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Microsoft United States

Massachusetts Finalizes OpenDocument Standard Plan 210

wellington map writes "The state of Massachusetts has finalized a proposed move to an open, nonproprietary format for office documents, a plan that involves phasing out versions of Microsoft's Office productivity suite deployed in the state's executive branch agencies. Massachusetts expects its agencies to develop phased migration plans away from productivity suites that do not support OpenDocument, with a target implementation date of January 1, 2007. Looks like it's finally cemented after some heated discussions."
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Massachusetts Finalizes OpenDocument Standard Plan

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  • lately... (Score:5, Funny)

    by rd4tech ( 711615 ) * on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:16AM (#13637669)
    ... governments are getting geekier.
    • by mfh ( 56 )
      Seriously, I like it. I like the fact that govs are looking at the bottom line and trying to streamline operations. Phasing out Microsoft? That would have been unheard of ----- last year.

      I am happy to hear the Chew'setts have the brass tacks to pull something like this off and I can't wait to see Microsoft shoot themselves in the foot on this one.
      • This is good news. When I heard Mass. had made its policy final, I immediately went to OpenOffice.org and downloaded OpenOffice.org 2 beta and installed it on my Debian system. I created a new text document, and when I saved it, the default format was OpenDocument! And it worked great. It's fitting that Mass. is leading the way. This is like the Boston Tea party.

        Here's to the Boston Office party!
        • Having worked for UMASS and had contact with many state agencies in that capacity, I saw absolutely zero motion when MA supposedly recommended using Linux. There are just too many asshats that control the buying and tech departments for that to happen. They'll buy whatever their sales reps shovel at them. They have absolutely no clue, and probably will not even ever hear about this. (Not to get down on state employees... the rank and file are only 50% asshats.)

          Hate to be a downer, but I am sure if you a
          • Hate to be a downer, but I am sure if you asked my former CIO in a year if he "got the memo" on this, he'd be bewildered and have no idea what you were talking about.

            i'm willing to bet CIO's will be looking to limit their personal risk when this directive becomes state law.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:48AM (#13637808)
        Well I wouldn't say they are phasing out Microsoft. If you listened to the mp3 that was made available. They made it very clear their up most concerns about document retention. They also made it very clear how vendors can comply with their requirements. Since the Microsoft representative had a hard time understanding their requirements, MA itemized what Microsoft needed to do. And still Microsoft took the position the customer does not have the right to define their own requirements and must use what ever Microsoft deems they should.

        Of all the company representatives present during that meeting, I did not hear one objecting to the goals MA has in mind, except one. And some of those companies present are not from the backwoods.

        If anyone is phasing anyone one out, it is Microsoft doing it to themselves.
        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @11:28AM (#13637980) Journal
          I think it's pretty clear that at some point someone is simply going to write an Office plugin that opens and saves in the format, so this whole debate over what MS will or will not do will be moot. But I think that MS's behavior in this instance demonstrates that it is still the monopolist it was convicted of being. I hope Massachussets has the clout to carry this out, but I'm still a little dubious.
          • What a good idea - a third party plugin for Office. Two wee problems. First you would have to reverse engineer it as there is no API so you could not guarantee full compatibility. Second, what happens at the next Office upgrade?

            So why does MA want an open standard format?????
    • Re:lately... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kaihaku ( 663794 )
      I don't know about geekier, I'd say just less tolerent of poorly supported software. It did my heart good when the military started switching to Apple. In any case, it just goes to show that the future is open source...
    • Re:lately... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:24AM (#13637708) Journal
      No, they aren't. They are looking for ways to meet budgets. Not that this is a bad thing. They see their annual expenditure on IT and look for a way to cut costs. Open Source has been big news the past couple years (outside of geek circles). PHB thinks "hmmm this might be a good idea" In this case, PHB is right.

      I also have seen the quality of tech support in several local gov't situation. Usually below industry pay rate (but nice benefits). And the hiring process favors women, minorities, those with prior civil service experience and military background. Some of the dumbest folks you ever want to meet are working for your local gov't. I had one "sys admin" forward me an e-mail about a dangerous file on my system that I had to delete... turned out to be a critical windows file.

