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A Look At MS's MA Talking Points

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the deconstruction dept.

Microsoft 242

tbray writes "It may not be a Halloween Document, but one of the lobby groups in the thick of the Massachusetts office-doc standardization fray passed me 'The Other Side's Talking Points', so I've published (and slightly deconstructed) them with a barnyard-animal picture." From the article: "The direction toward interoperability using XML data standards is clearly a good one. However, limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others. The proposed approach and process for use of XML data is quite open to multiple standards, yet the proposed standard for documents is quite narrow, preferential, and may not enable optimal use of the data-centric standards."

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242 comments

Well, guess what (-1, Troll)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542645)

The direction toward interoperability using XML data standards is clearly a good one. However, limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others. The same thing would happen if it were a microsoft product being chosen -- gov't has a responsibility to choose the lowest-cost solution if it is viable -- and that's what MA is doing.

Re:Well, guess what (5, Informative)

jhfry (829244) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542749)

IT'S NOT OPENOFFICE.ORG'S FORMAT

It's simply an open XML format for storing data that the developers of OpenOffice.org developed and utilize. It would be simple to modify other word processing applications to use this format... or if they stick with MS (who claims an open format in the future) I'm sure OO.o will migrate to that format.

Just because they are considering moving to OO.o doesn't mean that they are giving unfair or preferential treatment to a specific vendor... you could be their vendor if you bid low enough! All they have done is researched and chose the best open format for storing thier data that has a usable application that utilizes it.

I would bet if MS moved to an open format, they would use that instead... their objective is to have readable documents in 50 years... not to get away from MS (yet).

Re:Well, guess what (-1, Flamebait)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543047)

BULLSHIT

The OASIS OpenDocument format is, was, and always will be centered around OpenOffice.org. It is as much OOo's format as Microsoft's XML formats are Microsoft's.

Microsoft *is* moving to an open format. That it is not as patent-free as you would like doesn't change that.

Re:Well, guess what (4, Informative)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543102)

Huh? There are 7 programs [wikipedia.org] that have implemented OD support in a stable release. Open Office is not one of them. How is this an OOo format?

And no, Microsoft is *not* moving to an open format. It is not documented and other programs can't read it without reverse engineering. That's not very good for data security or stopping vendor lock-in.

Re:Well, guess what (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543178)

Here is the weblog [msdn.com] of the Microsoft developer (Brian Jones) who is in charge of their Office file format. These two [msdn.com] entries [msdn.com] deserve particular hatred for their complete failure to address the issues about openness brought up (repeatedly) in the comments.

Brian has made it clear that he just won't listen, but if you have time it would be good if you could add your voice to the comments on his blog calling for true openness.

Re:Well, guess what (-1, Troll)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543236)

"Microsoft *is* moving to an open format. That it is not as patent-free as you would like doesn't change that."

I can prove you to be liar with a very simple test.

1) Install office 2003.
2) Try to open up C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\1033\protplv.ppt in open office.

Voila! You are liar!.

Re:Well, guess what (2, Funny)

HatofPig (904660) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542816)

Okay than.... which open XML data standard with accompanying open-source software to use it do you suggest the state of Massachusetts start looking at?

Re:Well, guess what (1)

DeafByBeheading (881815) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542984)

For what it's worth, MA is not really asking for open-source software behind the standard--they just want an open standard...

Re:Well, guess what (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542842)

MA is using the OpenDocument format, not OpenOffice's format.

OpenDocument is not vendor-specific. Anyone can use it. The only reason MS doesn't want to support it in Word is because they know that allowing people to use a non-Word format would make it easy for people to switch away from Word.

Re:Well, guess what (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542887)

In light of your sig, I would suggest not posting while drunk as well. Otherwise, you write stuff like this.

the OO format is open. MS does not document anything about their format. Neither does WP or Ami Pro. Every thing that is known about all of them, is from reverse engineering. That is not a good way to preserve data.

Re:Well, guess what (0, Offtopic)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542931)

hey, i was quoting FROM THE SUMMARY. so don't bitch at me.

translation (0, Offtopic)

sum.zero (807087) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543197)

"i was to lazy to verify the information given to me [despite the link] before i offered an opinion about it."

that's not a very good excuse ;P

sum.zero

omg i'm on vacation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542647)

sorry no hurricane relief for you! maybe a in a few days when i get back to the office. toodles!

luv,
the prez

Gee, MS Hypocrites? (4, Insightful)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542648)

unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products

Somehow they never seem to object when, say, the Feds sole-source Microsoft products. Big surprise.
Let's hope someone throws that back into their faces....

Re:Gee, MS Hypocrites? (2, Insightful)

fembots (753724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542682)

It's not Microsoft's responsibility to complain about unfair and preferential treatment given to its own products, other vendors are welcome to voice their concern when that happens.

