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IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Monday, December 05 2005 @ 04:19 PM EST

If you thought for a minute that the ODF discussion had come to a halt, think again. IBM made a move today, the details of which Andy Updegrove provides on his blog. IBM's Michael D. Rhodin, General Manager, Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Software sent a letter to Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

The letter begins like this:
Dear Governor Romney:

I'd like to share some information on an exciting new IBM product that was built in Massachusetts but is expected to have implications on both a national and international level.

Today, IBM extended its support for open standards by announcing a new software product designed to fully support the OASIS OpenDocument Format for Office Applications (ODF). Designed at IBM's development lab in Westford, Massachusetts, the IBM Workplace Managed Client will help protect an organization's investment in corporate data by promoting consistency, reliability and open accessibility of its documents.

The letter informs the governor that IBM's customers "are demanding choice and control over their information technology," which is why IBM builds on open standards. It mentions the analysis done in France after switching to software based on open standards in the tax agency, which is saving the agency 20m per year. I am happy to tell you that I have just done an interview with the head of the tax agency, and it will be ready shortly. But I can confirm that this is exactly the figure he provided me in the interview.

And the letter "commends the administration for the continuing and exhaustive open process that has been employed in evaluating the best technology solutions for the citizens of the Commonwealth." Hint hint. Updegrove:

In short, Rhodin says (as did Bob Sutor in a letter last week) don't abandon that "exhaustive process" with an expedient pre-adoption of a competing format that is not yet, and possibly may never, achieve the status of a standard.

All in all, a very satisfying day for Team ODF. IBM's move has flash, it has style and it has a point. Big Blue's actions today should be sufficient to move the ball back across the center field line, recovering much or all of the ground lost to Microsoft's Ecma announcements just before Thanksgiving.

The game is far from over, but today, Team ODF evened up the score.

I know nothing at all about politics, as longtimers here know, so if that part of this story intrigues you, you don't want to miss Updegrove's analysis, and I happily turn you over to him for that.

In News Picks earlier today, you saw the story about the new Workplace Managed Client, announced today in India. Note what it can do:

"The next version to be launched in early 2006 will support the newly-ratified ODF providing flexibility of sharing information regardless of any software platform you are using," IBM Vice President of Standards and Open Source Bob Sutor told reporters here on Monday.

But, you say, it isn't quite ready yet. Neither is Microsoft's pie-in-the-sky XML, which is at least a year away, they tell me, if it ever gets approved at all as a standard. ODF is already an approved standard, and the IBM product is available early next year, so in effect, it's here. It's now. It's ready, as far as Massachusetts is concerned, since this product will be ready before their rollout date. The coverage by ZDNET explains how the product works:

Rather than create an analog to Microsoft Office, IBM is offering editors for creating documents, spreadsheets or presentations within a Web browser. Documents are delivered via a Web portal and stored in shared directories. Access control and document management tools allow people to share and edit documents with others.

Is that or is that not exactly what Massachusetts said it needed? And, unlike Microsoft's XML, with a covenant not to sue which may or may not apply to all future versions, there will never be upgrades of ODF that break access to earlier created documents, with the result that the Commonwealth will always have guaranteed access to its documents. On what nonlaughable basis can Massachusetts, or anybody else, now back away from ODF, even if the fix was in? Not that it was. Like I told you, I know nothing about politics.


IBM: "Dear Governor Romney" | 260 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: MathFox on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:06 PM EST
and no funny misspelings in the title ;-)

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 | # ]

Off topic here please
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:06 PM EST

Please post in HTML, and put in links if you can.

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM doesn't need a covenant not to sue...
Authored by: clark_kent on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:14 PM EST
It can't. The ODF format is truely an open standard unlike Microsoft's XML
format. Plus I hear that Microsoft can spring software patents on it if it likes
or wishes. It is also a matter of trust. Do you trust Microsoft? 25 years of
shinanigans in the market place does not build my confidence in trusting what
microsoft says. If they shut out competitors in the early 1990's, what makes
anyone think they won't try to do it again. The ODF threatens their monopoly in
the Office world that they so fought for by their illegal OS monopoly and
out-of-court settlement bullying of competitiors.

