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Microsoft Lashes out at Massachusetts IT Decision 525

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hope-division-of-the-revolution dept.
scoop writes "Infoweek is reporting that the plan to eliminate the use of Office by the Massachusetts state government (previously covered on Slashdot) has not gone over well with Microsoft. Microsoft's Yates said the company agrees with the adoption of XML but does not agree that the solution to "public records management is to force a single, less functional document format on all state agencies." Microsoft also states they will not support the OpenDocument format. Looks to me Microsoft is scared their biggest cash cow is in danger from a free alternative. Soon I'm sure we'll see a Microsoft funded comparison between Office and OpenOffice."
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Microsoft Lashes out at Massachusetts IT Decision

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  • Flexibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:03AM (#13476015) Homepage Journal
    "It's this need for choice and flexibility that led Microsoft to design Office in a way that supports any XML schemas that a customer chooses"

    And this customer chooses OpenDocument, an XML schema. So, it would appear that either MS Office or Microsoft is not flexible enough to actually "support any XML schemas that a customer chooses". Microsoft spokesman lying through his teeth, sun rises, sun sets, film at eleven.

    • Re:Flexibility? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bert64 (520050) <bert@sl[ ]dot.fi ... m ['ash' in gap]> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:38AM (#13476172) Homepage
      He also states:
      "this proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving."

      how would you put voice-over-ip into a word processing document? if it's stored in a file then it's not exactly travelling over ip anymore.. it's merely a voice recording in a file, for which many formats already exist..
      As for voice, audio, video, pictures etc, there are already documented open standards for such files, and opendocument will include these files in their original format inside the zip container.. what's the point of converting existing open formats into an xml representation of the same format?
      • Re:Flexibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PoprocksCk (756380) <poprocks@gmail.org> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:10AM (#13476318) Homepage Journal
        This is just Microsoft stretching the truth to spread FUD.

        For people who have never used a word processing program that supports OpenDocument (OpenOffice.org being the predominant contender here) -- they would read these claims as "OpenOffice.org cannot put pictures, audio, video, etc. into its documents" which is certainly not true.
        • Re:Flexibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Trepalium (109107) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:38PM (#13477483)
          In Microsoft's strange twisted world, this is almost true. I doubt the OpenDocument format has any support for compound OLE objects that make up pictures, charts, audio and video embedded into typical Microsoft Word documents. In this case, converting from MSWord to OpenDocument means that you lose the in-place editing of any embedded Excel charts or graphs, or any other editable COM/OLE object you might've inserted into your document.

          I suspect the Microsoft spokesperson is well aware of the distinction between what he said and reality, though. What he said has the potential for perhaps someone to re-evaluate the decision. If he had properly represented the deficiency of the format, he would've been ignored because the people making the decision should've already realized they were giving up on the deep Microsoft integration features.

      • Re:Flexibility? (Score:4, Informative)

        by mikael (484) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:19AM (#13476385)
        How would you put voice-over-ip into a word processing document?


        The same way you would put streamed video on a webpage. You'll have some tiny embedded object that lists the application to be run and the file path/url to open.

        For voice-over-ip, you would have the application and the telephone address/number of the person/company to be dialed.
      • And it is big business. Lawyers, accountants, etc dictating, saved in a word document then sent over IP to a secretary either in the office or in India.
      • OLE (Score:3, Informative)

        Don't forget that word documents are actually OLE containers, alowing embedding of an OLE object, much like a plugin in a web page. In fact it is that aspect that causes problems sometimes, when the plug-in software is not installed on the platform where it is being viewed.

        For my 5c worth, MS Office is a good piece of software, but I just find it a little too expensive for using at home. If it was $200 CAN, or less, as opposed to $700 [amazon.ca] then I might actually consider paying for it.

        I have used the MacOS X ver
      • by ArtDent (83554)

        what's the point of converting existing open formats into an xml representation of the same format?

        I dunno about the XML Office format, but with the good old binary .doc format, pasting a picture into a document typically had the effect of bloating the document by about 10 times the size of the image, while actually reducing the quality of the image.

        Can OpenDocument do that?

      • Wrong Question! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OmniGeek (72743) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:23PM (#13477411)
        how would you put voice-over-ip into a word processing document?

        No, the question is, why would you put voice-over-ip into a word processing document? The purpose of a word-processing document (text of, e.g., laws and regulations) is entirely different from the purpose of a video or audio record. No need to mix 'em in a single document that citizens need open access to. You can't print video, so keep it separate from things in printed form. It's much easier to access the pieces separately (video players and text processors don't fundamentally need to read one another's formats, and are available separately in platform-agnostic forms.)

        Simplicity and ease of public access are best served by uncluttered document formats; all this every-dang-media-format-conceivable-in-a-single-do cument approach is poor design to begin with, but is VERY poor design for public documents.