The problem is, most "other vendors" are unlikely to do that, and even if they do, their voice is not strong enough to do any good/harm.

Re:Gee, MS Hypocrites? (0)

DeepDarkSky (111382) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542902)

It's a vendor's perogative to complain about anything. Any company would want sole-source contracts with anybody, not just Microsoft. Is it somehow better if Oracle was the one doing it? How about the small software shop down the street?

Re:Gee, MS Hypocrites? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542929)

Well, fa(ir|re) is what you pay to ride a bus.
I, for one, thought El Presidente had a far more appropriate input for the heave.
If Redmond didn't own the DOJ, the DOJ might have the sack to break Redmond into OS and application companies, which would go a long way to improving competition and free enterprise.
If you own much MSFT, you won't agree, but I contend that, while arguably unfair, the idea has the virtue of simplicity and enforceability.
Go, !MicroSoft.

Omission? (5, Funny)

theRhinoceros (201323) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542654)

There are less costly, less limiting, non-preferential policy options to achieve the same goals.

However, Microsoft is as unsure as you what these options are; they certainly aren't their products.

What does Roland think? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542657)

Any chance Timmy could check with his daddy, Roland, and tell us what he thinks?

narrow? preferential? (5, Insightful)

soma_0806 (893202) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542660)

The fact is that choosing ANY file type narrows the field somewhat and whatever type is selected will give preference to someone. It makes the most sense to pick the type that does the least amount of "damage" in both fields.

Using an "open" format allows the docs to be read by users of pretty much any OS. Also, it gives preference to the open source community, not some corporation looking for nothing beyond profit. Finally, anyone that wants OpenOffice can get it, and for free. No other possiblity would be less narrow or preferential!

Re:narrow? preferential? (4, Insightful)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542725)

Not only that, but Microsoft (or any vendor) are completely free (speech and beer) to implement the doctype that MA selected. MS's idea of an "open" proposal was patent encumbered and not GPL compatible.

Re:narrow? preferential? (4, Informative)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542757)

The idea of an "open" format isn't that it will get preference to the OSS community. It is that it will give preference to no one.

The standard in question isnt the "Open Office" format, its "OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications". OO.o 2.0 happens to support that format nativly.

Anyone, including Microsoft, is free to implement the Open Document format.

Re:narrow? preferential? (-1)

morganew (194299) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543022)

Of COURSE it gives preference to Sun. THey already have an office suite (beta) that supports OO.o 2.0, but no one else does.

This whole move is just another example of Microsoft hunting. The fact that the proposal supports .pdf format tells you that any suggestion this is done for "openness" is bullcrap.

pdf has patents, and is owned by Adobe. yes, it is freely available for lots of uses, and Adobe allows others to create pdfs, but it is certainly an encumbered format.

This proposal does nothing to advance the state of the art, does nothing to create greater usability for the citizens of MA (download and install another office suite to look at a government document? Install X11 if you are a mac user?), and does not provide any real cost savings (if MSFT adds OO.o support, MA can buy MSOffice).

This is a witch hunt, plain and simple.

if it's really about unencumbered standards, dump pdf. But don't piss on my leg and tell me that it's raining.

Re:narrow? preferential? (1)

jsight (8987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543070)

For Word processing, there are already several alternatives other than OpenOffice. Honestly, I think that invalidates your entire point.

The problem with MS's XML is that it is not openly managed (which the OASIS formats clearly are).

PDF is probably there as a purely practical matter, as almost anyone will have a PDF reader available (and they are easily generated from Open software packages).

Re:narrow? preferential? (1)

morganew (194299) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543149)

"several alternatives" but pretty much based off of the same codebase.

I guess I coudl have said "it benefits Sun AND IBM"

I assume that Corel's WP will support 2.0, but current product doesn't.

Also, I dissagree with the article poster's comments about NeoOffice/J - It's not ready for prime time. Until mac folk get together and make OO or some other derivative work natively with no X11 involvment, macs are going to be at a greater disadvantage than they are with MSFT products.

Re:narrow? preferential? (2, Insightful)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543123)

Hunting Microsoft? A poor, defensless fluffy monopoly with big, dewy eyes... for shame!

Re:narrow? preferential? (2, Insightful)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543130)

There are 7 programs that support OD in a stable release. OOo is not one of them. [wikipedia.org]

And no it's not a witch hunt. The only reason why they are doing this is because if Microsoft doesn't release Office anymore, suddenly their files are pretty much useless without expensive reverse engineering. Microsoft can also charge them whatever they like because after all, if the government doesn't like it and the deal's off, they can't read any of their files. Not exactly a good situation.

