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It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:00 PM EDT

It's official. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has posted on its web site its final decision, namely to use only formats that conform to the Open Document format for office productivity applications, a format Microsoft so far does not support, although they are certainly free to do so.

You can read the Enterprise Technical Reference Model, Version 3.5 for yourself, or read about it on News.com. I'd like to make a small correction to the News.com story, though. This action does not shut Microsoft out of the state's procurement process, as the lead states. This isn't, at this point, about procurement. And more importantly, if there is any shutting out, it's Microsoft shutting itself out. They are free to support open standards, if they wish to.

That is the thing about standards. Anyone can support them, Microsoft included. If you listened to the taped audio of the meeting between Massachusetts and Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Adobe and other interested parties, Secretary Eric Kriss made it quite clear. News.com's article references that audio:

Massachusetts officials defended their decision, saying the move will save the state money, make sure that state records will be preserved over time, and ensure its "sovereignty."

Microsoft could still be part of the state's procurement policy by meeting its definition of open formats, Kriss said at an open-format meeting, which was held last Friday with the Mass Technology Leadership Council.

Kriss said that Microsoft's Office formats would have to be free of or have minimal legal encumbrances and be a standard that is subject to peer review by organizations outside Microsoft. He added that Microsoft document formats would have to be subject to "joint stewardship" by a standards body not controlled by one company or a small consortium.

"If you were to do (those things), we would be delighted to do a technical comparison of your standards and the OpenDocument standard," Kriss said, addressing a Microsoft representative.

Another error is saying that all the other office applications that are acceptable are "variants" of OpenOffice.

The bottom line is this: whose documents are they? Do the people of Massachusetts have the right to control their own documents? Does a governmental agency have the right to decide what software it wishes to use, particularly if it believes it can save money? If it does, then all the hue and cry is pointless. And the real issue, as Kriss pointed out, is the issue of sovereignty, and the very important issues of access and control not only now but also in the distant future.

When I listened to the audio of the meeting, I got the impression that Microsoft and friends were trying to pressure Massachusetts into changing the decision, and I felt there was an implied threat in accusations of undue speed and other charges. I take Kriss' words about sovereignty to be Massachusetts' answer to the implied threat. The Commonwealth believes it has the right to choose whatever software works best for their purposes, in their studied view. If Microsoft wishes to meet the Commonwealth's needs, it should do so. Kriss told them precisely what they would need to do to be included. The ball is now in Microsoft's court, and I hope they will make the needed adjustments.


  


It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document | 228 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: MathFox on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:05 PM EDT
If any...

---
When people start to comment on the form of a message, it is a sign that they
have problems to accept the truth of the message.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Europe! This is a lesson for you
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:06 PM EDT
I think, that we all, especially Europe, should learn form MA. Why almost all
the papers I receive from my government are in M$ format?
Why do I need M$ Office to apply for a grant?
Europe, switch to Open Formats!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic here
Authored by: MathFox on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:09 PM EDT
You can make links by posting in HTML. Instructions in red on the comment page.
Please give us a few lines about where the link is going to.

Word of the day: "Nonsense"

---
When people start to comment on the form of a message, it is a sign that they
have problems to accept the truth of the message.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:09 PM EDT
I wonder what the heck they intend to do with spreadsheets.
The so-called standard does not define the syntax, let alone
the semantics, of functions used in spreadsheets. I.e., it
two different Open Document-based spreadsheets will
produce files that are incompatible.

--MW.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Authored by: irtza on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:13 PM EDT
As I understand it, opendoc uses XML embedded within a zip file and can contain
other files within the archive if they are part of the document such as images
and charts. Is there any restriction within the opendoc spec as to what formats
these additional documents are to be in?<br>
Is it at all possible that someone can insert proprietary image files into a
document that would lock out other programs from displaying things
properly?<br>

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hear that sound?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:15 PM EDT
It's the sound of the turning of the tide. Don't get me wrong -- we of the FOSS community still have many hard battles ahead. But the overall momentum has just reversed direction.

This is a red-letter day for the FOSS community.