        Swami predicts: Microsoft will change its mind (either very quietly, or by claiming that this was always their intention) when the cost of stubbornly snubbing the open format becomes insupportable, as other governmental users start mandating open formats.
        • Re:Wrong Question! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheNetAvenger (624455)
          No, the question is, why would you put voice-over-ip into a word processing document?

          Very obvious you have not used OneNote, or any other Meeting Document creation applications that records and timelines the Audio from the meeting with the notes you take.

          There are REASONS people would want this information in a Document. I use it everyday.

          PERIOD.

          (Ignorance leads all at one time or another.)
          • Re:Wrong Question! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by True Grit (739797) * <edwcogburn@noSPam.gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @11:39PM (#13480958)
            There are REASONS people would want this information in a Document


            No, there are reasons people will want to be able to *synchronize* that data together, but that has nothing to do with the idea that you need one mother-of-all-document-format to store that different data in the same file.

            The sane thing to do would be to store the video in a (common, open) video format, and your (textual) notes hold a time index into the video for synchronization, thus the text and video are separate from each other, *and* in standardized formats, *and* held in the same file using a standardized container format like a zip file. So you can still use open standards which keep your own options open, and keep your synchronization too.

            Unless of course you're a company who's income depends on keeping your customers locked in to your proprietary formats (forcing them to use your, and ONLY your, apps to access the THEIR OWN data), in which case, "innovating" a brand new (proprietary, redundant) format to store text and video in the same file makes perfect "sense"....
      • Re:Flexibility? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by edunbar93 (141167)
        this proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving.

        Gee whiz, and here I thought Word was for... words. You know. Making documents that you can read. I guess I was totally wrong, because it appears that it also reads my e-mail and makes me toast in the morning. How the hell did this kind of silliness get integrated into the program? Would Microsoft
    • Re:Flexibility? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:07AM (#13476302) Homepage
      I agree 100%. And, you also have to understand MS mentality here. They see each individual user as a flower of creativity. Ok, that's BS, they don't see that at all.

      What they fail to understand is that *shocker* governments should use a unified format for very specific reasons. Anyone from any branch can read any document from any other branch of the government. And, such format should be 100% open, so that should a future format come along that they want to change to, they can write up their own free utility to automatically update all documents.

      Wow, that mean that governments can actually move away from the days when every department used its own forms/formats, and paper copies had to be made of everything because every system was proprietary, so the only way to transfer information was to print it out, hand it over, and re-type it in.

      That would sound amazing if it had said it in 1995. Its about time that governments stepped up to the plate. Such changes are long overdue.

      And, they obviously can't choose a patented/DMCA locked format by MS, which is what MS wants. With the MS Office suite looking to use DMCA to lock out their documents from open source solutions, governments will have high barrior costs to ask MS permission to unlock their documents for them.

      MS on the other hand sees such as a way to lock in customers, and exact ultra-high fees to unlock the documents. Anything less, and MS will tell you you're a Commie bastard who's not open to "freedom of choice".

      I think it's a given that we all know what MS's definition of "choice" is. Choice is only that which chooses (or by default) to use MS products. Everything else is obviously not choice, because it slaps MS's hand away from your wallet.

      By the way, the political opposite of communism, is naziism. I think I'd MUCH rather be called a Commie.
    • XML Means Nothing! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhYrE2k2 (806396)
      XML means that the document is contained within some form of HTML-like open and close tags... But what does that mean. Lets take a look at some XML:

      <XML>
      <document>
      <page1>
      sfiangio3niognailngasnf
      ioqnbwjkgnaljkgnanfgoui
      anfonqionqoinioqnonqiow

  • Yep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:05AM (#13476030) Journal
    Was I the only one noticing that most of MS's money comes from software, which has a very low barrier to entry? This is just an eventuality. Physical products and Services like XBox and Msn search will be better long term investments for them.
  • From the article:

    Microsoft's Yates said the company agrees with the adoption of XML but does not agree that the solution to "public records management is to force a single, less functional document format on all state agencies."

    These articles are delicious with irony. I sometimes find it difficult to believe these are real! Do any of the Microsoft PR people ever sit down and read statements they've made?

