November 1, 2005 6:56 AM PST

Mass. officials criticize OpenDocument decision

BOSTON--Massachusetts state officials have criticized a decision to adopt OpenDocument as a standard, casting doubt over a closely watched initiative.

Marc Pacheco, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, on Monday held a hearing to probe into the process that led to a mandate to make OpenDocument the standard document format for all commonwealth agencies in the executive branch as of 2007.

Pacheco
Marc Pacheco,
state senator,
Massachusetts

The policy, finalized in September, was developed by the Information Technology Division, which is part of Massachusetts' Office of Administration and Finance.

The IT Division said OpenDocument-based products will improve interoperability between systems and ensure long-term archiving of official documents. The specification is developed at standards group OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).

There are commercial products that support or will support OpenDocument, including Sun Microsystems StarOffice, IBM's Workplace and the open-source product OpenOffice.

But the IT Division's policy effectively shuts out Microsoft Office because the dominant supplier of productivity software does not support OpenDocument at this point.

During the hearing, Pacheco voiced a number of concerns regarding the IT Division's decision. He called into question the IT Division's authority in setting policy, saying the IT Division acted "unilaterally," and he expressed concern over the cost of walking away from Microsoft Office. He also contended that OpenDocument does not sufficiently address the needs of people with disabilities.

During questioning, the IT Division's chief information officer, Peter Quinn, and General Counsel Linda Hamel defended the decision, arguing that the move to OpenDocument would be in the commonwealth's best interest. Quinn said a standard, "open" format, rather than Microsoft's "proprietary XML" format, will ensure that electronic documents can be read hundreds of years from now.

Pacheco then called on Alan Cote, the state's supervisor of public records, as a witness. Secretary of State William Galvin has responsibility for public records.

Cote sharply criticized the IT Department's decision, urging that

CONTINUED: Of turf wars and stalemate…
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86 comments

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MS is the defacto standard used by the public
"Quinn said a standard, "open" format, rather than Microsoft's "proprietary XML" format, will ensure that electronic documents can be read hundreds of years from now."

Bizarre! Microsoft's "proprietary XML" format is the defacto standard used by the general public and is so widely distributed that it stands the greatest chance of "being read hundreds of years from now" compared with any other format. Archives and agencies of government, as well as private software developers, will have the greatest incentive to maintain readability of Microsoft products centuries from now because the vast majority of information created at this time is stored in that format.

The drive toward "open formats" as a way to combat Microsoft's perceived monopoly is a venture (and a belief system) engaged in by private parties that governments and public agencies should not be taking sides in. The vast, vast majority of Massachusetts citizens have only the capability of exchanging or reading documents in Microsoft's proprietary formats because Microsoft products dominate the current marketplace; Massachusetts agencies such as Universities and colleges are using Microsoft products for their work and all of their documents exist only in those formats. It would be a disservice to the public of that state who must interact with their state government electronically to be inexplicably blocked from use of state documents unless they are willing to buy into a little-known, little-used software to access public records.
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't think so
I work in the IT department of a small town in Massachusetts. If I send a document to someone, I don't expect them to have to go out and buy a $400 product. Microsoft has programmers smart enough to add open document format to Office, but they won't because they want exactly what is happening.

Isn't politics strange? MA was one of the states that continued the monopoly suit against MS after the federal government settled, and now some people are saying let's use Office because it's the only game in town.
Posted by eee4me (12 comments )
Link Flag
and pdfs are standard distributed by the public
There is a difference between text, pictures of text, formated text and text with alot of worthless formating used to leverage software sales. The retail price of Adobe's Publisher or whatever they call it now is $999. Microsoft Office in the most basic version runs over $100. Wordperfect is still used by some of the most productive secretaries. Eliminating unwanted proprietary features from documents while retaining more recent advanced formating provides documents that can be revised without retyping or screening for jibberish.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
It is not a standard
A standard, by definition, has to be open, available to all regardless of whether they own a specific application, and backwards compatible as well as forwards. Office formats are not.

The point of standards is to be able to share data to anyone regardless of what platform and applications they run. That is exactly opposite of what MS does.