      So point is, this decision wasn't made based upon tech savvy. It was made based upon cost.
      • Re:lately... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Atzanteol ( 99067 )
        It's not actually a budget thing (though lord knows MA needs to do something about it's spending). It's about "sovereignty" and the availability of documents long after archive and to the general public.

        You can listen to a recent meeting of the Mass Technology Leadership Council here:
        http://www.softwaregarden.com/cgi-bin/oss-sig/wik i .pl?OpenFormatMeetingSept2005 [softwaregarden.com]

        It's long, but they say time and time again they're only concerned with the document format and it's "openness." And they do a *great* job
        • Re:lately... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by aussie_a ( 778472 )
          Do they mention why openness is a good thing? Or are they simply supporting it because it's the latest fad? Last I checked, Microsoft documents were accessible on all modern OSes, so it can't be because Microsoft documents wouldn't be accessible to the general public.
          • Re:lately... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:47AM (#13637799) Homepage
            They stated three things they wanted in a format (the things they used to define as open):

            1. No single vendor controlling the format
            2. A spec that is available to anybody who wants it (purchase in a store, download from site
            3. No cost to implement the spec to anybody and no patents encombering the spec.

            They were very smart IMHO. It's not trend-following. In fact they sort of appologize for not getting to this earlier (talking about how government tends to actually trail behind the private sector). Their reasoning is that they never want to need to worry in the future about being able to read old documents (MS can't make this guarantee - remember that state documents live for hundreds of years!). This was the big sticking point mostly. They also don't like one vendor controlling what they can do with their documents and didn't want to require the public to purchase expensive software to view these documents.

            This is one of the few times I'm glad to be from Massachusetts. They had very well thought-out reasons behind this. The Microsoft representative couldn't even argue with them (though it sounds like he'd just gotten off a flight so he was probably pretty tired).

            They stated that they don't require Open Office, just software that implements the OASIS spec. Microsoft is free to do so and then they will consider Office. It was the most complete spec that they found that offers all of the above points. I highly suggest listening to that recording. It's long, but not terribly boring (mostly techies in the room - few lawyers).
          • Re:lately... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by BasilBrush ( 643681 )
            I'll give you an example of the most basic reason.

            I have a database in Access 1.0 format. It is entirely unreadable/convertable by current versions of Access, and there is no free software available that will convert it. Essentially the data is lost forever, unless I seach for a garage sale copy of Access 1.0 or 2.0 - and there is no guarantee that such software would work on Windows XP anyway.

            Now as it happens I don't need that data. But local governments should not be put in a position where their achi
          • Re:lately... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by puetzc ( 131221 )
            The plan does not require the use of Open Source software or OSes. It does require that the information be saved in a format that can always be read by anyone with a strong enough desire to read it. This distinction is often misunderstood, or misrepresented. Openness of the information that I create should not be a fad, it should be common sense. The last time I checked, I sometimes got garbled and misformatted output if the document if I tried to open was heavily formatted and used certain "features" from
      • So point is, this decision wasn't made based upon tech savvy. It was made based upon cost.

        I call Bullshit. Supporting different versions of MS products is indeed more technically challenging and daunting - worse, in many cases it's near impossible - you actually refer to the stupid advice to delete a patch! Considering non-MS agencies know and care more about MS formats and support them in their packages, this is both a cost-effective AND wise decision.
        • Please re-read my post. I never said it wasn't a smart choice. I only said the smartness wasn't the reason they made the choice. In my experience, the decisions are made by folks who only understand "if I don't have to pay for 5000 licenses @ $200/year, I save $1,000,000 per year". That's how IT decisions are made by most large companies, for better or for worse.
      • Actually the original proposal allowed for Microsoft Office file formats. They were termed an "defacto standard".

        It was only after a rather lot of pressure from the public (mostly geeks, I assume) that they released the updated version. Public outcry made them realize that encumbered file formats were not a good idea for government files.

        So, whilst your reasoning is sound, it is factually incorrect.