    Anyway, so now Microsoft thinks it knows best what constitutes (irony) the best solution for a gove

    • Less Functional? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vhogemann (797994) <victor AT hogemann DOT com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:13AM (#13476059) Homepage
      Also, What do they mean with this "less functional" argument? Last time I checked I could write, draw, do calculations and present with OpenOffice. And I can print all those things too. Witch functionality they're missing? At work, at Rio de Janeiro City public health department, our users don't miss anything... mostly because they were unaware of those "extra functionalities" bundled with MSOffice. Pehaps they're talking about the ability to hold a trojan playload? OpenOffice as far as I know don't support a single macro virus... Ha!
    • by jurt1235 (834677) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:14AM (#13476060) Homepage
      What is meant by that anyway?
      The goal of a document is to document. Since about version 2 of every document application, it has been able to do that (OpenOffice is not at version 2, but at version 8 if you count StarOffice releases). So if you take a program from the seventies (nice frontend: textmode!) it will also do the trick.
      Now looking at modern document formatting applications like MS Word, OpenOffice, Word Perfect and many great others, what does MS Word offer which is so much more functional in document format, so not in general functionality, but just document format?

      This is one for Ask /. when Bill Gates or another MS friend drops by again.
    • ...is that is was Microsoft THEMSELVES who helped form OASIS - the group that came up with the OpenDocument schema. If Mr. Ballmer can stop throwing chairs and primal screaming for a few seconds, perhaps he can explain why MS pulled out of OASIS at the last minute and why MS Office will not accept that format. Specifically now MS, why is this format less functional? HINT: it's not an answer to say, 'because we don't control it'.

      Either way, MS will have a lot of dancing to do to explain why it is that every
  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:07AM (#13476035) Homepage

    I think they deliberately misunderstand the issue. The issue here is not functionality. Yes opendoc may actually be less functional than the word-format but guess what Microsoft? I haven't used any of this additional functionality since 1997 and neither has the US government.

    The battle for features is over and what's replaced it is a lot more important. What we have today is a battle of ideology. Don't you think there's something a little perverse in a government investing huge amounts of tax payers money in creating all this intellectual property but having made this tremendous investment in time and resources they have to pay a private corporation to get the tools to access that investment?

    To be fair, it's not just Microsoft who are perverse like this. Sage Line 50 is a great example of corporate greed. You pay £800 for the piece of software but lord if you want to insert or update information in a third-party program you need to pay around £1500 a year for the developer license. It was this that made me wake up to the reality of the situation: Our company is paying nearly a hundred thousand pounds a year in accountants who enter data in to your software package yet we have to pay you AGAIN to update that data? It's us that paid money to put the data in there in the first place, why should we have to pay you again just to use it from a homegrown program?

    It's this greed that the US government is rejecting. In the early days everbody wanted software to help deliver the tremendous savings that computers can bring to a business. They would be a license from whatever vendor they would sacrifice much to get it. Now companies are starting to expect software to deliver a return on investment and they're not willing to tie themselves in to one company. Having many suppliers after your business drives down prices. This is as true with IT as it is with any other sector. The way to ensure you can get many suppliers knocking for your business is to make sure it's easy to switch. Open Office might be a pain at first but the opendoc standard will make it easier to switch. It's a good move in the long run.

    Microsoft, Sage or any other company do not have the automatic right to make a profit. The lesson to Microsoft is simple: you were beaten here not because your product was inferior but because you failed to allow people to compete with you effectively. The role of a government in a capitalist society is to promote competition not subtract from it. In this case Massachusetts has done everyone a favour by telling Microsoft that it can cram its vendor-lockin into a bloody big pipe and smoke it.

    Simon.

    • by Zo0ok (209803)
      I wouldnt say we have a battle of ideology. However, software industry is so old now, that the rest of the industry (and society) expects it to be mature and efficient (like everything else). Proprietary and expensive formats are simply not mature and responsible.

      Those using MS Office start questioning: what do we get for our dollars. The value is not there, and closed proprietary formats are good for no one but MS. So people will switch, because they can, and it is the only responsible thing they can do.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Along those lines, I would love to find out how much government at all levels has paid for MS Office over the years. Since govt. is Microsoft's largest customer, and since the profit margin on Office is astronomical, I'd be amazed if government hasn't paid Microsoft many times what Office cost to develop. And now what does Government have to show for it? Nothing, no IP righs to the software at all, just the promise of continuing to pay through the nose, forever.
      • I can tell you why people around here are switching(students anyway) and that"s $139 for crappy student office.

        Having just installed Open Office 2.0 Beta i can see why they are mad.Nice layout,Looks easy to learn,And you can't beat the price!

        I can see now why Microsoft wants to lock them in with formats,How else are they going to compete with free?

        Gotta love the irony,Open Office is going to do to Microsoft what Microsoft did to Netscape.If the program you are in competition with is $140-Over $400! yo

        • by sapgau (413511)
          The fact is, once I can replace office there is no major reason tying me down to Windows.

          I don't play games as much and I've been focusing more on Java, Firefox and PostgreSQL. So, there could be a time soon where I can work on Linux and deploy to my customers to any flavor they want, assuring them that their 'office' documents could be open by any other program besides MS Office.