[ Reply to This | # ]

If (when) MSFT requires fed docs...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:26 PM EDT
If or when Microsoft gets federal government documents to be in microsoft formats, where will that put Massachusettes.

They're certainly trying to do this; and Groove (a recent MSFT acquisition) is pretty heavily used in the DOJ for information sharing.

Can MSFT make MA forced to break their own rules with federal legislation?

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Authored by: WhiteFang on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:37 PM EDT

The ball is now in Microsoft's court, and I hope they will make the needed adjustments.

One can hope. But if past performance is any indicator at all of future deeds, I think the likelyhood approaches the chances of my winning any of the various state's lotteries.

That works out to be about zero.

Call me Cynic.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - ... probably not
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:42 PM EDT
With MA's "final decision" I bet we are all breathing a sigh of
relief. MS lost, the people won. It's over. ... Well, it ain't over 'til it's
over and you can bet your last dollar that MS does not believe it's over. If
this decision holds, this is the straw that breaks the monopolist's back. MS
cannot let this one go.

MS will make end runs around the decision makers to higher rungs of MA's
executive branch of government. MS will go to the legislature to "undo the
decision". MS will sue to revoke that decision. The appeals will be
endless. In at least the executive and legislative branches, a lot of money may
change hands to get it turned around.

Trust me. It ain't over.

To the investigators following the reversal of this decision I say, "Follow
the money, if you can."

[ Reply to This | # ]

Cnet, journalism, language, interpretation, agenda and journalism.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:45 PM EDT

State agencies in the executive branch are now supposed to migrate to OpenDocument-compliant applications by Jan. 1, 2007, a change that will affect about 50,000 desktop PCs... Cnet news.com - PJ's link

My bold.

Does Martin LaMonica believe it is impossible to achieve office efficiency without Bill's help, has he little faith in the ability of State Government to achieve it's aim, does his prejudice show or is his English worse than mine.

:)

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:51 PM EDT
Microsoft is not doing itself any favours by not failing to support open
standards. For similar reasons, my own company is phasing out Microsoft Office
due to the closed nature of the file formats, and an internal policy that
dictates a need to move away from Patent encumbered / commercially licensed
formats.
Our IT department would definitely have retained Microsoft Office, had it met
our requirement to be free of commercially controlled 'intellectual property'.
We still consider MS Office to be superior to OpenOffice, but it is Microsoft's
own attempts to commit suicide that are preventing Office from competing with
other similar products.

[ Reply to This | # ]

re: shutting out Microsoft
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 04:00 PM EDT
The news.com article is correct. Since Microsoft has stated it
will not support the OpenDocument format, Microsoft has
effectively shut itself out of Massachusetts office software
procurement.

You won't see me crying, though. This has been a long time in
coming, and I hope other states follow suit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Don't Think for a Moment...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 04:14 PM EDT
that MS won't adopt the Open Document format as an optional format in future
versions of their software.

They were taking a stand with Massachusetts, to try to stop the first domino
from falling. They lost. The floodgates are
now open for other states to follow the MA lead, and I'm sure that MS doesn't
want to lose the business.

Let's hope that other states have the guts to follow MA's lead.

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's Final - MA Goes With Open Document
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 04:18 PM EDT
How dare the state of Mass. chose an open standard that would allow their
citizen access to any document that is theirs without having to buy software
from a certain company.

Oh the humanity. when will it end.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Mass needs...
Authored by: Mecha on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 04:23 PM EDT
Is an MSWord to OpenDocument converter that you can do a bulk conversion. If I
was any type of programmer I would get on it (GPL'd of course). That would make
it much easier on businesses and other governments to make the switch away from
word. It could be called DoneWithDoc or WD86. But I am not a programmer just a
lowly little sysadmin that can barely scrap together his own hacks.

---
************************************************************

I am not clever enough to write a good signature. So this will have to do.

*****************

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank You Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 05:43 PM EDT

I would like to send a Thank You! to The Commonwealth of Massachusetts! I firmly believe they made the right choice in supporting open standards for Public Documents.

I'm a Canadian and even though the decision does not have a direct impact on the document formats my chosen Public Officials select, I know that in the long run it will be a benefit to us all!

In that sense, Thank You Commonwealth of Massachusetts of providing an example to all elected Officials.