    • Re:lately... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jkrise ( 535370 )
      Better late than never. Or rather, better earlier than other govts. at any rate - govts like India, China and Peru have already decided against proprietary formats. A shame the Fed govt is still locked up in MS formats. Let's see is Mass. decision leads to a Mass movement for Open-ness in protocols, formats and standards.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:25AM (#13637712) Homepage Journal
    While it will take more than days, I think that Microsoft will eventually come around and support OpenDocument. There's no technical reason that they cannot and Microsoft can't afford to let big customers get away. Once large companies and governments realize that they can get along just fine without Microsoft products, it will be even harder to get them back on the crack, so to speak. So I wouldn't be surprised if there are already betas running in Microsoft somewhere that support OpenDocument and they run on the Microsoft Linux Distro too!

    Anyway, in the end, the customer is always right. So Microsoft will come around if OpenDocument gets any kind of real traction.
    • Make the formats open and they will come...
    • While it will take more than days, I think that Microsoft will eventually come around and support OpenDocument...

      ...then, a security patch will be released to take care of M$'s unfinished business. That is, to make MS-Office create extensions on each document it touches. Then we'll be back to square 1! Only time will tell.

    • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @11:00AM (#13637870) Journal
      Likewise Open LDAP, Open HTML :-)... Open Groupware instead of locked down Exchange bloatware formats and MTAs and protocls.... Open FS instead of WinFS.. Open Database - okay that's there with ODBC... hmm. Interesting times ahead.
    • ... a plan that involves phasing out versions of Microsoft's Office productivity suite deployed in the state's executive branch agencies

      Actually, the plan does not necessarily involve phasing out anything. As the parent post suggests, Microsoft can continue to be a contender by modifying Office to support open document formats.

      Once large companies and governments realize that they can get along just fine without Microsoft products, it will be even harder to get them back on the crack, so to speak.


    • I am not sure if of technical abilities of OpenDocument... one of the thing MS LOVES to do, especially with their office documents, is use OLE storage. This way, they can use their documents and contained objects more like persistant classes. This is the main reason that a lot of MS technology never finds its way out of Windows.
  • Sad (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    My father died in the vietnam war. By accepting unpatriotic "open" standards, you are pissing on his grave.
  • In Related News... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:27AM (#13637720)
    One of the guys behind KOffice has just posted an open letter [kde.org] refuting a few aspects Alan Yates/Microsoft's criticism of open doc.
    • the whole point of the thing is that OpenDocument IS the future!!! the only mainline office programs that DON'T have current support or plans for support are WordPerfect and MS office... just about all the OSS solutions are moving that way eventually.

      Great way to fight the FUD!!!

    • The first comment posted there made me laugh:

      "I am sure that Mr. Yates will be greatly reassured and uplifted by your letter. Hopefully, this will assuage the horrible anxiety Microsoft has suffered and continues to suffer, in the wake of this OpenDocument announcement, for it's good friend... the honorable State of Massachusetts."
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aussie_a ( 778472 )
    I RTFA and it doesn't say one simple question "Why is Massachusetts doing this?" Now I can think of numerous reasons, but did OASIS? Or is OASIS simply justifying it's existence (however brief it might have been/will be) by creating an expensive (sorry, but migration IS expensive) procedure that will have to take place over a year? Beauraucrats love making policies, is this simply another example of that, without regard to the advantages and disadvantages?

    The slashdot articles are also fairly free of any
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:38AM (#13637760) Homepage
      See my post here: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=163269&cid=136 37741 [slashdot.org]

      There is a recording of the Mass Technology Leadership Council discussing their reasons here: http://www.softwaregarden.com/cgi-bin/oss-sig/wiki .pl?OpenFormatMeetingSept2005 [softwaregarden.com]

      Basically they're very afraid of proprietary document formats (and rightly so). Especially when they consider archival purposes. 20 years from now do you want to find a copy of Word '98 to be able to read old state documents? Right now I can go to the basement of Harvard and read law books from the 1800's!

      They're also concerned about requiring the public to purchase expensive software from a single vendor in order to view "public" documents. They state time and time again what their requirements for a doc format are, and that if Microsoft were to offer one they would consider it. MS, unsurprisingly, does not offer one...
      • I have some old papers I wrote, back in the MS-Word/DOS days. Yeah, I know I'm old :-) (and didn't know better yet, in the late 1980s); but there are people and documents that matter which are even older. I'd genuinely like to make them available along with various other writing of mine. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing appears able to read these old formats, especially not anything made by Microsoft.