          Sounds scary to Microsoft but is going to open more oportunities to the small and independent developers.

          Maybe finally we can mov
    • Kind of OT, but backs your statement:

      Sage Line 50 is a great example of corporate greed. You pay £800 for the piece of software but lord if you want to insert or update information in a third-party program you need to pay around £1500 a year for the developer license.

      The same is true with Seapines bug tracking system TestTrack Pro [seapine.com]. After a lot of reverse engineering, I was able to put data into their proprietary bug database, but to get the data out of the db, you have to pay for the SDK.
    • In all fairness, i think there *may* be a pretty serious lack of functionality in the OpenDocument format. OK, embedding of video, sound and 'voice-over-IP' (WTF? How can you embed that, MORONS? It's like saying you can embed TELEPHONE!) is silly and shouldn't be allowed in a 'document' as you can't print them. However, what's up with the format not even supporting embedding of images and charts? These are things pretty commonly included in documents and people don't want to waste time sending several
      • Microsoft are lying there mate. The XML doesn't support images and, guess what, it SHOULDN'T! All Open Document does is stick the images inside the container and place in the XML a "insert picture here", exactly how it should be done.

        On the other hand though, you're right in that the Microsoft marketting department are morons!
  • Microsoft also states they will not support the OpenDocument format.

    Well, I don't understand why they don't want to support it. The Office 2003 XML format is also open (perhaps a bit less "open", but open anyway), OpenDocument is open, what is the point of supporting a open format and not supporting another?

    I mean, why not support OpenDocument and sell office to work with it? Massachusetts seems to be searching a good document format, they don't seem to say clearly "we want openoffice", they could sell
    • by Pipedings (839384) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:14AM (#13476062) Journal
      Well, I don't understand why they don't want to support it. The Office 2003 XML format is also open (perhaps a bit less "open", but open anyway) It's not open just because it's XML. XML littered with calls to undocumented, vendor-specific libraries isnt any more open than the previous .doc Formats. And Microsoft is not "stupid" for not supporting OpenDocument. What good cause would you have to use M$ Office for 500$ when you can get OOo free? Oh sure, somebody might actually make use of an obscure M$ Office feature. Then again, an Office suite that can't handle page counts in the hundrets isn't worth anything to me.
    • Its a knock on effect for microsoft. If they accept and provide interoperability with OpenDocument then a lot more people can happily use OpenOffice.org instead of MS Office. If you are not using MS Office then a lot of people much of the depencency for windows is removed .......
    • by arkanes (521690) <arkanes AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:17AM (#13476080) Homepage
      Because support for OpenDocument gives customers a pain-free migration path off of Office.

      However, I suspect we may see a reversal soon. Because the traditional MS response to this sort of thing is either to claim support, but embedd MS extensions in it (which is more or less what they did with the last version of Office and it's suposed XML support), or to write support but make it really suck. Watch for the next version of Office to have OpenDocument support, but for the support to be poor and buggy.

    • I mean, why not support OpenDocument and sell office to work with it? Massachusetts seems to be searching a good document format, they don't seem to say clearly "we want openoffice", they could sell more office copies if they supported the Opendocument format

      I don't think it is suprising at all. The so-called "OpenDocument" format is nothing other than the OpenOffice format (much more so than the other way around, the OpenOffice format was standardized rather than OpenOffice adopting a standard). Going o

  • MS refusal (Score:4, Funny)

    by harvey the nerd (582806) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:08AM (#13476038)
    "they will not support the OpenDocument"

    Sounds like the making of a third rate suite...

  • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:08AM (#13476042) Homepage Journal

    So Microsoft's official position is that a format for public documents that is readable for everyone without exceptions is a bad thing?

    Nice to see that they believe in one of the fundamentals of democracy: open access to government information for all citizens.

    Mart
  • MS will give it away (Score:4, Interesting)

    by evenprime (324363) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:11AM (#13476050) Homepage Journal
    Soon I'm sure we'll see a Microsoft funded comparison between Office and OpenOffice."


    They might do that eventually, but right now they will just give the software away to the state for free.....IT managers like free, and it avoids TCO arguments.

    • but then the guys at OpenOffice will trump Microsoft and give their software away for free as well.

      I think that if a legislater wants something like this to happen badly enough then Microsoft would need a *lot* of money to stop it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Further, he added, "this proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving."


    Last time I checked, it wasn't possible to embed "voice-over-IP" in M$ documents either..