Re:narrow? preferential? (2, Interesting)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543200)

if Microsoft doesn't release Office anymore, suddenly their files are pretty much useless without expensive reverse engineering.

You mean, expensive reverse engineering like it's now necessary to open up the Excel Spreadsheet I keep my checking account balanced in? Expensive as in 'install OpenOffice on my NetBSD box' (or compile it there, if you're talking about an obscure arch)?

For most purposes the Reverse Engineering has already been done. And Microsoft's Office is such a 'big target' format, it will ALWAYS be reverse engineered en-masse and for free.

Re:narrow? preferential? (4, Informative)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543141)

creating a filter so word can natively open OASIS docs should not take microsoft more than a week or two, but doing so would make it easier for companies to switch away from MS so it is unlikely to happen.

IIRC the patents related to PDF's are not in the document formats themselves but rather in variour protection techniques and DRM which are optional comnponents rarely used excepf for things like downloadable ebooks etc.

Re:narrow? preferential? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542781)

Finally, anyone that wants OpenOffice can get it, and for free.

Suppose I have an OpenOffice document I need to edit, but I have to use a friend's computer. They're running Windows and have never heard of OpenOffice. I need the job done really fast, but they have dialup internet. Do I download OpenOffice, install it on their computer (OpenOffice, what the heck is OpenOffice)? And then load my document?

Besides: RTF is open and it's easily editable.

Re:narrow? preferential? (1)

Tlosk (761023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542841)

That's a pretty long list of constraints. You can always cook up a situation where something would be difficult, the real question is whether there is any other solution that would do better in a comparable situation. For example in your scenario, if the friend instead has Open Office and you are bringing a MS document with features utilized such that it won't open in open office, what is your solution there? Go to store and buy a $500 software suite and install it? Hardly a better situation.

Re:narrow? preferential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543199)

wdviewer.exe and wine.

Re:narrow? preferential? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542939)

> I need the job done really fast, but they have
> dialup internet. Do I download OpenOffice,
> install it on their computer (OpenOffice, what
> the heck is OpenOffice)? And then load my
>document?

Oh, quit yer bellyachin' - unzip it and edit the XML in Notepad like a real man, then. :)

Or burn yourself an OO.org CD with installers for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and keep it with you. (Yes, they'll all fit. I make copies and leave a dozen or so lying on the counter every time I visit a computer shop.) Or keep the installer for your platform of choice on a USB key.

> Besides: RTF is open and it's easily editable.

Have you ever actually opened an RTF file in a text editor?

Didn't think so.

Re:narrow? preferential? (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543063)

"The fact is that choosing ANY file type narrows the field somewhat and whatever type is selected will give preference to someone."

Why? What is preventing MS from being able to read and write OO docs in Office?

I don't see how you can make the assertion that it will give preference to someone when anybody can implent the document spec.

Re:narrow? preferential? (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543192)

Using an "open" format allows the docs to be read by users of pretty much any OS. Also, it gives preference to the open source community, not some corporation looking for nothing beyond profit. Finally, anyone that wants OpenOffice can get it, and for free. No other possiblity would be less narrow or preferential!

Yes, well, the talking point in question is what Mr. Orwell dubbed "Doublespeak". War is peace, fredom is slavery, and a one vendor, secret file format promotes "choice". What's frightening is how often it works.

Hmmm (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542661)

Microsoft Employees themselves [proudlyserving.com] are saying that open office formats (at least partially, or for old versions) are a good thing. Others are saying [25hoursaday.com] they want to quit soon. Note that this open revolt against their management is being spearheaded by the mysterious Mini-Microsoft [blogspot.com].

Will these attitudes finally change MSFT from the bottom up, or just get these guys fired? I suspect the latter, but hey, we live in interesting times...

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542832)

Sounds like everyone there has already quit.

What a disgusting blog. MS is a stomach turning company all by itself. But to read whining from the idiots who used to work there is too much.

Re:Hmmm (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543053)

You sound like an MS troll.

Most of what you call 'whining' is coming from current Microsoft employees. The ones who are no longer there are by and large a much happier group.

What you are seeing on the mini-msft blog is the identification of serious internal problems that Microsoft has, which threaten the long-term prospects of the company. These issues are not unique to Microsoft, but in Microsoft's case they have the potential to do as much as, if not more, damage than Linux.

A great deal of energy is expended by Microsoft employees competing against each other, instead of external competition. I find it interesting that if a team creates a true killer app, something of extrodianary quality that makes mountains of money, that one third of that team gets crapped on as a matter of policy -- no raise (not even cost of living), no bonus, and reduced future prospects as their reward.

