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Open Standards Initiative Fails in Massachusetts

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the after-much-ado dept.

Microsoft 236

walterbyrd writes "Massachusetts has decided to use Microsoft's Open-XML standard. This decison: 'stands in sharp contrast to the positions taken by predecessor CIOs Peter Quinn and Louis Gutierrez, backed by then governor (and now-presidential hopeful) Mitt Romney. Both Quinn and Gutierrez insisted on including only "open standards" in the ETRM, and withstood significant pressure from Microsoft to give ground and accept OOXML...'"

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236 comments

Well, it took time... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099175)

I guess the good news is how long it took Microsoft to kill it. They are not as good as they used to be with the FUD.

Re:Well, it took time... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099365)

All I can hope for is that in {enter date of choice here} years time that all the docs in MA that were arcdhived in OOXML format become unreadable and totally useless as OOXML V25 (or whatver) drops support for V1.
Meanwhile those that were archived with other open (as well as properly documented) formats are still available to the masses.

Any organisation going for OOXML are just asking to get stuffed in the future. Microsoft could enforce DRM and other nasties on the users and then start charging for every access to the document even though the content might be your copyright, they hold the strings over the format.
Just like the Monks in the Middle Ages did paper books. Knowelege is POWER. Control of the access to the Knowelege is ABSOLUTE POWER

Just my warped $0.02 worth on this dark day.

Re:Well, it took time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099871)

All I can hope for is that in {enter date of choice here} years time that all the docs in MA that were arcdhived in OOXML format become unreadable and totally useless as OOXML V25 (or whatver) drops support for V1.

Meanwhile those that were archived with other open (as well as properly documented) formats are still available to the masses.


you mean the same way as such open standards as html haven't changed making old standards useless? yeah! get a life.

Re:Well, it took time... (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100841)

What precisely about the old versions of HTML make data stored on those formats inaccessable?

There's a considerable difference between being cool or being "the lastest and greatest" and being able to recover your data or convert it into new formats. Open standards are about being able to losslessly migrate your data from one platform to the next, not about whether or not a particular document standard supports the flavor of the month.

Given a document, and a description of the document format, you should be able to retrieve all information stored in that document without mangling the output in the process.

ASTROTURF ALERT!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100933)

oh, so now as long as it's readable by old software it's fine? pure astroturf.

"WinDOS: The nature of Microsoft engineering still resides within XP."

yeah, your bias isn't pronounced or anything. when you stop being an ms basher maybe we can take you seriously.

Re:ASTROTURF ALERT!!!! (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101239)

If the insult fits....

What is far worse than obvious bias is obvious lying.

What I advocated was documents that are fully and openly described. This doesn't mean that old software can access them. This means that any CIS student that cares to can write something to read those documents and to convert them into the "flavor of the month" format.

Saying that manure stinks is not bias.

Re:Well, it took time... (0)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100019)

I didn't realize it was impossible to archive the programs used to read the files as well. I'll make sure to go home and destroy my old copies of Office 4.0, Office 97, and Office 2000. Thanks for the heads up!

Re:Well, it took time... (2, Insightful)

blueskies (525815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100273)

You also didn't realize that Activation isn't going to work forever when you go to install. Don't worry, it's early in the morning.

Re:Well, it took time... (2, Insightful)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100747)

Corporate/government copies of Office don't go through activation. Nice try though.

Re:Well, it took time... (2, Insightful)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100297)

Okay, but how about you open up this document I have here that was saved with SpeedScript on my C64 17 years ago?

Who's to say that Windows in 20 years will run Office 97, if it still exists?

Are you telling me that we're also supposed to "archive" all the old computer systems that rely on those closed document formats, too? What happens when those documents aren't just on CD's, but on sophisticated document imaging systems? Should we archive the entire data center, including hardware, every six years?

Dumbass.

Re:Well, it took time... (1)

timrichardson (450256) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100537)

Some people invest thousands of dollars in beautiful dinner sets. Over time, things break, and sometimes manufacturers stop making certain patterns, so when you want to buy a replacement sugar bowl, too bad. The market has a solution: there are companies that specialise in old, out of production pieces (they stockpile when manufacturers give end of life notice). Of course, they charge for it.
It is easy to imagine virtual machine specialists who run virtual versions of old operating systems and architectures. Personally, I hope that public libraries (or museums) will also provide something like this, but I don't fear a lack of reasonable affordable private enterprise solutions.