  • by dyfet (154716) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:17AM (#13476078) Homepage
    I guess Microsoft did not know the Government of Mass. worked for and must make choices on behalf of the PEOPLE of Mass., and not for or on behalf of Microsoft. Or maybe they still do not understand this. What is one to make of a vendor that publically demands someone choose its products, and on it's terms? Perhaps Halliburton should demand the government choose it to reconstruct New Orleans using Halliburton and demand it is done the Halluburton way, if another vendor is chosen? Perhaps when someone comes out of the "Apple" store, someone from Best Buy should come up to you and demand you purchase Dell PC's from them instead?

  • by Monoman (8745) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:17AM (#13476079) Homepage
    Open standards increase competition and MS doesn't want competition. They want domination as do most businesses with a majority market share.

    Consumers are starting to realize open standards give them more options and that is a GOOD thing. Businesses are starting to realize the risk (and long term cost) of putting all of their data in a proprietary format. Proprietary formats often make it harder to

    * Interoperate with other systems
    * Switch to a competitor

    If a proprietary format offers NEEDED functionality not offered by an open standard then I say maybe replicate the data for that use.

    It is time for gov't agencies to require open standards for data.

    • Sadly, consumers and corporate decision-makers are mostly interested in short-term benefits. Sometimes, decisions that will reap huge benefits in the long run seem to coincide with this short-sightedness because they appear to bring immediate results. This can be interpreted as "Consumers are starting to realize..." or "Major corporations are finally figuring out..." arguments, but this is just an illusion.

      All it takes is for Microsoft to offer the software for a substantial discount, or even for free (it
    • I think software-wise we're now at a stage where we were in hardware-wise in the late 1980's. Back then you could only connect pieces of hardware that were made by the same company together. So if you wanted i diskdrive to use with your Commodore 64 you had to buy a Commodore diskdrive. Companies would go to great lengths to ensure incompatibility. The IBM PC changed all that, and now I can use my Logitech trackball with my Apple iMac. Maybe OpenOffice now plays the role the IBM PC had in the late '80's, bu
  • Always the bad guy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zo0ok (209803) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:20AM (#13476098) Homepage
    As long as they refuse to support other formats than their own proprietary formats, MS will be easily identified as the bad guy. Not only geeks realise and understand this.

    MS will keep fighting, claiming that much of Office's functionality is closely related to their format (which is both true and false), and saying that an open format delivers less value to customers. However, they always risk making people understand they dont need (the advance functions of) office at all, because it is far too complicated.

    Naturally, word processors and spreadsheets are 20-year-old inventions - why should a single company be able to keep making huge money from this year after year, with no useful innovation? They simply shouldnt! And they wont. But as long as people believe an office suite should cost $500+ MS will be able to charge that amount. Isnt much they can do when people stop believing that though ;)

    Supporting other formats will just increase the speed that people replace MSOffice (because it makes it so much easier to replace it then). So, MS will never support open formats, and will always be the bad guy - which they deserve!
  • Strange (Score:4, Funny)

    by tsa (15680) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:24AM (#13476113) Homepage
    Further, he added, "this proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving."

    I can't believe that Open Document does not address pictures, but what I find even harder to believe is that anyone would want to put VOIP in a document.
    • Re:Strange (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bert64 (520050) <bert@sl[ ]dot.fi ... m ['ash' in gap]> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:00AM (#13476266) Homepage
      It's partially true, opendocument does not have it's own format for storing pictures like microsoft's formats do..
      Instead, it stores the picture in whatever format it was originally (jpeg, png, gif etc). Since opendocument is basically a zipfile, you can simply unzip it and retrieve the pictures in their original format. Part of the design goal of opendocument was to use existing standards wherever possible..
      So it seems that here, microsoft is just trying to twist this around to suit their own ends. I`m sure if someone invented a car that ran on air, microsoft would complain that it didn't have a gas tank.
  • by dhoughal (711859) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:30AM (#13476133)

    I think this is a very good example for what happens if a company gets to big.

    Imagine a small software company would do the same: "What, you want us to support OpenDocument? No, I think that's a very bad idea. We won't do that."

    What would be the customers reply: "Thank you, Sirs. We think that we try it with one of your competitors."

    How can it be that a software company tries to totally ignore a customers wishes? Hey, guys at MS: The customer is the one who pays. You're the one that wants money from customers. Either listen to what your customers want or go to hell!!!

    Unbelievable! Sheesh!
    D.

  • Threats (Score:5, Funny)

    by connah0047 (850585) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:30AM (#13476134)
    Rumor has it that MA has been threatened with a chair...
  • by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:30AM (#13476136) Homepage
    After the recent dicussion on their reaction to Google I can't help but wonder what Steve Balmer threw across his office this time.

    But seriously, we are seeing what was predicted with Netscape in the late 90-ties slowly becoming real. When Netscape decided to open their source code many believed (including me) that the open bazaar of OS developers would wipe out then clunky and not to be taken seriously IE. It turned out we were wrong, but only about the timing. Look at the situation now - it's IE which has to catch up.

