot debate lately. I can only say that we’ve made XPS open in the simplest terms we could, and as we engage with our partners and customers we continue to get extremely positive feedback on our approach.