RAS

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hang On -- The MS FUD Engine might have another gear...
Authored by: raynfala on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 05:53 PM EDT
And this particular gear smells very political:

On Friday, a Microsoft manager questioned whether the IT division's technical reference model is really the last word on state policy.

"We understand that this is not a final decision for the commonwealth and that state lawmakers and the secretary of state have raised some of the same questions and concerns about this proposal that many others have raised," Alan Yates, Microsoft general manager of information worker business strategy, said in a statement. "Some in state government have talked about potential hearings to delve into this issue further, and we encourage that additional public review and evaluation."

I sense Microsoft lobbyists inducing government higher-ups to do an end-run around the policy.

Witness, also, the ACT (purported to be a MS astroturf organization) getting their two cents in.

This stinks to high heaven...

--Raynfala

[ Reply to This | # ]

It would be better if MS doesn't support OpenDocument
Authored by: kawabago on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 05:58 PM EDT
Then they will be shut out of the market in the next round of corporate and
government upgrades and that would be a big improvement for everyeone, except
MS.

---
TTFN

[ Reply to This | # ]

Please, Google, Please!....
Authored by: Dr.Dubious DDQ on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 07:15 PM EDT

You know, I'm just sitting here squirming in my seat with anticipation as a thought occurs to me...

We've already got not only the Open Sourced "OpenOffice" and KOffice programs, but existing commercial offerings from Sun and - Real Soon Now - IBM.

It suddenly occurs to me that what would REALLY be worth a serious laughing fit will be if (when?!?!?) Google starts offering tools that work with the OASIS OpenDocument formats as well. It would certainly provide a well-deserved boost to office furniture retailers as replacement chairs are shipped to Redmond...

Hopefully Oracle will do so as well, and it'll be obvious that ONLY Microsoft is being petulant about this issue...

[ Reply to This | # ]

In all the talk of this and that format, and what it means to M$ ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 07:40 PM EDT

... what stikes me is the way that the C of M have made themselves the exception
to the rule in government standards settings and procurement.

Which goes for the US, the UK (serial IT disasters, roughly once every six
months) and elsewhere.

Just as Groklaw has somewhat rehabilitated the legal profession in my eyes, the
clarity of thought that these guys have brought to the table gives me some hope
that local government (by the people, for the people, etc) maybe isn't just a
catchphrase!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Only a “Massachusetts” can force the issue.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 09:35 PM EDT
Microsoft has a lot of power because of its huge profits, which translates into
lots of Lawyers and the ability to Lobby Government & elected officials or
offer employment etc..

Their profits are so big they can just pay any fines and continue on
regardless..

Not many entities can force an issue with MS but Sovereign States CAN.

Massachusetts Legally and financially a force to be reckoned with.

If all else fails then MS will use a open standard.

Look what happened with the web, MS tried to use their own networking standards
but in the end caved in.

MS is playing with the big boys now..

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some People Do Get It!
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 23 2005 @ 10:12 PM EDT
Microsoft's technical problem is that it has no standards. I have
endeavered to use Microsoft standards like TAPI, MAPI, WIN32,
COM+, and MFC. In doing this work, I have learned that Microsoft
engineers do not follow their own standards. Sure, they do the
basic stuff but they ignore required parts and actually implement
non-standard functions and protocols in direct violation of their
own standards. It is this crud Microsoft sells to suckers.

I do believe that our country's records are way too valuable to trust
to Microsoft products and faux standards. Every time I have trusted
Microsoft to deliver on their promises, Microsoft has failed miserably.
(Remember NT 5.0 due in 1998?) Microsoft seldom fixes these problems
while heaping more crud on their pile.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Volunteer for Transcript of MA Meeting
Authored by: evought on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 12:52 AM EDT
Has anyone made a transcript yet? If not, my wife has volunteered. She does
transcription professionally and the recording is quite good. If a transcript is

already being worked on, let me know; no sense duplicating effort.

PJ, will you post the transcript if I send it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Embrace, Extend, Extinguish
Authored by: sproggit on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 04:35 AM EDT
As world events go, this decision by the Commonwealth probably won't make many prime time television news spots. Yet it deserves to, and the CoM deserve our sincere thanks for their commitment to freedom.