    Back 6 years ago, when I tried Star Office for the first time it clearly wasn't a match for MS Office '97. It simply wasn't good. Now I'm using Open Office 2 beta and I must say it is closing very fast on Microsoft. It's not as polished and not as smooth to use, especially if you are accustomed to MS Office's way of doing things but it improved immensely since Open Office 1 - and that was pretty usable already. I think that now for most of your average office or home word processing or calculations etc. you just don't need MS Office anymore.

    And, furthermore, we are dealing here with the same phenomenon that many other industries went through. Word processing and all the other components of office software are becoming common place, just like plumbing, transistor radios or cars. It's not high tech anymore, it's not a big deal, anyone can do it. It's commonplace. And for that you just don't pay premium prices, especially in the field that doesn't deal with material goods.

    So the problem Microsoft has with Open Office is twofold. On one hand it's the normal evolution of the technology's acceptance in the society that makes them less and less indispensable. On the other it's the same problem they had with Mozilla - it's not a company, so they can't hurt them by throwing piles of money on the problem. Worse, it's not animated by greed. And, let's be frank, MS guys don't think beyond money - software is their tool for making money, not a way of making a difference. That is a cultural barrier that makes it hard for them to understand those who have different motivation.

  • Beware of Bribery (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:32AM (#13476143)
    There are many forms of bribery. Massachusetts is not known for having the most honorable bureaucrats and pols. Perhaps Microsoft is too slick to resort to some clumsy form of direct bribery to a politician (but then again . . .) .

    However, don't be surprised if Massachusetts backpedals on their decision after Microsoft's promises free copies of XP for the schools, or a new computer lab for "underprivileged" children. Microsoft is a pro at getting their way by any means possible. Massachusetts pols will have to get up pretty early in the morning not to be out slicked by Microsoft's professional grifters and con-artists.

    Massachusetts citizens need to let their elected officials know that this decision has popular grassroots support. By the way, RMS is a citizen of Massachusetts, isn't he?

    • Re:Beware of Bribery (Score:5, Informative)

      by mwa (26272) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:19AM (#13476382)
      However, don't be surprised if Massachusetts backpedals on their decision...

      They already have. Only they backpedalled away from Microsoft Office XML.

      The previous draft of the standard allowed the use of Microsoft's XML file formats. Microsoft even changed their XML licensing in response to Massachusetts initial concerns.

      Not to be hood-winked, lots of open source/open data/open information supporters took time to educate the drafters on exactly how Microsoft's format was not free. Take note of Groklaw articles [groklaw.net] regarding Mass., XML, and OpenDoc.

      This is a huge win for open standards and democracy. The MA drafters' first priority has been citizen access to information and, once explained, they clearly understood that Office's formats are not "free" as in "freedom of the people to access government information."

      Arguments about any quality or attribute of file formats other than free access to all citizens are not going to fly anymore in MA. Here's hoping other governments learn from this.

  • Okay... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mathiasdm (803983) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:34AM (#13476149) Homepage
    Microsoft's Yates said the company agrees with the adoption of XML but does not agree that the solution to "public records management is to force a single, less functional document format on all state agencies."

    Because everybody knows that Microsoft does not want to force a single, closed document format on all state agencies.

  • So everbody (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MemoryDragon (544441) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:38AM (#13476171)
    is supporting OpenDocument, Sun, IBM, Corel, KOffice, Adobe, pretty much every company which has something remotely office like, only Microsoft does not do it. Given that the US and EU government also had their hands in the specification of this format, you can expect more things like that to happen. Microsoft finally either has to adopt open standards (which is the usual situation outside of the software world, with government contracts, but Microsoft does not see that) or is shot out. I expect similar things to happen from the EU soon...
    • c.f. POSIX, HTML (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ThreeDayMonk (673466)
      As you say, perhaps MS will come around to supporting OpenDocument when it becomes a common government purchasing criterion. However, given their past record (such as the POSIX interface in Windows and Internet Explorer's idiosyncratic view of HTML), one can expect that it will turn out either to be subtly broken or simply a lowest-common-denominator of support, present only to grab contracts and not intended seriously to be used.

      In other words, I don't ever expect to see full-featured, comprehensive suppo
  • by blueZhift (652272) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:52AM (#13476239) Homepage Journal
    Once again this reveals that the real source of Microsoft's wealth and power is actually Office and not Windows. When organizations start to get away from Office, they soon discover that they can escape Windows too. If the state of MA is serious and not just using the threat of OpenDocument to get cheaper licenses for MS Office, then it won't be long before they discover that they can save some more money by moving to Linux rather than having to upgrade thousands of computers to run Windows Vista once MS drops support for earlier versions of Windows.