MS does not, and hopefully never will set standards. All they do is lock people into their substandard, buggy garbage.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
The majority rule has no weight outside of voting!
The State of Massachusetts has a responsibility to account for all
its citizens, not just the perceived majority. Standardizing to an
open file format ensures no one is left out. For those who use
Windows, downloading a free version of OpenOffice in order to
view OpenDocument formats is not too much to ask as
compared to telling non-Windows/MS Office users to go out and
buy one or both in order to view a proprietary (hence closed) file
format is absurd. All public electronic documentation (records,
etc...) should be easily accessible by all citizens. There's no
rational argument against it, PERIOD!
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Link Flag
Your missing the point, Richard
You maybe new to MS products, but I have been with MS since '78, when the only product was MS BASIC that they made enough changes to Dartmouth BASIC (now True BASIC) so two were incompatable. MS's first and second word product is no longer supported and bcause their license forbids developers from writing code that can produce text in its original form and passing onto a user. In its simplest terms, the same ULA applies to all of MS's products. Under their open XML ULA you could write code to read their documents but not write.
Open documents can be used, writen and read without having to license the code you derive from others. That is what makes MS propriety software a trap. If next year or ten, they decide no longer wish to support the current document format, your **** out of luck.
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Link Flag
Re: MS is the defacto standard used by the public
Can you provide statistics to back your claims ?
'"de facto" standards' have a way of excluding non-users of the
platform on which they are applied & in addition to the
tendency to reinforce the monopoly they have acquired.
If one were to follow your argument, citizens who don't use use
Pcs, a Windows operating system and Internet Explorer, for
example, should be made to follow these "standards" since
those are the ones used by "the majority" & the best example of
this rationale's fallacy is the large number of web sites, private
and public, that are inaccessible to users of a browser other than
IE 6 for Windows .Should this now happen with MS's XML when it
starts implementing more and more MS specific "tweaks", to the
point that it won't be accessible to nothing but the latest version
of Windows installed on hardware blessed by MS ?
This type of reasoning is exactly what the original decision was
addressing: the defense of fundamental freedoms, and the
independence from any proprietary technology that would put
the general public at the mercy of any corporate monopoly.
I dont see how your argument for the public to "be inexplicably
blocked from use of state documents unless they are willing to
buy into a little-known, little-used software to access public
records" can stand, as the software needed to read the Open
format not only is widely available, getting wider notoriety all
the time, and best of all, available for free &
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
MS sure knows....
... where to put its 'lobbying' money......
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS Office Runs On Unix, Right?
The comment by Taxachusetts officials that MS Office documents can be read hundreds of years from now presupposes that a Microsoft Windows or Mac OS is still in use at that time, as they are the only platforms that run MS Office. This seems pretty naive. True longevity would require that documents can be rendered independent of the OS and application program that created them. One only has to think back a few years to office products that were considered gold-standards at the time, such as Wang's generation of word processors, Xerox's Document Center, etc. to see how quickly a popular platform can become extinct. It would be interesting to see a follow-on story as to how agencies like the National Archives deal with the longevity problem.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
have you heard of XML
Word's new format is based on XML unlike OpenOffice so technically it can be opened and data extracted from using anything that can open an XML file, that includes most browsers minus any formating. Now go readup on XML.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
Another short-sighted, brain-dead politician
> But the IT Division's policy effectively shuts out Microsoft Office because the dominant supplier of productivity software does not support OpenDocument at this point.

That is Microsoft's shortcoming, not the Massachusetts IT Division's. If Microsoft wants in on the deal, all they have to do is abandon their proprietary file formats, or at least support OpenDocument under the "File -> Save As" menu. Microsoft is loathe to do this because it breaks a major shackle on their victims, er uh, I mean "customers".

> During the hearing, Pacheco ... expressed concern over the cost of walking away from Microsoft Office.

Excuse me? The small amount it will cost to implement the OpenDocument strategy will be recouped many times over by ditching Microsoft Office and eliminating their forced upgrade schedule.

It looks to me like Microsoft has bought themselves yet another politician. Way to go, Senator Pacheco - you've sunk to a new low....
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pacheco also missed...
... that there are currently several open-source
plug-ins for Office that implement a "Save As"
OpenDocument for Office.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
OpenDocument & PDF & Microsoft Office formats = unstructured
It was always silly to expect that switching from one suite of
office software to another (or more properly, from one set of file
formats to another) would magically solve the problems of
structure and archiving.

Neither the Microsoft Office file formats, nor OpenDocument,
nor PDF, provide (or can provide) a complete structure for
information content, and all require specialized software for
interpretation and display.