At the same time, I'd caution all of us to make sure that we do not become complacent or over-excited with this piece of news. Microsoft [and other large transnationals with de facto monopolies] have a vested interest in maintaining their positions in the marketplace.

One tactic that Microsoft have used before [numerous times] has become known to the industry as "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" - a method used very effectively against Open Standard protocols.

It works very simply, like this:

Microsoft release a new version of office [13? unlucky for some] that offers support for the OpenDocument format. That's the Embrace part. Then, six months later, they release a new version, or a free upgrade or fix-pack. Under the covers, this new version introduces new featurs, extra XML tags [the Extend part] that do not exist in the base OpenDocument format.

Now we have a problem. If you save a document using Microsoft Word, the program is set to use one or more of these new "proprietary" tags in the data stream. As a result, only another copy of Word can read the document properly. In other words, the XML schema gets a proprietary extension added to it. With literally millions of copies of Word around the world, all "infecting" documents with this proprietary document format, pretty soon the fully compliant ones get marginalised. [Extinguish].

Not possible?

MS have done it in the past, corrupting the ODBC model for connection to databases.

MS did it with COM and DCOM, converting them to COM+ and ActiveX {but look at the vulnerabilities they wrote into that last one, heh!}

They did it with Kerberos in Windows2000.

They will do it again, if they can.

This isn't by any means a doomsday scenario and even though Microsoft will try any number of means to thwart this development, the Commonwealth can forestall such actions by carefully wording their requirement to be a "pure implementation" of this industry standard and insist that no unique extensions are added or used. Such a requirement would go a long way to block such underhand tactics as I have described above.



What's more interesting to me, however, is that in this case Microsoft are clearly preparing a multi-layered defense to this issue. Obviously there is a software and development cost to writing a new file format into Word [but if anyone has recently installed a copy of office they will know that it has an entire section entitled "Text Converters" to permit it to read and write competitive file formats - including Word Perfect, for crying out loud!].

However, cost doesn't seem to be their prime concern. In this case it's one of "face". MS want to get the decision overturned before they have to make changes, not for the effort involved in the change, but because if they [Microsoft] are seen to give in to this demand, then the flood gates will open [flood Gates. Like it] and other organisations around the world will start to finally realise what the combination of open standards and the right to freedom mean to them.

Proprietary document formats and a vast installed base have become the armored defense by which Microsoft protect their business and income. Take away the first and the second becomes threatened. No wonder they're worried.

Just a coincidence, but this week the BBC News reported that MS had recently posted some quarterly earnings and for the first time in the recent past MS had failed to meet double-digits growth. Shocking, isn't it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Open Doc spec
Authored by: PeteS on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 06:03 AM EDT
Can be found at Oasis OpenDocument format V1.0

Warning : Large PDF

In answer to a number of subthreads, the format specifies numerous types of office documents, and anticipates others.

From the introduction:

This document defines an XML schema for office applications and its semantics. The schema is suitable for office documents, including text documents, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents like drawings or presentations, but is not restricted to these kinds of documents.

The schema provides for high-level information suitable for editing documents. It defines suitable XML structures for office documents and is friendly to transformations using XSLT or similar XML-based tools.

So it's not merely a text document format. It encompasses spreadsheets, drawing, animations and a host of other things.

It is also expected to extend to encompass other types of document (where document might be considered as anything displayable that presents information) as the need arises.

PeteS

---
Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • The Open Doc spec - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 26 2005 @ 02:37 AM EDT
  • The Open Doc spec - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 26 2005 @ 08:21 AM EDT
    • The Open Doc spec - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 26 2005 @ 05:21 PM EDT
MA decision is very limited
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 07:45 AM EDT

The FAQ at http://www.mass.gov/portal/index.jsp?pageID=itdterminal&L=4&am p;L0=Home&L1=Policies%2c+Standards+%26+Legal&L2=Open+Standards&L3=Op en+Formats&sid=Aitd&b=terminalcontent&f=policies_standards_opendocfo rmfaqs&csid=Aitd stresses that this decision "applies only to the Executive Department, and then only to documents created by the Executive Department." No one outside the state's executive department will have any legal obligation to pay attention to this.