    As we move into a post PC era, large accounts like government organizations will become even more important to Microsoft as the consumer business begins to shrink. So they're going to fight very hard to keep Office in play. So expect a really sweet licensing deal for MA. The funny thing is that MS Office is still a strong enough brand that even if they supported OpenDocument, it probably wouldn't cost them a lot of Office sales and it would avoid the true losses that a hardline stand seems guaranteed to result in. Maybe Gates will realize this and step in...
  • by bluelarva (185170) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:00AM (#13476264)
    Massachusetts's decision is based on idealogical choice and less about technical one. It makes perfect sense for citizen of the state to be able to view government documents without having to require an expensive software purchase. Even if OpenDocument format was inferior to Word's format technically, it still makes sense for them to go with OpenDocument due to idealogical reasons. I just think it's so obvious that government should strieve to be platform agnostic as much as possible. Also it isn't fair for a government which runs off of tax payer's money to endorse one particular proprietary software over another. Imagine if government adopted WordPerfect document format as the standard. Microsoft would have gone nuts over that. I do believe that this is a start of something bigger over time. The idea that government should use open standards is as obvious as reason for the separation for church and state.

    I do think it's Microsoft's refusal to support OpenDocument is just making their problems even bigger. Let say f the state government sends some document to school system. Now receiver has to install OpenOffice to open that document instead of just using Word. Having said that I have a feeling Microsoft isn't going to just go away without a whimper. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft sues the state over something like this in attempt to intimidate or delay the migration. Perhaps Microsoft may threatens to audit every government desktop computers for license violation. They already pulled this sort of stunt with Oregon public education and I don't see this sort of tatics as being outside of their usual playbook.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:06AM (#13476294) Homepage
    Microsoft also states they will not support the OpenDocument format.

    The corporate version of a temper tantrum. We're going to take our XML schema and go home!

    MSFT employees are, by and large, smart and intelligent. Collectively all that goes out the window. Makes me wonder if Ballmer is taking too much of a hand in day to day operations. That kind of stupidity can only come from the top.

  • BS Office? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beforewisdom (729725) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:07AM (#13476301)
    I love the statement from microsoft that it agrees that xml is a great idea but that the think the current standards are low and that they do not want to be forced into using them.

    I know nobody here needs to be told this, but that is bullshit.

    If the xml based standards are too low, M$ with its gazillions of cash reserves could come up with a superior xml office document format, release it under a completely open format, and then use their monopoly, um market share to force it into use.
  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:08AM (#13476305)
    Microsoft's Yates said the company agrees with the adoption of XML but does not agree that the solution to "public records management is to force a single, less functional document format on all state agencies."

    Well XML is one thing, but PDF (which is the other half of the policy) is a fairly inflexable format for most people. Opening a pre-existing pdf document, edititing, and saving it is not a common-place operation for most office suites. Try googling "free pdf editor" or "gpl pdf editor". You will get links to a bunch trial pdf *writers* and a few evaluation versions of editors. I don't know of a completely free (as in not an evaluation version) PDF *editor*

    My other bitch about pdf is that some morons don't know the difference between a scanned (i.e. picture of text without ocr) document that has been saved as pdf and a actual text document that has been written to pdf. Ofcourse, with the actual text, you can atleast highlight, copy, and paste into a new document. No such luck with the picture of text.
    • RTFP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by overshoot (39700)
      Opening a pre-existing pdf document, edititing, and saving it is not a common-place operation for most office suites.

      That's why the policy reserves PDF for read-only publication.

  • more (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Exter-C (310390) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:35AM (#13476483) Homepage
    One interesting thing about this. Is if there was a comparison between microsoft office and other free alternatives the free alternatives will generally show up as having fewer features than the microsoft products tested. However any real comparison should really see how many of those features are actually used by the vast majority of people on any occasion. Taking that information on board will probably show that many of the office suites are more than just word processors spread sheats etc etc..
  • by chris-chittleborough (771209) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:41AM (#13476514) Journal
    OpenDocument is an OASIS standard, but it comes from the StarOffice/OpenOffice people. They obviously put a lot of work into developing a good set of formats for office documents, as opposed to letting the coders design the format. (I'm a coder, but ...) They make heavy use of W3C standards such as CSS, XSL-FO, SVG and MathML, so there's lots of potential for interopability. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument [wikipedia.org] for a good introduction. You can download the OpenDocument specification itself from http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?w g_abbrev=office [oasis-open.org]. From what I've read, it's an excellent piece of work.

    Contrast this to Microsoft's poorly-documented new XML format, which is mired in the deep and dangerous swamps of backward compatibility with everything from OLE onwards.

    Which would you trust?