PDF concerns itself primarily with text formatting, text
placement, and graphics placement. The information content
isn't structured at all. It doesn't much help to know that a certain
word begins at position (x, y) on the page and is to be rendered
in 10-point bold Helvetica type. For search purposes, plain text
is actually better than PDF. With many PDF documents, one
cannot put the text elements back into their logical sequence
from positioning data alone, so search breaks down. It may not
be possible to find words that are hyphenated; multi-word
phrases that are split across two lines; or words or phrases
whose elements have different formats.

OpenDocument at least preserves the natural sequence of text
items. But what people are raving about is the opportunity to
(manually) tag their documents with descriptive information.
Alas, there is no structure within these items. For example,
Pages 56 and 57 of the standard [ <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.oasis-open.org/" target="_newWindow">http://www.oasis-open.org/</a>
committees/download.php/12572/OpenDocument-v1.0-os.pdf
] say that items like Subject and Initial Creator may exist in a
document. They are text strings! What should I put in the
Subject field, if I bother to fill it out at all? Should I use a Library
of Congress subject, pick something from some other standard
list of subjects, or express the subject in my own words? What if
the document covers multiple subjects? Should I pick one, or
make a list? If I make a list, how should I delineate the entries?
As for Initial Creator, should I let the system insert my login
name, or should I manually enter my first name? Wait, maybe I
should add my last name. Perhaps &lt;Last Name&gt;, &lt;First Name&gt;?
Maybe my employee number or Social Security Number would be
more specific. How one fills out these fields has big
consequences for search. (We haven't even broached the
question of how to structure the core information content of the
file. So far the core content is just sequences of text, suitable for
keyword searching. There's no difference between my name,
used as the recipient of a business letter, my name, used inside
that letter, my name, used on a presentation slide, and my
name, stuck in the "Employee" column of a spreadsheet.*)

This brings us to the Microsoft Office file formats. They are no
better and no worse, structurally-speaking, than
OpenDocument. They preserve text sequence and can be tagged
with information items. People make much of the fact that you
generally need Microsoft software to interpret and display such
files, whereas anyone can write software to interpret and display
OpenDocument files. So what? Microsoft offers free "viewer"
utilities for Word, PowerPoint and Excel. A first-time user would
likewise have to download and install special software to read
OpenDocument files.

If you want universal, direct access, use plain text!

If you want something that looks the same as the original, use
GIF or JPEG!

If you want something that prints nicely, use PDF or PostScript
(and be sure to buy a printer that speaks genuine PostScript;
there aren't many on the market these days).

If you want reliable classification and search capabilities, define
a database!

Paul Marcelin-Sampson
Santa Cruz, California, USA

* This spreadsheet example makes me cringe. Many computer
users still think spreadsheets are databases.
Posted by rpms (96 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that was a long post
Comments to a story should be shorter than the story itself.

Just kidding, P Mar :)
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
How much did MS contribute to Marc Pacheco's campaign?
Someone should find out.

I can't see any other reason why someone would oppose switching
Public information to an open standard. Especially one that works
with free software.
Posted by jmhm2003 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
the same as...
what IBM contributed to the rest...Creating a policy that would require/exclude software from certain vendors is against the policies of free market.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
Used by Majority does not mean it is open...
Even though the M$ Office file formats is the most used, it doesn't mean that these "open". When one says a file format is an open standard, the means that the necessary tools and libraries for implementation are freely available and or very accessible. PDF is an ISO standard (PDF-X) while OpenDocument is agreed upon by members of OASIS (soon to be petitioned to ISO), which Micro$oft is not a member of. Sure, they are XML-based format used by Office 2003 and 12 but these are not agreed upon by a group of companies, only by Micro$oft.
Posted by wakizaki (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
then what is???
StarOffice can open and save documents in MS Word format. MS has published its Office 2003 XML format, sure its "properitary" that is not preventing StarOffice or WordPerfect both office immitators from opening or saving using this format, so for all practical purposes MS Office format is "open"
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
OASIS = Politics = Not Relevant
OASIS = 12 loser companies that can't compete so they form an organization and try to change the rules. When your losing the game this badly you don't suddenly get to change the rules.
Posted by CoachWT (42 comments )
Link Flag
View But Not Edit
What if this document that I am sending is to someone that needs the ability to edit this document? Maybe it's a form that needs to be filled, or a draft of a document. This action cannot be done with the viewer, so the recipient has to purchase the product.