        On the other hand, when I wrote papers in WordPerfect 4.2 or so, not much later, those formats are still
        • Even beyond that, by having the OASIS OpenDocument format being a published, (and soon) ISO-approved format means that:

          A)It'll be supported for a *long, long* time, and
          B)100 years from now writing a parser to extract all that old data will be trivial.

          It's not that the data is easier to understand (though it is). It's that everyone has equal access to the instructions to build such a parser.

          Also, I suspect that if it does become an ISO standard, OASIS OpenDocument will remain as a subset of any future docume
          • I should have written "OpenDocument" to be more exact. But the idea is the same. Quite possibly, 100 years from now only OpenDocument v.17+ will be supported in widespread existing tools. Version 1 isn't necessarily the end point, and it may be the features become incompatible over a number of versions. But WhiteWorlf666 is exactly correct that since the v.1 *standard* will still be available, there's nothing stopping future programmers from writing an import filter for current tools (which may be reall
    • Simply read the other articles and the source documents offered by both Massachusetts and Microsoft (linked by the prior) - they address all of your questions if you read them: short and long term costs, legal concerns, document retention concerns, and solutions.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Naviztirf ( 856598 )
      Well, I can think of an easy answer: to begin to get out of the financial box MS has put most US governments. I can only speak about my own experience working in IT for Multnomah County in Portland, OR, but I know that they were spending millions each year on MS licensing fees, both for OS and Office applications. Sure, it can be expensive to switch IT standards, but it seems to me the more governments rely on open standards and open source software the less they have to spend keeping expensive proprietar
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      Do not by deliberate policy require taxpayers to purchase upgrades to operating systems deprecated as insufficiently modern by entities with a commercial interest in selling said upgrades. Policy must be to assure that documents created at taxpayer expense will never become unreadable because an entity with a commercial interest in the sale of novel document software issues an end of life statement. Use of a secret storage format whose details are known only to a vendor and whose details may not lawfully b
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @11:17AM (#13637941) Homepage Journal

      Massachussets stated reason for switching to the OpenDocument format is that it allows them to guarantee access to important state documents. However, my guess is that this is just a fancy sugar coating over the real reason for switching, and that reason is the cost of migrating to Office 12. There is a very interesting exchange in the MP3 of the recent meeting that the state officers had with various software companies in which, after nearly an hour of saying that the state didn't want to talk about procurement, one of the Mass. officers let the Microsoft team have it right between the eyes. Basically he laid out the costs that Massachussetts would incur in a switch to MS Office 12, and it was clear that the costs were much higher than a switch to OO.org.

      Massachussets is going to have to switch document formats no matter what they do. The new version of MS Office 12 is going to have a completely new set of document formats that won't be backwards compatible. Yes, Microsoft has promised plugins for some of the older versions of MS Office that will read and write these new formats, and yes Microsoft has tools that allow for batch conversion of documents, but OpenOffice.org has this as well. The state of Massachussetts has an estimated 50,000 desktops, primarily running Windows 2000. In order to use MS Office 12 Massachussetts would have to upgrade the operating system on all of these boxes, and in many cases it would need to purchase new hardware to boot. Not only that, but Office 12 also has an entirely redesigned user interface which would require additional user training.

      Do you see where this is going? Massachussetts estimates (using past knowlegde of similar Microsoft updates) that a move to Office 12 would cost $50 million dollars. A move to OpenOffice.org is estimated to cost an order of magnitude less ($5 million dollars). Heck, if Microsoft is going to force their customers to a new set of file formats, with a new UI, and a new operating system then its almost certain that OO.org on their existing operating system and using existing hardware will be less expensive. OO.org also forces you to use a new file format and it will require training, but Massachussetts won't have to throw an OS upgrade into the mix.