That is only one of the issues - I'd recommed the blog to those curious about other issues. Note however that enough publicity might cause MS to do something about them (internal complaining sure as heck wont) so anti-MS types might not want to spread the word.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542925)

Remember kids, working for Microsoft is a stigma that follows you throughout life.

Whoa! He cited Mel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543029)

A Microsoftie mentioning Mel's story?

Wow! I mean really WOW!

Amazing!

duh (5, Interesting)

gyratedotorg (545872) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542662)

"limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others."

prohibits others? i know this is obvious to everyone here, but the fact that the oasis format is open and fully documented invalidates this argument. there is absolutely no reason why any vendor cant implement the oasis format.

Re:duh (5, Insightful)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542763)

Not only that, but a reason MS gave for not supporting the format is that it doesn't support all of the features of the MS Office XML formats. So they won't add write or read support for OpenDocument.

I find that really strange, considering MS Office currently has read and write support for plain text and rich text documents. Are they really trying to tell us that plain text documents support more features than OpenDocument documents?

I call bullshit on that statement. It is an utterly stupid reason for them to give. No one is asking Microsoft to make OpenDocument the default format for Office, but to simply support it, just like they do RTF and TXT files.

This is simply a case of Microsoft kicking and screaming and throwing a tantrum because someone is telling them to take their lockin schemes and shove it up their ass.

yes, but it does prohibit others (1, Interesting)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543205)

Repeating spin point:

"limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others."

I think they mean that it prohibits other formats. That is, of course, what a good specification does.

Even this generous interpretation is an exaggeration that reeks of M$'s characteristic dishonesty. Specifying a format for document exchange and archival will not keep anyone from using their favorite editor. They will simply have to copy that document into an editor that will save in the correct format. M$, of course, wants the more clueless lawmakers to arrive at your conclusion - that somehow this is giving a Sun an exclusive fromat franchise. As you pointed out, the standard is free for the taking, so M$ can quickly tack on the format translator and stick it into a Windoze update. Because the standard was developed in the open, M$ has only M$ to blame for their lack of product today.

Heat guy J (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542667)

Wow, this guys name is: Daiske! sweet!

Tim Bray (4, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542680)

For those of you wondering who Tim Bray is or why you should read somebody's weblog, Tim Bray co-created XML [wikipedia.org]. If anybody's fit to speak authoritatively on the subject of XML formats, then it's him.

To be fair.... (4, Informative)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542809)

Tim Bray is also an employee of Sun, the company who started OO.o [sun.com]. I agree with what he says & am quite sympathetic to the cause, but this is like Scoble saying MA should standardize on MS word format.

Re:To be fair.... (0, Flamebait)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543041)

No it's not. Open Document is NOT an "Open Office format" like Microsoft says. In fact, OO.Org were/are one of the last free software suites to give support to OD (they still haven't released an official stable version with OD support). The following support OD: * Abiword 2.3, through the OpenWriter plugin * eZ publish 3.6, with OpenOffice extension * IBM Workplace * Knomos case management 1.0 [4] * KOffice 1.4, released on June 21st 2005 * OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 RC and 2.0 BETA 2 * Scribus 1.2.2, imports OpenDocument Text and Graphics * TextMaker 2005 beta [5] * Visioo Writer 0.5.2 [6]

Tim Bray's/Sun's bias (1)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543201)

No it's not.
Tim Bray's job at Sun was to work on XML formats for OO.o.
Open Document is NOT an "Open Office format" like Microsoft says.
Agreed. But guess which product will benefit MOST from the wide adoption of OpenDocument. Hint: the only one with a cross-platform, well-developed office suite. Guess which company will be able to provide more support. Even if they weren't the "top dog" in this, Sun would still benefit from MS's loss.

Hey--I drink the kool-aid. I've given money for the development of OO.o and Abiword. (You should to--see my URL.) But I know self-interest when I see it.
In fact, OO.Org were/are one of the last free software suites to give support to OD
They were well-represented at OASIS & They have had it in beta for a long time.

Argument by authority (1)

mrpotato (97715) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542817)

I don't see why the fact that he co-created XML would make him any more fit to speak about what needs to be done. It's just a simple fallacy.

FUD, Lies, and More FUD (5, Informative)

Pensacola Tiger (538962) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542681)

First, the format is called Open Document, not Open Office. Open Office is the program. Second, Massachusetts is not specifying any particular software, only that any software must read/write Open Document format. Everything, and I mean everything, that Microsoft claims in their so-called talking points is self-serving rubbish. Remember that reaching a compromise with Microsoft is like reaching a compromise with cannibals that they will only eat your right arm.

Open Office (4, Insightful)

superspaz (902023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542689)

So isn't MA supposed to be providing service to its residents. Let's face it, do you want to be the one who has to train all these government employees how to use OpenOffice.