Since I can run various Sinclair Spectrum emulators in Java, including archives of many games, I am sure that you can easily find a C64 emulator.

Re:Well, it took time... (0)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100939)

Okay, but how about you open up this document I have here that was saved with SpeedScript on my C64 17 years ago?
Boot up your C64? If you didn't save your copy of SpeedScript then that's your own fault, isn't it?

Who's to say that Windows in 20 years will run Office 97, if it still exists?
Amazingly, I still have my Windows 3.1 disks, Windows 95 and Win2k CDs as well.

Are you telling me that we're also supposed to "archive" all the old computer systems that rely on those closed document formats, too? What happens when those documents aren't just on CD's, but on sophisticated document imaging systems? Should we archive the entire data center, including hardware, every six years?
Maybe it's just my current employer...but yes, we have old computer systems. We call it legacy hardware, and we keep a few around just in case. If the old stuff can't be easily converted to the new stuff, we have something to fall back on (i.e., if V25 of ooxml doesn't support V1, there'd still be a Win XP box floating around.)

Re:Well, it took time... (4, Insightful)

dup_account (469516) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100333)

Ummmm, you obviously are over simplifying the issue. Mass needs to make these documents available to more than one person, potentially sending them out to outside people and organizations. Does this mean that M$ will be giving them open licenses so they can send the appropriate version of Office out along with the documents?

The point of using standards is so that whatever software is being used in 10-20 years should still be able to read the documents from today. Yes standards will evolve, but the really good ones still find (and were designed originally) a way to maintain compatibility.

It is kind of pathetic that you feel its acceptable to keep old copies of all that software? Please tell me you are also keeping machines/windows versions around that will still run the software. I would chuckle when you found out that Vista no longer runs Office 3.0 that you have so carefully kept (but not windows 95).

Re:Well, it took time... (1)

Multiplet_Higgs (1131235) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100425)

Hope you're including a copy of the relevant version of Windows and a virtual machine that will run it in that archive

Re:Well, it took time... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100783)

And do you want to archive a stack of old computers capable of running these old programs too?
Or rely on a bunch of emulators?

"FUD" vs. Corruption (4, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099411)

This can hardly be called FUD. They destroyed at least one man's career in government -- probably two mens'. Who knows what else they did to get this through, and head off a pan-american shift away from MS products.

Re:"FUD" vs. Corruption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100729)

Microsoft's products are hokey and poorly behaved...that being said can we please stop with the Peter Quinn/Jesus Christ comparisons? Peter Quinn doesn't have a job in government because he fundamentally misunderstands that government cannot and should not behave as a private sector corporation, specifically, being a CIO in government does not mean you are king of all you survey, it's about consensus building, which is the same playing field the rest of the country's CIOs are on...and while we're at it, can you explain why being a shill for CA and IBM is better than being a Microsoft toadie? Peter's self-righteous bleating has another name...hypocrisy...thanks to him Massachusetts now has five million reasons we can't punt our CA shrinkwrap into the Chelsea creek...

Re:Well, it took time... (1)

Peer (137534) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099677)

I guess the good news is how long it took Microsoft to kill it. They are not as good as they used to be with the FUD.

Great! It will take a lot less time next time. They'll just say: 'Look at how deliberated Massachusetts decided to go for OOXML!' (probably in proper english)

Re:Well, it took time... (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100147)

MSFT never used FUD alone in these, they always used some type of bribe. Bribes like reduced cost for a site license and other tactics that convince the key people that they need to re evaluate their position.

I have seen it locally, Microsoft "donated" a site license to their entire suite of software including the Visual studio products to my daughters school to squash the linux+Open Office conversion. They eliminated the cost savings that the board was able to understand the most. and that was it. Project killed completely, not even a handful of linux boxes were allowed in the lab per an agreement.

Just goes to show... (4, Insightful)

StringBlade (557322) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099191)

...that undoubtedly business and politics are tangled together in a bed of money.

Does this really come as a surprise that a change in regime would change the direction of a major initiative? I think we've seen this many times before, not the least of which being the Microsoft antitrust trial. When the old boss moves out, the new boss moves in, waves his hands, and changes the playing field yet again.

*sigh*

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099467)

When the old boss moves out, the new boss moves in, waves his hands, and changes the playing field


I think you meant "...waves his new puppet's hands..."

