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Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting - Updated
Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 10:58 AM EST

UPDATE: Here's the audio, thanks to Dan Bricklin, who has pictures of the participants, including a picture of Andy Updegrove doing his real time reporting. Dan tells me that you can find Microsoft's Alan Yates' statement at around 54:00, if you wish to hear him talk about how open their license is, "you won't ever be sued..." and then say "MS has never argued against the Open Document Format..." (they just want to be included, too). At 2:06:45 Andy Updegrove asks questions about the MS Q&A posted yesterday. If anyone could transcribe the Microsoft portions, that would be very helpful indeed. If you can, please email me. The whole audio is over 2 hours, so transcribing the entire thing isn't practical, but the Microsoft parts are doable. Dan also writes about his personal conversation with Yates afterward.

Andy Updegrove is providing real time reports from the Massachusetts hearing about ODF/MS XML on his blog. It will be available as audio later too, but some of you may not want to wait for that.

While you are at it, you'll find Steven Vaughan-Nichols' collection of reactions to Microsoft's covenant not to sue very interesting.

People are not as positive as you might have expected. The article is called, "Not All Welcome Open XML Standard" and here's a taste:

Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Rita Knox have more practical concerns. Even if the Office 12 standard is "open," they point out that the technology needed to make it useful isn't open. "While it will be possible for and others to more faithfully replicate Microsoft's file format in their applications, Microsoft's rendering engine will not be an open specification. Thus, users of third-party products won't likely be able to display Microsoft's files with 100 percent visual fidelity or to execute macros (which will be saved in a different format) without problems," said the analysts.

There are also concerns expressed about Ecma, the standards body Microsoft chose to submit its schema to and then other express some doubts about Microsoft's true motive:

So if open standards and interoperability are red herrings, what is Microsoft's real goal?

According to Gartner analysts, it seems to be to combat the growing acceptance of the ODF (OpenDocument Format), which has been approved by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), and companies and governments, like the Massachusetts state government, which are supporting open-standards.

But that would be anticompetitive, no? Can monopolies do that? Just asking.


Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting - Updated | 163 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections thread.
Authored by: seanlynch on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 11:18 AM EST
Please post corrections under this thread.

Thank You.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Thread
Authored by: seanlynch on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 11:20 AM EST
Please post off topic threads here.

To use clickable links, follow the instructions in red on under the Post Mode
selection box on the Post a Comment page.

Thank You

[ Reply to This | # ]

Rendering engine and macro concerns
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 12:53 PM EST
Am I missing something? Surely Microsoft could support ODF and the exact same
concerns raised by the Gartner analysts would still exist.

I think Microsoft's desire to have their own standard is to force open source
products to support an extra standard (additional to ODF, OOo 1.1, MS Office XP,
MS Office 2000 and Office 97 as well as others). I think they want to slow down
the overall effort to create an MS Office replacement, and this is one key way
of doing so. I further predict that Microsoft will add another new file format
at first opportunity.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Didn't someone do an audio recording of the entire hearing?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 01:06 PM EST
Is there an audio recording of the Dec 14th ODF hearing in MA Senate Reading

If so, where is it available?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 01:57 PM EST
As reported by Andy Updegrove, concerning the comments of Alan Yates.

'...We are gratified by the reaction to our moving the schema to Ecma,
"which is beyond anyone's question an open process." '

My apologies, but I don't remember the interview where I read it, of the head of
ECMA. The problem I am experiencing is that the definition of an open process,
as defined by Microsoft, is very different than the process as defined by, for
example, ODF.

Before we spend much more ink, or in this cases, waste much more disk space, on
whether or not Microsoft is becoming open standard friendly, it seems that there
must be an agreement on terms.