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: seanzig on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:17 PM EST

> On what nonlaughable basis can Massachusetts, or anybody
> else, now back away from ODF...

Well, there is still the disability argument, i.e., that no current software
rather than MS Office "provides" accessibility features.

As we know, that argument doesn't hold water very well, given the difficulties
certain disabled people have with MS Office, and some of the other issues that
we've discussed on Groklaw. I just wanted to point out that more FUD will most
certainly be slung in that general direction.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mannheim, Germany moving successfully to open-source
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:17 PM EST

Here the city of Mannhein is moving to open source. Their reasons are very interesting. They want the freedom to decide for themselves, and to have open standards. Though they will save money too.

In Mannheim, a preference for "open" standards--not cost--is driving the German city's shift to Linux.

The technology decision makers have already moved the majority of Mannheim's 120 servers to the open-source operating system. Next, they plan to shift its 3,500 desktops to the open-source productivity application, running on Linux.

The migration should help the city with its aim of using programs that support open standards, which can be used by any software, whether closed source or open source. Some U.S. states--notably Massachusetts--and local and national governments have been embracing standard file formats such as the OpenDocument format used by OpenOffice, a move that ensures that public documents won't be beholden to a particular proprietary program.

"We want to decide our IT strategy in Mannheim, and not have Microsoft make the decision for Mannheim," said Gerd Armbruster, the IT infrastructure manager at the German city.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"I know nothing at all about politics"
Authored by: tiger99 on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 05:54 PM EST
Me neither. I certainly could not explain the differences between Republican and Democrat, nor where I live, between Tory and New Labour.

But I do know that this is a very clever move by IBM to put pressure on the politicians where it matters, as even the most rotten, corrupt politician, as well as the most honest, needs votes and must, in order to survive, protect employment in his or her constituency. Pointing out that their product was developed in the Commonwealth of Massachussets is a master stroke by IBM. What is more, the Criminal Monopoly can make no such claim about any of their products.... They may be well and truly snookered at last.

I seriously expect that interesting developments will follow. But beware of flying chairs in Redmond!

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenOffice in Workplace Managed Client
Authored by: jto on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 06:10 PM EST
To be clear here, Workplace Managed Client uses the OpenOffice libraries to provide the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tools. The new release will use OpenOffice 2 libraries and thus "inherit" the ODF support. WMC provides a lot more than office tools (it includes an e-mail tool, calendaring and scheduling, and other functions), but the office tools are basically OpenOffice.

Regards, JTO

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dear IBM:
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 07:26 PM EST

I was surprised when, in 2003, I found myself cheering on IBM -- IBM! -- in the SCO Linux brouhaha.

Now, in 2005, I am thorougly elated to see IBM step up to the plate again and hit a home run for software freedom.

Thank you for joining the team!

-- Anonymous Technophile

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 07:52 PM EST
Is MS going to help fund the Romney Campaign?

[ Reply to This | # ]

"regardless of any software platform you are using,"
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 08:25 PM EST
What sweet words! tho a screech to MS's ears, I'm sure ;-)


[ Reply to This | # ]

... yes, but ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 08:37 PM EST
That's all very nice, ... but don't Microsoft's
letters come with an envelope...?

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: josmith42 on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 08:52 PM EST
Well, I respect PJ's policy on foul language, and I hope I'm not violating the
policy with the following...

All I've got to say is Holy <CENSORED>!

This comment was typed using the Dvorak keyboard layout. :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

The politics...
Authored by: Mecha on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 10:17 PM EST
IBM states that thier new software is a Mass. developed product.

Microsoft is seen as being from Washington (on the other coast).

This is to show Romney that it is a hometown vs. an outsider fight. Romney can
choose to support an outsider or Massachusetts. That is what IBM was trying to
do, and they do it effectively (in my opinion).

** This is my signature and I happen to like it **

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 10:42 PM EST
Today I received a catlog from HP and all it had was
desktops with windows and a big HP recommends Windows XP
professional on it.

I thank IBM for their letter and I think it is wonderful
that their product is doing what they say it is doing.

But we need vendors like IBM, HP, Dell, Gateway to have
linux loaded on these systems that are in the catalogs
like the one I received today.