I'm not against the purchase of the product, I am against the fact that if the MS Office format is used, the only product that can satisfactorily read MS Office formats is MS Office. If it were OpenDocument format, I could open it in OpenOffice, KOffice, Sun's StarOffice, et al.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes but licensing agreements
Would need to be executed if you were to implement these file formats in a tool of your own creation. Such a tool could not be open-source since the MS license would forbid it. It could be sold at some price, but since MS provides the document format support, they are free to play with the license royalty price until this product becomes so expensive that no one wants it.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Documents.
I don't normally agree with anything Microsoft has to say, but I do agree with them on Open Document Standard. We do need the standard, but it hasn't addressed all the needs yet. I think that companies should (if they want to) start using the standard, but I'm just not convinced that it's ready for government use.

Of course to say that Microsoft format is a standard or defacto is decidedly stupid. Microsoft changes their format more often than not. If Microsoft really wants to make a better document format then they need to get with OASIS and try to make that format the best it can be.

You know, people who use Word at home and rarely send out documents probably don't care about what format it's saved under. For those of us that are constantly passing documents around a standard format would be great. I think the day will come when we have that standard. I also think that, aside from Microsoft, most companies will adopt and use that standard in some form or another.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gosh, bureaucrats do know more than IT pros!
Don't you just love it when some bureaucrat thinks he
understands more than an experienced IT professional? Of
course the IT department made their decisions without a lot of
interaction with other agencies - does the department of
licensing ask the IT department about the license plate fees for
next year? Obviously one is more affected by the decision than
the other, but you get my point.
Posted by Lucky Lou (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Heck, there's some narrow minded thinking going on ...
To the several people who seem to think that "download the free
viewer" is an adequate alternative to spending hundred of
pounds on software ...

tell me where to download the free Word &#38; Excel viewers for
Mac, for Linux, for BSD, for ...

The assumption that you can download the free viewer relies on
the assumption that everyone uses Windows, and not everyone
does. So how is it right for any government agency to require it's
citizens to run a specific operating system ?

Also, just because OpenOffice can (mostly) read office files now
doesn't mean that it always will be able to. MS can, and does,
change the formats regularly - officially to support new features,
but you can be sure that there's an element of spoiling tactics to
make life hard for anyone using a competing product or old
version. Not to mention that sooner or later they will impose
drm (digital rights management) onto people - and then it will
be a criminal act (cf DMCA) for people such as the OpenOffice
team to attempt to worka round the encryption.

Sooner or later, IF shortsighted and narrow minded people allow
them by apologising for their monopolistic practices, MS will
impose a system where you pay to use their software, and when
you stop paying you will no longer be able to use YOUR data.
Then you will be well and truly screwed, and it will be you own
stupid fault.

The way to prevent this happening is for all government bodies
to apply the same rules and insist on the use of open document
standards. If MS choose to stay away from the trough, there's
others who will happily take their place. If MS Office is so damn
good, MS have nothing to fear from a little healthy competition
on a level playing field - have they ?
Posted by SimonHobson (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, in the IT department...
No, actually Microsoft has virtually nothing to fear from honest competition however they would have something to fear from exlusionary practices at a government level.

Having used OO.o I find the idea that it can replace MS Office today laughable and even more laughable is the notion it will be cheaper.

What is also highly disturbing it that this measure is proposed without having done any research on the actual costs (beyond licencing) of such a change and the impact on visually impaired workers.

In other words, a typical example of why IT departments are unsuitable for making decisions like this.
Posted by (20 comments )
Link Flag
Tell me...
Where do I get an Open Doc reader for my Commodore 64? Or for my Amiga.
Are you telling me I have to wite one? And if I'm not a programmer I have to spend thousands of dollars paying someone to write one for me?
Please, don't take my argument literally. What I'm trying to prove here is that the fact that a "standard" has no readers available for a specific platform is moot unless that platform has a significant market share, free or not. Linux on the desktop, as of today, has not. Well over 90% of personal computers run either Windows or OSX, and most of those that don't also have Windows as a second OS (not all, I know, there are some dedicated Linux users, as well as some FreeBSD users, etc.). But changing laws because of a convenience issue for a small minority of users (and don't tell me that minority is growing, that's specultaion about future trends, reallistic or not) is not a good use of resources, as long as there are some other means to access the documents wich guarantee availability.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
IT is notoriously self absorbed
Nice comments but obviously the IT department doesnt employ anyone with a visual handicap nor do the developers of OpenOffice et al seem to be in any way concerned about such issues.