Those the change may seem minor to the /. crowd, it is likely to gum up the works for some time in the state of MA. This doesn't even get into explaining to grandparents how to file/read state tax forms online. I think there are going to be a fair number of annoyed taxpayers.

I like open document types, but I think this is a bad way to try to handle things.

Re:Open Office (5, Insightful)

JMZorko (150414) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542720)

... but if it's going to hurt now, won't it hurt even _more_ later? These sorts of arguments don't make sense to me. If changes need to be made, better to make them _sooner_ and minimize the headaches, then make them _later_ and have to deal with even more pain. Anyone who has done software engineering knows that it's easier to refactor earlier than later.

So, congrats to MA for attempting to refactor, and boo / hiss to MS for trying to stop it.

Regards,

John

Re:Open Office (1)

superspaz (902023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542853)

What I am saying that it is already a bit too late for MA to have an effect. It is too small and has a population already set on another format.

Though it is a gesture I think it is bad for the taxpayers of MA and is more for political grandstanding to the techonorati and the wannabe technorati than for the greater good.

What is actually useful for the spread of open formats is to get into emerging markets? I think a lot of good work has been done in this realm. That is where this battle will be won or lost. If CA or the federal gov't or the EU did this there'd be a chance of getting some change, but it would be at the cost of the poor, old and undereducated. MA does not have the inertia to effect this change. This is politics, not a step for open formats.

Re:Open Office (2, Insightful)

footissimo (869107) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542774)

Its not about openoffice particularly, its about having an open document format so that organisations can choose which office suite they think best suits without being concerned about whether they'll be able to send/receive properly formatted files.

Re:Open Office (1)

superspaz (902023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542891)

I am sorry I made things seem to be about Open Office. Truthfully, my point was teaching people to use new software is costly and it is slow and expensive to educate govt workers, much less the public. I use Open Office as an example because I have used it before, and I can imagine trying to explain to my mother how to get it and how to use it. To me it might as well be Word or emacs or VI, but to her is something completely new and different.

My point is that MA is making a political statement and that that political statement not match residents interests.

Superspaz lives up to his moniker (2, Interesting)

bubbaD (182583) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542857)

Actually the new rules say that Open Formats should be provided in addition to whatever other format of choice is used. But have no fear, the representatives of my state are likely to comply with the wishes of M$ and people like you. Those corrupt bastards are just looking for some backstratching from M$

Re:Superspaz lives up to his moniker (2, Insightful)

superspaz (902023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542957)

I was going by the orginal form of the text as reported by Forbes.

The state of Massachusetts is proposing to make all its workers stop using Microsoft's Word, Excel and other desktop software applications and switch to open source software, said the Financial Times.

The report said OpenDocument, which is used in open source applications like OpenOffice, and PDF, a widely used standard for electronic documents, would be the only software permitted.


If this has changed, I am sorry. Perhaps you could link? If that is the case, then I strongly support MA's case. It is just that OpenDocument is just too unknown outside the techie world to have as the the only document format supported by a govt agency. Having *only* OpenDocument would be a bad thing but I greatly appreciate when such agencies make sure to at least some form of open standard.

Re:Open Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543037)

Let's face it, do you want to be the one who has to train all these government employees how to use OpenOffice.

I would *love* to be the one to get to train them!

Void Main

Re:Open Office (5, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543039)

"Let's face it, do you want to be the one who has to train all these government employees how to use OpenOffice."

The point of the switch isn't to save money but to support the freedom of information. If commonwealth employees have to be retrained in order to ensure that commonwealth citizens will be able to have access to commonwealth-published documents without being locked into vendor-specific software (or worse, a specific version of said software), so be it.

The commonwealth is there to to serve the citizenry, not sell software from an out-of-state vendor for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Re:Open Office (4, Informative)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543077)

Let's face it, do you want to be the one who has to train all these government employees how to use OpenOffice.

Is that a Request for Proposal? Because sure, I'd be happy to make money training people in a technology that empowers them rather than locks them into the products of a single vendor. It's certainly no harder to develop a curriculum for OpenOffice than it is for Microsoft Office, and the benefits are much more enduring.

In fact, the Government of Ontario contacted me about just this sort of training a couple of weeks ago. Clearly, Massachusetts is not alone in taking this initiative. And as the world moves systematically toward open document formats, I expect there will be many more of these business opportunities coming.

This doesn't even get into explaining to grandparents how to file/read state tax forms online.

You mean that Massachusetts is using an online tax form that only works with proprietary software? If true, it seems pretty irresponsible to limit public access to a process which they are required by law to follow. Yes, it will definitely be an improvement to get rid of artifacts like this.