Linux is ready for the home/business desktop and I wish
one of these vendors would not be so afraid of Microsoft
and start pushing Linux with their desktops/laptops.

I am sick of windows and it's effects on people. Windows
has given the common user a bad taste of computing. We
need to start making computers enjoyable and have people
start using Linux. We also need to start pushing open
formats with video and audio.

For example, CNN puts out video in microsoft's drm format.
They probably pay microsoft so they can do that and for
development tools to create the video along with licenses
for putting it on the web site. Now joe blow
consumer has to pay microsoft/apple to be able to see the
video because it is in their format. So microsoft is
getting paid three times just for the average consumer to
see the cnn video on the web. Now don't you think they
are going to do this with IPTV too. We are going to have
to pay microsoft probably more than three time to be able
to watch tv in the future in our own houses. This is why
we have to start demanding open standards for video and
audio. I.E ogg format. I don't care what is the best
format it is about what is best for us the consumer. I
don't want to have to pay microsoft three time just to
watch and record a football game or a movie. This is all
getting out of hand and we really need to bring this up to
the government officials to make it stop.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wear Some T-Shirts at the Next Hearing?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, December 05 2005 @ 11:35 PM EST
So is anyone going to create some "OpenDocument: Made in
Massachusetts" t-shirts for the next public hearing?

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • That can backfire - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 06 2005 @ 12:34 AM EST
IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 06 2005 @ 03:55 AM EST
This was a very good letter but could have had one more telling statement at the

An existing truly open standard is the only way that Massachusetts can develop
and expand its IT economy.

A very unsubtle hint that support for M$ is actually taking away money from

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Sun's perspective on the adoption and momentum of OpenDocument"
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 06 2005 @ 06:15 AM EST

OpenDocument Tipping Point

by Erwin Tenhumberg, Sun

...On the adoption side, the French tax agency and the French Gendarmerie are deploying to about 160,000 workstations in total; the Ministry of Defense in Singapore chose for 5,000 seats;and Bristol City Council is installing StarOffice on another 5,000 desktops. In China, 140,000 school PCs are being equipped with; the Indian government has distributed about 7 million copies of; the South African Ministry of Communications has sponsored the translation of into that country's 11 official languages.

Looking at all these amazing numbers it seems unlikely that this train can be stopped; a critical mass of users is emerging in the global public sector and beyond.

The real global market share numbers for the OpenDocument file format and the supporting applications are unknown, but that doesn't really matter. The success stories and the daily news speak for themselves. The world has entered a new era: OpenDocument will create a whole new ecosystem... Line56

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is this the future for the US ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 06 2005 @ 12:54 PM EST
Makes me wonder. Microshaft seem to be going all-out to tie US governmental
bodies into their own proprietary formats thus ensuring decades of extra
expenditure and hassle to keep documents readable. Meanwhile much of the rest of
the world is embracing open-standards, open software and saving millions of
dollars in the process. Makes me laugh - the US is slowly turning into a
third-world nation on the technology front, while current 3rd world nations are
slowly overtaking them.
Still - look on the bright side - at least you will know that MS is safe in your
hands - safe to tell you what you want and safe to fleece you for providing it.
Backwards but secure in the knowledge that you are keeping MS afloat....

Can anyone in the US answer this ? When did you start allowing suppliers to tell
you what you want ? I personally decide what I want and then go and get the
cheapest deal possible. If a supplier starts to tell me what I want I am
immediately suspicious of their motives. Especially suppliers with a long
history of supplying a poor product using illegal practises and has become very
rich in the process. Go on - pour more good money after bad - you know it makes
sense - to MS!!!!

[ Reply to This | # ]

IBM: "Dear Governor Romney"
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 07 2005 @ 11:12 PM EST
OK, that makes sense to me, but don't we still lose here? I don't see him
making a decision that goes against anyone because whether it is against
Microsoft or against OpenDocument (IBM, Sun, and others) he loses with someone
and doesn't really win anything very big. If he can basically make no decision
and push things off into a future that he isn't part of then he doesn't win
anything, but he doesn't really lose anything either.

I hope the state goes OpenDocument on schedule - I just am having a hard time
believing that it will happen.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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