      The reason that Massachussetts can get away with the switch is that they are big enough that they can simply mandate a file format and expect people that deal with them to make the switch. You don't argue with the bureaucrats. If they want their documents in OpenDocument formats then you simply find a way to send them OpenDocument formats. The fact that the software necessary to deal with the state government is going to be a free download is just a bonus. If Massachussetts required MS Office 12, or WordPerfect, or even LaTeX that's what people would send them.

      One thing is certain, a lot of businesses and individuals in Massachussetts are going to find it necessary to download and install OpenOffice.org, and many of them are going to like what they find. It's almost certainly going to become much more difficult to sell new versions of MS Office in Massachussetts. After all, unless you are some sort of MS Office power user you are not even likely to be able to tell the difference between the two programs, and OO.org is going to be required for dealing with the government.

      • Hmmm. I'm an audio typist for the UK government and I use a lot of Word features. I wonder if I can persuade my boss to let me trial it for a month and see if Writer is a drop-in replacement for Word. I have a feeling that I wouldn't notice a great deal of difference.
        • Of all of the OpenOffice.org family Writer is far and away the best piece of software. In fact, due to the fact that it makes it much easier to use styles in your document than MS Word I actually like Writer better than Word. The real problem with OO.org has always been file format compatibility with MS Office. I know that I have kept around a copy of MS Office for years now simply to test documents before sending them to MS Office users. For the most part OO.org has worked well, but sometimes there hav

    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

      by fermion ( 181285 )
      Others have mentioned the reasons for the MA decision, and other articles on /. have tracked the progress, but at the base the reason is portability.

      I, and anyone else who have creating word documents for the past decade or so, know how fustrating it is to go back and try to edit old work. Now, if one is using word as a toy, i.e. school papers or memos that no one really reads, then it doesn't matter how the work is saved, because the computer is just a fnacy typewriter, and no one will care about the do

  • by Zweideutig ( 900045 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:31AM (#13637732)
    from choose somehting truely open. I am suer this OpenDocument format will not leave Microsoft's doors without a license that says you won't use it with GNU-licensed software (or maybe even MIT and BSD.) They don't want people having Office interoperability with non-Microsoft products anymore than they want people replacing Office (namely Word and Excel) entirely. Of course, if they do allow things like OOo and abiword to open and edit their OpenDocument-formatted documents, at least Massachusetts won't be as angry and they will probably still get plenty of customers buying Office. However, now it will be more difficult to force upgrades. Institutions are already fed up with Office costs and many (like the local school system) are using OpenOffice.org instead. I predict that Office will become much less profitable if everyone starts using OpenDocument format.
    • by aled ( 228417 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:50AM (#13637815)
      Opendocument is a format backed from OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), previously named SGML Group. It's not of Microsoft and it can be viewed as an open alternative to propietary MS Office format. Openoffice 2 implements this format as it's default format. Microsoft have no ownership on OpenDocument and it's wary that its widespread use will downplay the need to use MS Office and open the door to alternative packages, usually open source.
      Note: while MS Office documents can be open in abiword and openoffice, it's kind of a closed format that can never be 100 percent documented, so compability can't be perfect. Only MS Office use fully the format so there's a dependency on Microsoft by using its format.
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @10:39AM (#13637764)
    I am speculating that M$'s next strategy will be to get a mandate from the next high authority. This time, it will be the Federal government. I understand that in the union, the Federal government can overrule a state's authority.

    By the way, what will happen when the Federal government sends documents to Massachusetts in word format? Would the state send them back?

    Suppose M$ suddenly decides to support OpenDocument, gets the state's business and then issues a "security patch", that introduces proprietary extensions as has been in the past?

    • By the way, what will happen when the Federal government sends documents to Massachusetts in word format? Would the state send them back?

      Open Office or all packages that support OpenDoc can read the MS word format without any problem. Likewise, the reply docs can be saved in word doc versions and still be read by the Fed systems running MS Office. I don't see any problems here.... except for locked down formats like Microsoft's.
    • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @11:14AM (#13637925) Homepage
      > I understand that in the union, the Federal government can overrule
      > a state's authority.

      You do not understand correctly.

      > By the way, what will happen when the Federal government sends
      > documents to Massachusetts in word format? Would the state send
      > them back?