That Microsoft is publishing an XML standard, is in fact more open than the
closed propriatary specifcations they have used to date. But does the mere
publishing of the standard make it open? It makes it visible, but the
specification currently has no input from anyone other than Microsoft, and from
the interview, it was my impression that the "standard" as defined by
Microsoft, un-modified, is the standard that is currently going to be aproved.
Since ECMA does not address patent issues, except for the nebulous description
used for RAND, how well the standard can be addressed outside of Microsoft is
questionable. Remember the "standard" for Java is that defined by Sun
Microsystems. The standard is not open, but is published. Sun specifies that a
Java run time engine is Java compatible if it meets the criteria they have
established. Likewise, according to Microsoft, they have granted permission to
implement their standard, as long as it is conforming. In both cases, what is
proposed is "reasonable", but is not open. Unfortunatly the Microsoft
statement regarding patents in their XML standard is not as specific as that of
Sun in their license, leaving room for concern.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Andy Updegrove: Open Accessibility Meeting Friday.
Authored by: Ed L. on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 03:11 PM EST
I trust no one missed this at the end of Andy's blog:
"It was announced, however, that an open meeting on accessibility issues would be held on Friday."
No further information at this time. Presumably it will be sponsored by the same folks as today's meeting: Senator Jack Hart, Rep. Dan Bosley. Didn't say when or where or which Firday.

I hope somone will post us when they find out!


"A cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." ~ Oscar Wilde

[ Reply to This | # ]

Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting
Authored by: jsusanka on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 03:35 PM EST
I noticed in Andy's blog that the only person that
mentioned open source, business model, and sun's open
office was Alan Yates.

He is trying to brainwash people and get them thinking in
his terms.

When will microsoft start seeing the world from outside of

This is about an open standard for the CITIZENS (not
office users) to view THEIR documents without having to
buy anything from Redmond.

Why is this so hard to understand.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What a state needs
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 04:19 PM EST
If I was thinking about being a state, and wanting a document management
facility, I would start by thinking about what I can do with pencil and paper.
The documents will be legible for centuries, with careful archiving. A citizen
might need to learn '21st century English' to understand them, just like he
might need to learn Aramaic to understand an original bible; but there would be
no impediment if he was bright enough.
The documents can be disseminated and built on, with no prospect that anyone
would sue (or that they would achieve anything by suing) on grounds of patent;
and so long as the state really did hold the copyright in the text, on grounds
of copyright either. All the intellectual property in pencils and paper is
Then I would think what I wanted to achieve by 'computerisation'. It would be
'support the state workers in their preparation of documents', and 'facilitate
all the various uses of the documents', and 'reduce the cost'.
I would not give up any of the plus-points of pencil and paper.
Then I would put the contract out to tender.
I would consider all tenders that met the specification. If I got any bids that
did not meet the specification, I would assume the vendor had misunderstood, I
would clarify, and see if they wanted to re-bid.
When all bids were in, I would choose according to whatever principles of public
accountability I signed up to.
Hopefully, Mass. are part way through this process right now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 06:44 PM EST

In a way, I think a situation where ECMA is flooded with "Standards"
approvals from various companies would be a good thing, particularly if the
approval for the "standards" being requested have come to a standstill
from another body.

Eventually, ECMA "standards" will prove worthless - useful only as a
rubber stamping mechanism with no real value at all and, hopefully, no perceived
value either.

The strategies employed by MS and others to get "standards" appoved in
this way will then look father foolish and the attempt rather obviously

[ Reply to This | # ]

Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting - Updated
Authored by: Chani on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 07:32 PM EST
IMHO, someone needs to ask MicroSoft again: why, exactly,
can't you just implement the ODF standard that your
customer (MA) has asked for? then there would be no
with accessibility, competition or anything. :P

...oh, wait, there would be one problem: the Office
monopoly going down the drain. but of course they can't
actually say that.

it's like their threat to withdraw from korea: completely
baseless bluffing. I'm praying MA will call their bluff

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 08:23 PM EST

Jeez, it's too bad that spreadsheets got to be considered "documents". IMHO, embedding macros in "documents" is about the silliest thing imaginable. Data stored in a grid format with formulaic relationships between the elements of that grid shouldn't have made it into any "document" standard. Microsoft, of course, thinks that having programs embedded in "documents" is a "super smart" idea. Methinks it's one of the reasons why the Internet has such a security problem. But then, perhaps I think that because I sit next to a bunch of people who spend their entire day either applying patches or arranging with users when patches may be applied to the hundreds of Windows-based servers in my employer's computing environment. Something tells me this wouldn't be anywhere near as necessary if documents contained text and images and not programmable elements that can be exploited by black hat types.

[ Reply to This | # ]

We're not going to change the rules...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 14 2005 @ 09:36 PM EST
No policy decisions were made at the public forum, but two important state officials indicated that Massachusetts expects to eventually support multiple document standards for its productivity applications and electronic records.
Peter Quinn, chief information officer of the state's IT division, applauded Microsoft's effort to have its Office document formats standardized. He added that Massachusetts would be willing to have more than one document format standard if Microsoft goes through with its commitment to standardization and its licensing terms meet the state's needs.