  • by museumpeace (735109) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:53AM (#13476574) Journal
    I have PCs runing win2k, XP and , until recently, even win98. Each newer windows had a newer and apparently "more" functional format for .doc files. the file exetension being no reliable guide to whether a file would open correctly, and more importantly, save correctly on any given machine, I gave up. MS obviously means something different when they say "functional". I have had Open Office for over a year now and don't screw with incompatibilities that are promised as increases in "function" but work as a gimmick to force me to pay for a newer version of the word processor. Ballmer, will you and Kim Jong Bill please get a clue: The resentment and rejection of your product is not just due to the hurt and jealousy of all the little programmers whose careers you swamped with your bullying ways in the market, its the damn software! You COULD have sold a "vanilla" or cost reduced version of word that just stuck to the basics, never obsoleted old documents and left your flagship product free to bloat up with every feature you could debug [more or less] but noooo, one cadillac fits all. 'Bye from massachusetts!
  • by Phase Shifter (70817) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @10:55AM (#13476898) Homepage
    Further, he added, "this proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving."

    Voice-over-IP in documents and archiving? Does that make any sense at all?
    Of course, maybe he means recorded conversations since he also seems to classify "audio" and "voice" separately, but if you have to call the same content by three different names to make it sound like you're offering more features, then he's really not offering as many extra features as he wants customers to believe.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @10:56AM (#13476904)
    Trying to lock out GPL's software with their little patents and UELA back fired on them in a big way this time. Had they actually proposed a open format in which anyone could play they could have perhaps even strengthed their market. Instead the worst possible outcome has happened the customer turned their back on them. Instead those dirty tactics may have just spelled the end or at least hastened their demise.

    Don't think the rest of the states will not follow it is in the best interests of the people. Yes they have plenty of bribery money but it is a no brainer to support a open document format.
  • as a resident of MA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by minus_273 (174041) <aaaaa@SPDALIAM.yahoo.com minus painter> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @11:11AM (#13476978) Journal
    as a resident of MA (and i am sure others will agree with me here) I have to wonder how much this is due to the desire to use open standards as it is because the money allocated to buy Office "disappeared". Money has a tendency to disappear here and things end up being more expensive than initialy planned. Take a look at the big dig, took 20 years to make, costing 9x more, just opened and it is already falling apart.
    Elected officials arent really elected, since we dont really have elections here, there is no opposition. We like to call it the peoples republic. My prediction; when more money is allocated or ms gives a bigger discount, they will switch back to office.
  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @11:19AM (#13477029) Journal
    So what if Open Office can't support sound and multimedia? It's not like if a government would send out glitzy documents with animation!!! They're civil servants, for crying out loud! They're people who have been trained to be excessively dull, uninspiring and certainly not innovative, so the "dull" Open Office format will suit them perfectly!
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @12:54PM (#13477565) Homepage
    I own Word licenses for OS X and Windows, but I just like OO.org better - seems simpler and stays out of my way when writing. I used OO.org for 2 of my last 3 books.

    The OO.org 2.0 beta is especially good.

    I have written a few blog entries on the massively huge advantages of open file formats - I won't repeat myself hereexcept to say that took me 5 minutes to write Java code to perfectly handle OO.org and AbiWord file formats. For my GPLed NLP project, I spent huge amounts of time trying to dea with Microsoft Office formats, and did no really do very well.

    As a Microsoft stock owner, I wrote a letter to Microsoft compalining about their failure to also support OO.org file formats - I never received a response, which I think is rude behavior. After not receiving an answer since the 3 or 4 months that I wrote the letter, I am thinking of dumping their stock.
  • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @02:29PM (#13478081)
    Yates said. "As we look to the future, and all of these data types become increasingly intertwined, locked-in formats like OpenDocument are not well suited ...


    Someone needs to explain to MS what 'lock-in' means. (Or at least, ensure that any audience they spout this drivel at understands it - although it does seem like the decision-makers in MA understand)

    Using OpenDoc does not in any way shape or form lock-in the choice of software used to manipulate it, unlike in the MS World, where using MS-Word 'DOC' format *does* lock-in one to using MS software only.
  • by mfterman (2719) on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:04AM (#13481457)
    Microsoft isn't serious about not supporting the format. The fact is that as the OpenDocument format grows in support, Microsoft is going to have no choice but to support it unless they want to start losing chunks of their customer base.

    Of course, Microsoft doesn't have to be nice about it. My suspicion is that any OpenDocument file opened in Word is going to be somewhat broken, and likewise any Word document will be somewhat broken as well. This is all due to OpenOffice being a broken format, obviously, and not Office's fault.

    Of course OpenOffice will probably do just fine converting between OpenDocument and Word, or at least better than Microsoft Office anyway.

    But I do agree that it is important to get a good Outlook killer on board.

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