      The state will read them with OpenOffice, of course. What do you think?

      > Suppose M$ suddenly decides to support OpenDocument, gets the
      > state's business and then issues a "security patch", that
      > introduces proprietary extensions as has been in the past?

      Either the "extensions" will be turned off or Microsoft will lose the state's business again, and perhaps find itself in court for breach of contract.
      • > > I understand that in the union, the Federal government can overrule
        > > a state's authority.

        > You do not understand correctly.

        If only that were true...

        The feds have multiple ways of overriding a state's authority. Foremost, the vague clause in the constitution that gives the feds the power over anything (article I, section 8, clause 18) tends to be abused quite a bit.

        This used to be a major difference in the parties - traditionally, one party supported use of clause 18 while the other opp
    • I understand that in the union, the Federal government can overrule a state's authority.

      Only in cases that deal wih the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. As of yet, there is no federal law that says that the all documents within the United States must be in Word format. Even if Congress tried to pass one (which would be silly), the current Supreme Court would probably strike it down for lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (the Rhenquist Court was pretty good about telling Congress to st

      • By the way, what will happen when the Federal government sends documents to Massachusetts in word format? Would the state send them back?
        My guess?

        Massachusetts will open it in OpenOffice.org (or IBM's upcoming thin-client ODP solution), and file a complaint with the federal government "We've received XXX.doc, please be aware that it is against the policy of the State of Massachusetts to work with documents not in the ODP ISO-standard format. Your document has been converted to an ODP format document-- the S
        • "What will the Federal Government do when the State of Massachusetts only submits ISO-standard ODP (OASIS) documents back to the feds?

          My guess? Use OpenOffice.org as a conversion filter. Then, various fed employees (IT people) will start wondering _why_ they should be paying for MS Office when they *already* use a similar office suite as a _conversion_ filter."

          You took the words right out of my mouth. :-)
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @11:10AM (#13637911) Homepage
    You have to wonder why more big companies aren't setting an open file format standard? It would ensure that 10 years from now you could still access archived data.

    Whenever I bring it up to any of my clients, government or private side, they give me that deer in the headlights look. Even if you can dig out an old backup tape and demonstrate the files aren't conveniently recoverable it still doesn't seem to sink in.

    The same with database storage. I'm amazed how many companies don't even have a freakin data dictionary. If you have to ask why you need one of those, then you need one. Maybe you just really like transposing fields and data types on the fly between every application you build. People must find that pleasurable because there's sure enough of them doing it.

    • Just the beginning (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BeanThere ( 28381 )
      A few reasons:

      (1) For some odd reason, nobody had every really put forth a major, viable, industry-backed and powerful open specification for Office formats ...OpenDocument is pretty new. It will take some time for industry to wake up to this, and for support for it to ramp up towards "critical mass", but it will happen - industry *is* tired of being extorted exorbitant rates every few years to be able to continue reading their own files.

      (2) Compatibility with existing documents. Most large corps have many
    • Well, its hard to say why someone hasn't stepped up. I think its because up until recently Standards boards have always been a step or two behind the developers and users. A great antecdotal example of this is the Javascript DOM model. When IE 4 and 5 were released, they had support for Event Model attachment using Microsoft specific methods and event handlers. There was a need to be able to dynamically affix javascript events, often more than one event to a certain user action on the page. Microsoft implem
  • That the format isn't supported in all office suites isn't anyone else's fault but Microsoft's. If MS was quick about this, they could easily incorporate the OD standard into an upcoming release of their Office suite. In fact, I believe they have one coming up, as luck would have it. Hell, include a patch to backport that feature to whatever Office (12-1) was called.

    In this way, they could show governments that they *can* move to open standards, while still maintaining their (for MS) lucrative relationship. Instead, as per usual, we get stonewalling out of Redmond.
    • Well, from MS's point of view, it almost makes sense what they're doing. Office does just about everything anyone could ever need already. There's just not many more features worth adding. And even worse, the FOSS alternatives are getting pretty close to catching up in terms of features. So basically, in the near future you'll have two (or more) versions of the same thing, only one costs hundreds of dollars and the others are free.