However, a State administration suggesting a sweeping change like this should be concerned with such issues and are even required by law to be. But then, OSS advocates generally only apply those laws that suit them.
Posted by (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What are the accessibility issues?
"He also contended that OpenDocument does not sufficiently address the needs of people with disabilities."

Aren't most accessibility issues handled by the client? Larger Fonts, Braille interpreters, Text-to-Speech? How is the file format significant in these type of cases?
Posted by Mallardd (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft should support Open Doc - problem solved
The problem that Massachusetts (and others) have with Microsoft's proprietary format is that, in a tortured legal way, Microsoft controls your access to your documents. If Microsoft decides to terminate your license to use their document format (it's deep in that EULA - a legally binding contract that you agreed to when you loaded MS-Office on your computer) you can no longer open your files...legally, that is. Microsoft's file formats, both the current binary formats, and the forthcoming XML based formats, require users to obtain a license from Microsoft to use. You cannot legally write a program to read Microsoft's files without obtaining a license from them. No license, no access to your MS-format files.
***The use of OpenDoc formats do not require such a license.
Posted by Arbalest05 (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pacheco wants to claim he's interested in accessibility?
"He also contended that OpenDocument does not sufficiently address the needs of people with disabilities."

Hey Pacheco, go look at your website sometime! It's a disaster as far as 508 compliance and accessibilty are concerned. Try addressing the needs of your constituents with disabilities by updating your website. Start here...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.contentquality.com/mynewtester/cynthia.exe?rptmode=-1&#38;url1=http%3A//www.marcpacheco.org/volun.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.contentquality.com/mynewtester/cynthia.exe?rptmode=-1&#38;url1=http%3A//www.marcpacheco.org/volun.htm</a>

When you get your site fixed, maybe then you can talk about acessibility with only slightly more credibility than you have now (which is none). In the meantime, don't venture into areas of technology and standards where it's obvious you have no background.
Posted by mikhail101 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Don't send unnecessary tax dollars to an abusive, self-serving corporation
MS is still trying to assert the bully tactics, despite court orders otherwise:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Judge+Microsofts+music+player+gaffe+is+concern/2100-1012_3-5915405.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Judge+Microsofts+music+player+gaffe+is+concern/2100-1012_3-5915405.html</a>

I applaud our state's IT department for making a decision that not only opens the door to saving on software procurement and archival costs, but also on training costs. Moving to Office 12 has been shown to have a higher learning curve (e.g. retraining costs) than moving to OpenOffice 2.0!

MS obviously has Pacheco's ear -- and maybe his wallet...
Posted by JHann (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes but its called privatization
and its supposed to save (ergo cost) the cash cow, er, taxpayer, millions.

Privatization IS the biggest deficit to society. It took decades and smart people to devise standards at the state department level. Now, some bureaucratic-wannabees enter the local governments and burden the taxpayer with their costly changes.

For example, a state like PA decided to privatize road construction. The company bids low, then skims pavement to "make a profit". A State-controlled department is designed NOT to make a profit, but to be consistent.
With software, they lock you intto contracts that are annual, and require costly hardware (see proprietary or expensive..your choice) updates.

Microsoft is STILL a monopolizer. Tower of Babel: part 2.
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Link Flag
On PDF
.pdf is an ISO standard. .doc is not. Can it be made any clearer then that?
Posted by laughingcoyote (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Clear? Not really
Adobe still owns all the IP associated with PDF and can at any point break their compatibility with PDF 1.4 on which the ISO standard is based.

The ISO standard only pertains to PDF 1.4, nothing else, many 3rd party apps that generate PDF's do not generate 1.4 PDF files but older versions btw.
Posted by (20 comments )
Link Flag
What is the argument?
Mass. is not pushing to adopt any specific software, just a standard. If MS wants to be left out, that is their problem. They do have to be, but they foolishly try to keep everyone dependant on them.

Standards are extremely critical, especially in computer and computer related products. Without standards, web sites would have to generate seperate forms depending on what OS and browser you use. A properly written web server doesn't care what you are using. In fact, without standards, you would not be able to connect and to the web site because you are using windows and most servers run on linux.

Imagine what would happen without all the transport protocols. No easy way to get email or download a file. What would happen if every DVD manufacture had its own storage and encryption scheme.