As a citizen of Mass., I'm delighted the state is taking even this limited step, but I think it's going to be a while before the ripples from this little pebble extend very far beyond a few state offices.

The fact that Microsoft's (mostly misleading and off target) objections have been so stronly expressed, on the other hand, suggests that they are concerned that even a tiny ripple might ultimately cover a lot of the pond.

Neel Smith, MA citizen and Groklaw lurker

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sovrignty??
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 01:23 PM EDT
Ok, I get the idea of MA sovrignty, and I agree with it, but why is is even
being brought up? It was MA answer to "blahblah assault on private sector
intellectual property rights" and as far as I'm concerned, it wasn't a bad
one, but why is it being brought up?

To me it's very simple. People and government contractors have the right to buy
what they want. MA wants document formats that are not vendor-locked, and
OpenDocument is a solution that they deem acceptable and that anyone can use.
MS doesn't want to provide it. That's Microsoft's choice and they have every
right to make it. They understand that, but don't seem to understand that their
customers (like Massachusetts) also get to have choices. This is a free market.


I don't know of a car dealer who would complain about his/her rights being
assaulted if a customer wanted a convertible while their company only made
hardtops.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Don't threaten Israel, either.
Authored by: darkonc on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 02:18 PM EDT
Microsoft went thru something similar with Israel. They refused to fix their multi-lingual support in Mac Word on OSX (Hebrew and other mid-east languages are written right to left). This is especially irksome, since the Mac has been the leader in multilingual support.

Microsoft's answer was "Abandon the mac". Since the rest of the Mac OS has really good Hebrew support, many israelis didn't like the answer.

Israel offered to pay millions of dollars to get the 'bug' fixes, along with promising to buy thousands of copies. Microsoft refused.

Finally, Israel announced that they would be cancelling their contracts with Microsoft, and gave a grant to a bunch of students to port OpenOffice to the Mac.

Microsoft blinked.

The fact that microsoft felt that they could force a country to change it's IT policy and arbitrarily abandon an OS platform gives an idea of just how much monopoly power Microsoft feels they have over their customers (and are willing to use).

---
Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

[ Reply to This | # ]

A call to Arms/Templates
Authored by: mitd on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 04:19 PM EDT
Comrades, now that the binary, patented thick blood of our enemies has begun to
drip on oaken conference tabled battlefields and our battlecry has moved
beyond a whisper, beyond a shout to a screaming chorus spreading our righteous
message to the world is it not time to sharpen our swords and reload our
cantilevered catapults with even my deadly projectiles.

Yes Comarades it is time. It is time for the 'Wordsmithing' cabal amongst us to
set the world free. Give us your templates, give us your style formats so we may
convert them
to the format of our conviction. Yes my sisters and brothers we need your tools
of the spirit your autoformat secrets your paths away from the darkside and the
evil of the hideous dual boot laptop.

Come Comrades rise with me raise you voices together Opendoc Templates for
All!!

BTW, if someone could email me a OO/OD proposal template I would much apreciate
is.

mitd - Project of the month "Aging gracefully"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reverse Engineering Office 12 XML format
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 09:40 PM EDT
Tin-foil hat time - perhaps this is the reason why Microsoft is afraid of the MA
proposal.

If Microsoft now want to be considered in future MA purchasing tenders Microsoft
will have to offer OpenDocument as an output format.

If they comply, then Office 12 would be able to write an OpenDocument format
file and also the exact same file in Office 12 XML format.

A copy of Office 12 would then become a Rosetta Stone for reverse engineering
any lock-in trade secrets that Microsoft hoped to retain in their Office 12 XML
schemas. The secrets would no longer be secret, and Mircosoft would lose trade
secret "IP" protection it may otherwise have had in its Office file
formats.

This means Microsoft would then have to rely on patents and copyright to try to
continue to protect its Office 12 XML file formats.

Copyrights would not apply to anything that was not a copy of MS Office code.

Patents are very contestable. There is a vast body of prior art in both file
formats in general and in XML as well.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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