"We're not going to change the rules that we got. It's a blueprint that's in place." Quinn told CNET


DanyB E

[ Reply to This | # ]

My take on the meeting
Authored by: bsstmiller on Thursday, December 15 2005 @ 12:20 AM EST
Allen Yates spends most of the first part of his statement talking about how
choice in office software is good for the state. How good XML is for storage
and how it will benefit the industry by standardizing on an open (vs black box)

Talking about speed of opening documents, not loosing information of billions of
documents already existing. Open XML does that, and MS needed to make it more
open. Borrowed license from Sun, just like Sun, very similar to Sun. “Whether
you use part of Open XML, all of it, superset, subset, you won't be sued”. But
so far the analysis of their license I have seen, the license doesn't say that.
We have to live by the written license, not the nice things Allen Yates has said
in public. In addition, saying that they are like Sun's license, is clearly not
the case.

Allen said MS doesn't have the resources to do ODF and everything else they have
promised and still meet their deadline for delivery. I don't believe that. But
he is sure 3rd parties will write add ons that will support it.

Allen refused to answer the question about the misinformation on their web site
that the ODF standard being a rubber stamp of Sun technology.

[ Reply to This | # ]

the simple solution that MS refuses
Authored by: belzecue on Thursday, December 15 2005 @ 01:25 AM EST
Alan Yates:

The technology is opening rapidly, and we've borrowed from other's ideas - such as Sun - to make it so that any open source developer can use these formats. Lawyers will still be arguing over this, I expect, but our covenant is intended to enable the schema to be usable with no concerns.

My question to you, Alan: Why are you content to let the lawyers go on arguing about it instead of simply modifying the language of your covenant to remove all doubt?

[That, folks, is what is called a rhetorical question: we already know the answer]

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 15 2005 @ 02:29 AM EST
"But that would be anticompetitive, no? Can monopolies do that? Just

Maybe a better term for Micro$oft would be moneypoly.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Real Time Report from Massachusetts ODF Meeting - Updated
Authored by: grouch on Thursday, December 15 2005 @ 06:07 AM EST
I don't mean any disrespect but Alan Cote, of the Secretary of State's Office, appears to be part of the problem instead of part of a solution.

This is a quote from Andy Updegrove's blog, which he explains is "informative rather than dispositive", so quotations are probably not exact:

Cote says "I hate to pour cold water on this," but most documents are destroyed after 10 years. And almost no paper documents that exist are available for public view right now - and eventually will be destroyed. This is really all just about records management. The idea is to make everything available, though. But note - most documents won't be affected by this policy. Legislative and judicial records are closed - and will stay closed. So my focus is a bit different. We don't have a crisis - we don't have thousands of records that people can't see. We don't have documents on servers that can't be opened and read - we'll find a way to make them available. It doesn't mean that we're not working on this.

"What we're fighting for is open access forever at the cheapest cost, and I look forward to working with everyone to achieve that end."

It looks like he's contradicting himself about the problem of "records management" and document storage, while ignoring the solution under his nose. Paper documents destroyed after 10 years while almost none of them are available for public view, yet the idea is to make all of them available, thousands of records people can't see, don't have documents sitting on servers? DUH!

How about this: put those thousands of records on those servers in an OPEN format, such as, let's see, ODF! Ta-da! Problems solved.

You don't have to stockpile tons of moldy, silverfish-eaten paper, the public can be allowed to apply all sorts of gee-whiz digital tools to make use of those records they're paying for, the Massachusetts IT folks can shop around for all kinds of neato tools to work with those documents to aid the people creating them and the people researching their content, the Massachusetts IT folks will undoubtedly archive all those records along with their routine backups of the servers, and the supervisor of records gets to point at all those savings resulting from reduced paper warehousing costs, reduced archival costs, reduced records research costs, reduced records creation costs, and say to the people of Massachusetts, "Look what I did!"

Of course, credit for all those enhancements of service and cost reductions would (should) actually be shared among a lot of people, with some good measure going to Peter Quinn for foresight and persistence.

-- grouch

[ Reply to This | # ]

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