ALl this arguing about how this is unfair to MS and Office users is pointless. MS made their bed, and they can climb out of it without any hassles, but they refuse to. That is on them.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which is correct in saying...
... that although the Mass. decision might affect Microsoft, the issue is not about Microsoft and their products. The issue is the Mass. move to support only open document standards instead of "de facto standards" which are proprietary in nature.

It seems that a government mandate is a chance for open document standards to gain market dominance with the hope that it will trigger a domino effect as transactions move to and/or from the executive office, to the government agencies and to the public -- individuals or companies.

This is of course in the same hope that the government does align IT investments from the executive down to the smallest government agency.

My contention has always been that this government intervention is unnatural directly challenging the readiness of the public to suddenly have this need to invest on supporting the government's open document standard requirements.
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
Then choose standards
Standards are critical, yes, however XML is a well documented standard with industry wide support, OpenDoc does not have industry wide support.

At the same time MA makes an exception for PDF which is not a standard at all but a propietary product which is wholly controlled by one company.
Those are arguments imho which have not been adressed so far neither has the issue of cost or the impact on usability.
Posted by (20 comments )
Link Flag
FSM: The blind leading the blind in Massachusetts
A great read on the subject below...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.freesoftwaremagazine.com/users/d.sugar/" target="_newWindow">http://blog.freesoftwaremagazine.com/users/d.sugar/</a>
2005/11/01/the_blind_leading_the_blind_in_massachus

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

David Sugar

Post details: FSM: The blind leading the blind in Massachusetts

(11/01/05 11:11:37 pm)
FSM: The blind leading the blind in Massachusetts
by David Sugar

For the moment, I will ignore the false statement of some that
specifying ODF requires one to run OpenOffice. In fact, there are
many products which already do so, including Koffice, AbiWord.
Anyone that wishes to can produce OpenDocument compatible
software, including proprietary software vendors, such as Corel,
who have chosen to do so. Microsoft alone insists not that it is
unable to do this, but rather that it is unwilling, and it alone
demands the state choose its products and its document format
instead. In doing so, it is requesting that the state join with it in
an illegal business practice.

[More:]

The principle complaint that some have used is trying to claim
that ODF cannot meet state mandates for blind accessibility. As
it happens, I am interested in this very issue, under the
sometimes active GNU Alexandria project. It is true: work has
been slow, but the basic idea was to write a server that could
access government documents and web sites in their current
form, and then provide a voice rendered representation of said
document or web site to a user, either locally through a
soundcard, or over the public telephone network as part of an
automated government service. GNU Alexandria is licensed
under the GNU GPL.

Microsoft claims that its patent license trumps the rights of
others to access even their own documents and data, and while
it offers its patent encumbered XML schema under a royalty free
license, it requires others to both engage in giving their rights to
access their own data away as part of it, and specifically denies
the right to sublicense their patent. This would legally require
the state to exclude using GNU GPL licensed software that may
access state generated documents, at least if they are produced
and distributed in the Microsoft schema.

Clearly the result would be that less products and services,
including those to enable blind accessibility, will be available to
the state if it were to choose Microsoft's XML rather than an
open standard like ODF. However, accessibility is just a Trojan
horse. There is a deeper and even more disturbing issue in this
as well if Microsoft's patent encumbered XML schema became a
mandated state standard.

From the point of view of a software vendor, adopting
Microsoft's XML schema would mean that Microsoft, and not the
state, would determine under what terms vendors can offer
goods and services or even engage in business with the state.
This would be something like Ford saying to Massachusetts that
it can also purchase Hondas, or cars from other companies, but
only under terms and conditions that are set by and from
companies that are approved by Ford.

While governments can specify terms and conditions of sale on
their own in a non-discriminatory fashion, to adopt Microsoft's
XML schema would require the state to discriminate against
some vendors, and to do so at the request of another. This is in
fact illegal. It most probably violates state law, and certainly
constitutes a scheme to engage in illegal restraint of trade as
per U.S. Code Title 15. Not only would Microsoft's scheme make
the state of Massachusetts itself a party to criminal behavior, but
also potentially liable to any civil actions that may result.

Clearly to mandate ODF as a government standard the state of
Massachusetts would enable all vendors who may wish to offer
interoperable goods and services (including Microsoft). And it
would assure that the population, the very citizens of
Massachusetts to which the state serves, have a legal and
uncontested right to access state documents in any manner they
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Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
honour for sale ?
I'am getting the impression that the senator has some personal economical interests in or has been sollicited by MS to defend the commercial interests of MS ?
Posted by thx1173 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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