Re:Open Office (4, Insightful)

iabervon (1971) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543139)

MA isn't going to switch to OpenOffice unless Microsoft forces them to. If MA goes forward with their plans, MS will almost certainly add support to MS Office for OpenDocument. It's not like it's difficult; multiple people have already written MS/OpenDocument converters even without MS's internal documentation. They're only making it sound like MS Office can't support other formats now because they'd rather it didn't. Faced with people actually defecting, they'd change their story.

As for filing taxes online, you've never been able to read a MA tax form in a Microsoft format; it's all PDF, which MA intends to keep using. Filing forms online is done through one of a number of commercial services, which will deal with whatever format MA wants them in. Forms you can fill out on your computer, print out, and mail in are exclusively in PDF (because that makes the form part reliably identical regardless of where it gets printed out).

Re:Open Office (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543187)

Open document formats are great and the workers wouldn't actually require retraining if Microsoft would support the open document format in Microsoft Office.

It's about using the best tool for the job. Currently microsoft office can't even handle the format so it's the wrong tool for the job. Therefore a change is needed.

- Jesse McNelis

OpenDocument format (5, Informative)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542693)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Massachusetts isn't using OpenOffice's format, it's using OpenDocument. This is an open format that OOo just happens to use as well. I understand OOo had a hand in creating it, but it's not "their" format. Here's the wiki link [wikipedia.org] explaining it a little further

Re:OpenDocument format (2, Informative)

Dlugar (124619) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543061)

OpenOffice's format is SXW, not OpenDocument. However, with the most recent version of OpenOffice, they have changed to save by default to OpenDocument (.odt) files rather than their native .sxw files. So the idea that OpenDocument is OpenOffice's is, as Tim Bray doesn't seem to want to say, bullshit.

Dlugar

Open formats are available equally to all (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542703)


From Groklaw's article [groklaw.net] on the subject:

"Some may contend that the decision is unfairly dictating a software preference. This is entirely wrong; the guidelines make it clear that any applications need only support an open, unencumbered document format. Your guidelines do not limit any vendor's ability to compete for state business because the required open formats are available equally to all, and participation in their development is equally open to all."

Whatever.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542710)

However, limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others.

Oh please. Am I to understand that Open Office documents are blocked by things like patents, constantly changing specifications, no interoperability between versions, and licensing fees?

Oh, wait, that's MS Office! Open office standards are open? Free for all to use, if they choose?

Wow. Go figure.

All I know is I personally don't CARE what the format is, what's underneath, just friggin' well let it work with all damned Word processors!!!

RTF, HTML, XML, whatever. JUST MAKE IT WORK!!!

Re:Whatever.... (1)

garroo (748175) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542880)

However, limiting the document formats to the OpenOffice format is unnecessary, unfair and gives preferential treatment for specific vendor products, and prohibits others. Oh please. Am I to understand that Open Office documents are blocked by things like patents, constantly changing specifications, no interoperability between versions, and licensing fees? Oh, wait, that's MS Office! Open office standards are open? Free for all to use, if they choose? Wow. Go figure. All I know is I personally don't CARE what the format is, what's underneath, just friggin' well let it work with all damned Word processors!!! RTF, HTML, XML, whatever. JUST MAKE IT WORK!!!

--------

This was my comment. C'mon Slashdot! You're new damned verification thing is slow as molasses, and then appears to show me it's accepted, but really it's just posted as Anonymous!

I want my mod points back!!!

Re:Whatever.... (1)

rhizome (115711) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542950)

All I know is I personally don't CARE what the format is, what's underneath, just friggin' well let it work with all damned Word processors!!!

Yes, but if a company refuses to support a file format then it means they are being locked out of a market.

The creepiest thing about all this is that their line of reasoning probably works most of the time.

Re:Whatever.... (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543056)

If you want it to "JUST WORK" then plain text is the way to go. It's supported on every platform and every word processor.
It is compacted, wonderfully compressable and won't confuse your users.
It will never be patent encumbed and you will never have trouble exchanging documents with other organisations.

I 3 plain text, make it your friend too.

- Jesse McNelis

Hidden costs (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542803)

From TFA:

There are practical considerations for conversion of documents in older formats which apparently have not been considered.
Once again, whoever wrote this had a lot of nerve accusing Massachusetts of failing to consider obvious issues. Let me tell a little story. A couple of months ago, I bought my Mom a new Macintosh, and also Microsoft Office for the Mac. We transferred her files over from her old Windows computer, but Office wouldn't open a bunch of them. That was OK, I went and got NeoOffice/J, a free OpenOffice-based software suite, and it opened most of them just fine. This is a story you hear over and over, on the net.

This is probably not the best example. Yes, the average government worker could probably download NeoOffice/J free of charge as well and then convert all their documents to a newer format, but there is a cost here and it is in man hours - they aren't working for free.

