Microsoft denies report of porting office to Linux

Microsoft Corp. is denying a report that it has been working to port its Office productivity applications suite and other Windows applications to the open-source Linux platform.

Doug Miller, group product manager for the Windows server group at Microsoft, said a report by Paul Thurrott, editor of the WinInfo newsletter, was “based on rumor” and “not true.” WinInfo reported that developers from Microsoft and Mainsoft Corp., a maker of Windows-to-Unix porting tools, had been working for more than a year to port Office and other Windows applications to Linux.

“There is a relationship with Mainsoft, a very good, close relationship with Mainsoft to port certain Microsoft technologies to Unix, and they’re porting Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. We have those available for Solaris and HP-UX,” Miller said. “But there’s no news here about Microsoft porting either of those technologies to Linux, or [porting] Office.”

Rumors that Microsoft eventually will port Office to Linux, much like it did for the Macintosh, have persisted ever since the open-source OS began gaining mindshare. Proof of Microsoft’s interest in Linux first surfaced in fall 1998, when a company engineer’s research on Linux – the so-called Halloween Papers – was leaked to the press.

Mainsoft president Yaacov Cohen said the San Jose, Calif.-based company is using its MainWin product to port Explorer 4.0 and 5.0 and Windows Media Player to Unix. Via “strategic agreements” with Microsoft, Mainsoft has access to Windows NT and Windows 2000 source code, millions of lines of which are incorporated into MainWin.

MainWin is a source code solution that provides a Unix-on-Windows platform, so developers can write to Windows, then recompile using a native Unix recompiler. Since last October, Mainsoft has offered MainWin for Linux, which recompiles Windows source code for Linux.

“We’ll keep working with Microsoft to provide cross-platform development,” Cohen said.

Regarding porting Office, Cohen said: “as far as we know, there is no plan to take Office to Linux or any other Unix.”

Echoing previous comments by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and president and CEO Steve Ballmer, Miller said officials at the Redmond, Wash. company was “very interested” in Linux’s open-source business model. The company is investigating whether to give customers more access to Windows code, he said.

“The model of providing source code for a product … is something we look at, but ultimately in the end it doesn’t seem to be a business model that can be sustained long-term for a company,” Miller said.

“Does every customer need the entire source code of the OS to feel comfortable? The vast majority [of Microsoft’s customers] say they don’t need all that source code,” Miller said. “But certain customers, if they’re building drivers or doing value-add deep down in the system, would benefit from having more access to the code.”