Open XML vs. ODF -- Again

Loraine Lawson

Many readers will remember the Microsoft Open XML flap in Massachusetts, where then-CIO Peter Quinn proposed moving the state to mandatory use of Open Document Format (ODF), the format that is loved by IBM and the open source community, among others.


Massachusetts ultimately flipped, embraced Microsoft's Open XML, and launched an investigation into Quinn's travel expenses. But the battle isn't over.


Microsoft is now taking a lot of heat for its attempt to get Open XML approved as an ISO standard. Open XML is, obviously, highly controversial, and, by the way, 6,000 pages long. Microsoft has chosen to apply via the fast track process, which is specifically designed for non-controversial specs that can be quickly vetted.


The plan isn't going smoothly. According to one blogger who, right or wrong, has studied the situation in great detail, there have been an "unprecedented number" of comments from the 30-member board. (Each member represents a country.) Meanwhile, the self-described "standards geeks" are having a good laugh as Microsoft and IBM publicly battle, each claiming they have the public's interest at heart.


For many, however, this is no laughing matter. A bill mandating ODF has been introduced in the California State Legislature. If passed, it could potentially impact millions, if not billions, of dollars in IT contracts.

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Mar 19, 2007 8:44 AM Mr. Kim Berry Mr. Kim Berry  says:
The ODF spec is less than a year old and lacks the penetration of Microsoft, which is converting its products to OpenXML. The State should wait and let the market decide the ultimate standard. Otherwise AB 1668 will create a Tower of Babel between the public and government - and the private sector.I'm awaiting clarification from Leno's office, but it appears that AB 1668 could ban State workers from using Outlook - which is well engrained for scheduling meetings and in the private sector. The problem is the "email documents" are stored in a proprietary PST file. I'm also awaiting clarification whether AB 1668 would MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe PDF from the desks of state workers?Those are the formats most accessible by the public. Leno's office has not responded to my question about what applications they propose state workers use as alternatives. AB 1668 appears to be based on the false premise that much State data resides in MS Word and Excel documents. On the contrary, the data resides in databases and is exported in whatever format is most usable by the most number of users.Finally I'm awaiting clarification whether AB 1668 would ban the presentation and storage of data as HTML. It's disturbing that Leno's office cannot respond to these simple questions about his bill. Reply
Apr 8, 2007 4:14 AM Greg Maguire Greg Maguire  says:
Open standards for all. Kim Berry, just because Microsoft has the biggest penetration does not make it the best standard. Why must I pay a Microsoft Tax to open government documents owned by 'the people'. I want to be able to open a government document in any program designed to read it. If I choose that to be a non-microsoft application, that should remain my choice. If you want to pay Microsoft for that privilege, that is your choice. Reply

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