This cost probably occurs every time Microsoft updates Office, though, so would likley be much the same whether they stuck with MS-Office or migrated to anything like OpenOffice.

Re:Hidden costs (5, Insightful)

RatBastard (949) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542847)

I've been doing Customer Support for various sized organizations through the releases of Office 97, Office 2000, Office XP (2002) and Office 2003, and every time there is a new release there are documents that break. Excel spreadsheets and Access databases (hahahahaha!) are the worst offenders, breaking with almost every release. A lot of employee time gets eaten up fixing these corrupted files every cycle. Does MS reimburse us for the time wasted? Nope. We PAY Microsoft for the priviledge of dealing with broken documents.

Moving to an open document format would stop most of this from happenning. It would also remove the only barrier keeping WordPerfect, or the Mac or Linux, out of the office environment: document interchange.

Re:Hidden costs (1)

holy zarquon's singi (640532) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542972)

I'm of the school of thought that a computer program is generally better than a spreadsheet for all but the simplest tasks. And people say that perl is hard to maintain.

cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (5, Informative)

totro2 (758083) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542814)

Openoffice comes with a wizard to do mass conversions. It can recursively sweep through a file structure, creating a .sxw file every time a .doc file is encountered (keeping the same name). So this strengthens the point made by the author of the article:

"Unless the cost of conversion right now is awfully damn high, this sounds like a good investment."

To find this insanely under-hyped feature:

File -> AutoPilot -> Document Converter

If your file server has enough room for a bunch of new .sxw files for every .doc file, why not give give it a test on some smaller portion of your folder tree.

Then you can all easily see how good OpenOffice is in it's conversions on your existing data RIGHT NOW, and everyone can learn firsthand how realistic a switch to OpenOffice REALLY is.

Aren't you dying to know first hand if it's actually just that easy and we can all quit theorizing about how viable this whole thing is?

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

strcmp (908668) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543001)

I don't know about OpenOffice.org, but the feature you mention took literally about 2 minutes just to convert just 3 of my Word files into .sxw (not OpenDocument .odt) with NeoOffice/J, which is slow in general (I'll refrain from making remarks about Java's speed here). The files weren't even that long. So yes, some sort of cost will be incurred by converting the documents.

Speaking of which, isn't there a patch for the stable version of OpenOffice.org that allows opening of .odt files? This isn't available for NeoOffice/J as far as I know.

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

dpete4552 (310481) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543072)

NeoOffice/J is not a Java application. Its use of Java is a hack to allow native OSX toolbars and such (e.g. the "File Edit..." not attached to the window). I believe it also uses Java as a way around the need for an X server. However, in and of itself, NeoOffice/J is not a Java application -- it is a natively compiled C++ program that at times piggybacks some of Java's features as an quick hack into some of OSX's features.

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

strcmp (908668) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543094)

Doesn't matter. Interface code is still code nonetheless.

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543195)

interface code shouldn't be having an effect on the speed of a backend type job such as a batch conversion.

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543198)

Judging by your nick and comments it looks like you're a C biggot.

Wtf does a java interface have to do with running a c++ routing to open and save a file? After you click ok java is out of the way until it prompts you it's done...

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543085)

...but the feature you mention took literally about 2 minutes just to convert just 3 of my Word files into .sxw (not OpenDocument .odt) with NeoOffice/J...

On a Pentium III 1.0GHz, 512MB RAM PC, running Fedora Core 4, and a beta of OpenOffice.org 2.0, I converted 18 documents in about one minute. Those documents ranged from 1 to 10 pages in length, and probably totalled ~30 pages.

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543076)

"Aren't you dying to know first hand if it's actually just that easy and we can all quit theorizing about how viable this whole thing is?"

Yes I am.
I think I might do this tonight.
Will be fun.
I will drink cola.

- Jesse McNelis

Re:cost of mass conversion could be 10ish clicks (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543089)

Sheesh.

1: Microsoft Word can do much the same thing. No, really. Go to a place with a bunch of files that MS can open, install the latest version of Office, and look in the templates & wizards.

2: The price of conversion is in the checking. It's trivial to convert a file from one format to another. It's non-trivial to check both files to ensure that no information was lost.

Long Road to Openness (4, Informative)

Feneric (765069) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542854)

Massachusetts has been going down this road a long time; it's not just something that appeared out of nowhere and they've already done some work weighing the various options. I don't think MS is going to be able to change things with FUD this late in the game.

It's worth noting that parts of Massachusetts have already changed over. Saugus [saugus.net] started going this route some years ago; you can see Saugus' official response to the state's announcement [saugus.net] or my entry in the Saugus blog discussing the same [livejournal.com].