      The only thing that MS can use to differentiate their software is its native
      • That's a fair point, and I get what you're saying. And of course, in the paradigm of Major Corporation, it makes perfect sense that they would protect systems which encourage end-user lock-in.

        However, it's also clear that by refusing to support an open system such as OASIS, they're entirely losing their user base in the MA government. If this continues and becomes a trend, by not supporting the OASIS formats, Microsoft is actually locking themselves out of the market, instead of locking themselves in, as
        • Oh definitely, it's a gamble for them. And I think it's one that they're going to end up losing in the long run either way. Open formats are going to take hold, and they're going to lose a whole lot of their power over the market. If they embrace the change, they'll probably just accelerate the process, although they'll continue to make some money along the way. If they fight it, their FUD might slow down the transition so that they can keep make some money the old fashioned way, at the risk of missing out
  • Oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

    by joelthelion ( 902776 )
    How are massachusetts administration going to embed their innovative Voice-Over-IP content in their text documents now?
    • Seriously!

      They'll be restricted to cross-platform embedded Java VOIP apps in their wordprocessors, instead of using Windows-only ActiveX VOP apps in their wordprocessors.

      Oh Noes!

      Strangely, though, my VOIP java-app doesn't work properly. No matter what printer I print my document out on, and no matter how hard I ink out the 'Send' button, I don't hear any voice from my letter. Maybe the ActiveX version would work?


  • Is M$ flooding /. with all the FUD in here? I'm always amazed how many people don't understand M$ only wants money, while open-source is about freedom. These are two very different things. I'd rather be free and give my money to charity.
  • by AeroIllini ( 726211 ) <aeroillini&gmail,com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @01:51PM (#13638595)
    This is just one step in the eventual commoditization of major software products. Eventually, because of open formats, the interconnected nature of the internet, and tightening IT budgets, there will be nothing Microsoft (or any other private company for that matter) can offer in a word processor to justify the price difference from Open Source alternatives. The same will be true for other types of software, such as spreadsheets, browsers, even operating systems. As a result, these types of "ninty-percenter" software will become commodities; each brand will be basically the same as every other brand, including OpenSource. And no one can compete with free.

    Once this happens (and it already is, slowly), the software companies will have to make their money by creating "ten-percenter" software: highly specialized software contracted and built specifically for another company, or a niche market. To use an analogy, the "ninety-percenter" software market right now is like tract housing. Companies build products that they think people will like, and then sell them when the product is finished. The future of software design is much more like contract housing; people contact a company, tell them what they want in their product, and the company builds it for a contract fee, specifically for that customer. Both types of software development co-exist now, but soon the tract style will not be maintainable as a business model since groups of people are giving away tract houses for free.

    Microsoft is struggling right now with the future of their products. Microsoft Office will soon be obsolete if MS continues their current business model, since there will be nothing to justify its high price. Right now, Microsoft maintains their pricepoint with vendor lock-in; but as soon as every major company and government is using open standards, MS Office will be just one choice out of several. I can see Microsoft Office being quite profitable in a commodity market, but Microsoft will have to add more than just office-suite productivity to their software. They have to offer more value than the next guy: in the form of tech support, or service contracts, or collaboration/version tracking software, or any of a number of things that would add value to the commodity. The commodity alone will not be enough.

    This is a very good move by Massachusetts; in the long run, it will protect valuable data from vendor lock-in, and eventually foster competition in the office suite marketplace. Competition is always a Good Thing(tm).
  • If you don't understand what a open and useable document format I urge you to
    listen to the MA open format meeting. This is about nothing more than storage of
    a document is a fashion that allows everyone equal access. MS can choose to implement the standard or they can choose not to. It is about preserving the sovernty of data owned and created by the MA govt.

    http://www.softwaregarden.com/cgi-bin/oss-sig/wiki .pl?OpenFormatMeetingSept2005 [softwaregarden.com]

    I highly doubt MS is going to support this document format as it will no
  • TeX anyone? (Score:3, Funny)

    by andreyw ( 798182 ) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:44AM (#13642757) Homepage
    Why not just grok and use TeX (LaTeX fine too). Do something like LyX.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.