Saugus has been pushing free and open software [saugus.net] since the mid to late '90s. Massachusetts developed an "open source trough" for use by all state departments a couple of years back. Switching to open formats is just a natural step along the path that Massachusetts has been heading for quite some time now.

Easy to understand (2, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542858)

Simply replace "Open Document Format" with ASCII and you will see clearly how rediculous the argument is from Microsoft. I know the analogy isn't perfect. Damn close, though.

Re:Easy to understand (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13542985)

I'd say you can replace "XML" with "ASCII" to get a perfect analogy. Either one can be used to implement both closed and open document formats.

GIVE ME LIBERTY, YO! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13542934)

GIVE ME LIBERTY, YO! [givemeliberty.org]

It's been 21 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment

Someone needs to Insert the Chair-Throwing Joke (5, Funny)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543002)

Ballmer: Just tell me it's not Open Office. It's not Open Office, is it?

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Yes.

(chair flies through air) CRASH....

Ballmer: I WILL KILL MOTHERFUCING OPEN OFFICE! WordPerfect tried to get me, but I fucked them one good. I will fucking kill Open Office.

Umm... (3, Interesting)

Takumi2501 (728347) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543032)

Somebody at one of those associations knows somebody who's on a mailing list with me and thus I got these talking points; I can't say for sure who wrote them, but I can guess. Let's give them a look, then walk through point by point.

Yep, nothing like first-hand information. So now, I've read this from a guy who posted an article based on information he got from a guy on a mailing list who knows a guy... I'm confused already.

I see that Microsoft reported 7.915 billion profit on $11.013 billion in revenues for "Information Worker" products (i.e. Office).

. . .

But (see previous discussion) there will also be some pay-offs; you take the pain now or you support a 72% profit margin forever.


This is rather trivial, but I should point out that profit margin is calculated as profit/cost (cost to the producer, not the consumer). The cost to the producer (Microsoft) would be their $10.013 billion in revenues, minus their $7.915 billion profit.

This makes for a profit margin of 255%. In other words, they're getting back more than 2-1/2x what their paying in. Not a bad return on investment, if you ask me.

It is trivial. It's also Business 101. (2, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 8 years ago | (#13543122)

Margin is profit/sales.

Markup is profit/cost.

ex. $1 items sells for $1.50. Margin is 0.50/1.50, or 33%. Markup is 0.50/1.00, or 50%. One cannot have a margin of more than 100%.

The original statement, that MS had a 72% margin, is correct.

This is high school business stuff.

Longivity (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543092)

MA was there 100 years ago and most likely will be around 100 years from now. What about Microsoft?

A modest proposal (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543093)

Why don't major buyers like MA just specify that all software where file portability is an issue (documents, spreadsheets, etc) save their files in a format that is a published specification that has no licensing fees for competitors???

I don't care if MS owns the spec for my document files as long as all competing products can open/save my files like they were native to that application.

IMHO portability is the most important issue here.

I'm inclined to agree (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543182)

IT WAS front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed. But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions.

No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's ''Piss Christ" -- a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on ''Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II.

There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah. And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred.

Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers -- ''They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols" -- was any reader surprised?

The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people. But the chorus of condemnation was directed not at the killers and the fanatics who incited them, but at Newsweek.

From the White House down, the magazine was slammed -- for running an item it should have known might prove incendiary, for relying on a shaky source, for its animus toward the military and the war. Over and over, Newsweek was blamed for the riots' death toll. Conservative pundits in particular piled on. ''Newsweek lied, people died" was the headline on Michelle Malkin's popular website. At NationalReview.com, Paul Marshall of Freedom House fumed: ''What planet do these [Newsweek] people live on? . . . Anybody with a little knowledge could have told them it was likely that people would die as a result of the article." All of Marshall's choler was reserved for Newsweek; he had no criticism at all for the marauders in the Muslim street.

Then there was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced at a Senate hearing that she had a message for ''Muslims in America and throughout the world." And what was that message? That decent people do not resort to murder just because someone has offended their religious sensibilities? That the primitive bloodlust raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan was evidence of the Muslim world's dysfunctional political culture?

No: Her message was that ''disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States."

Granted, Rice spoke while the rioting was still taking place and her goal was to reduce the anti-American fever. But what ''Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk. What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam. It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an ''insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to ''martyrdom."

But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion. It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to ''converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" -- and having only 50 people show up.

Yes, Islam is disrespected. That will only change when throngs of passionate Muslims show up for rallies against terrorism, and when rabble-rousers trying to gin up a riot over a defiled Koran can't get the time of day.

David Wheeler on Why OpenDoc Won (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13543184)

David Wheeler on why opendoc won: link [dwheeler.com]
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