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099565)

The interesting thing here is that Romney's the Republican and Patrick's the Democrat. This state is seriously fucked up. OTOH, at least it ain't Texas.

Re:Just goes to show... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099707)

The decisions were made by the state CIO's office and I doubt that either Romney or Patrick cared enough to intervene, although of course they could have.

Once the administration turned over, you can bet that lobbyists representing companies like Microsoft are quick to wine and dine the new guys in the state agencies they'd being having problems with. Perhaps we could get to know you better, Mr. ---, if you'll agree to meet us at Fenway Park when the Yankees are in town? We have some excellent seats on the third base side.

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100135)

What's wrong is that a change in the executive trickled down to technical positions like the CIO.

Maybe some mechanism that forces changes in technical positions inside a state to be approved by the legislative would help in this.

Re:Just goes to show... (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099599)

Ya gotta love government corruption! The bottom line here, folks, is that we're getting a view of exactly how ugly politics and business are here in the United States. Because the tech journals have been covering this topic under a microscope, we see what the true stripes of government look like, from our own geek perspectives.

If you think it's just Microsoft, you're sadly mistaken. Most big corporations participate in this sort of shenanigans, and it plays into every law that gets passed and every candidate that gets elected.

Not to worry too much, though. The revolution will come soon enough. (No, it won't be me starting it, nor do I know who it will be, so back off Carnivore/Echelon/whatever)

Re:Just goes to show... (3, Interesting)

donaldm (919619) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100041)

I don't think we can call this "government corruption" although we may like to believe it because this is a very serious charge and if proven and a conviction is made then someone is looking at a serious fine or jail time. Like it or not Microsoft or any viable company has to work within the constraints of the countries laws, however a powerful company also has a "group" of lawyers on retainer who will have insight into that countries laws and can use this knowledge to benefit that company without actually breaking the law.

It may surprise many but many high level managers actually like and respect Microsoft and actually think they are doing the right thing to recommend Microsoft products. Most managers rarely look at the moral aspect of a company although in a twist many managers think that their company must be "a paragon of virtue" and employees are encouraged (well maybe told) to take "Standards of Business Conduct" courses within the organisation. I am quite sure that Microsoft insists their employees do this as well but when it comes to sales then as long as the law is not actually broken then to them this is "normal business practice" and "morals and integrity" fly out the window.

I would hazard a guess that while Microsoft is worried about the adoption of Open Source around the world it would be pulling out all stops without actually breaking the law to prevent any US state or council from taking up Open Source. So it is not surprising to me that Massachusetts now has the "right" people pushing for a Microsoft "proprietry" Standard under the guise of being open. After all the people pushing for this may genuinely believe (cough!) they are doing the right thing.

Corruption (2, Insightful)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100539)

I don't think we can call this "government corruption" although we may like to believe it because this is a very serious charge and if proven and a conviction is made then someone is looking at a serious fine or jail time. Like it or not Microsoft or any viable company has to work within the constraints of the countries laws, however a powerful company also has a "group" of lawyers on retainer who will have insight into that countries laws and can use this knowledge to benefit that company without actually breaking the law.
Corruption is entirely appropriate, because it is a moral, rather than a legal charge.

Forcing out two capable employees that stood in Microsoft's way is clear subversion of supposedly representative government.

Re:Just goes to show... (1)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101277)

It isn't corruption, but it is an example of government making decisions based on what they have heard, and in politics a lot of money can buy you a lot of exposure. Politicians at best can be knowledgeable in maybe one or two subjects. They rely on their aids, industry and their constituents to tell them what they should be thinking on issues outside of their expertise. A vocal minority can have an impact, but it needs to be grassroots, loud, and focussed on a specific easily understood message. If everyone in Massachusetts had written a letter in support of odf, then Microsoft wouldn't have won, no matter how much money they threw at it. But most people just didn't care enough, or didn't understand enough to make a difference.

Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099203)

is no substitute for actually getting up off your fat ass and voting and making your voice heard to the state governments?

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099393)

Shut it, you're ruining my plan for world domination.

-Cowboy 'W' Neal

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099515)

But open standards for state documents is not a campaign issue. I don't see how my vote has any influence over it.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (2)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099815)

But open standards for state documents is not a campaign issue. I don't see how my vote has any influence over it.
Budget, government efficiency, consumer choice are not campaign issues? Your vote has no influence unless you let your representatives know how you will use it...and then follow through at the next election. Then after the election let the winner and loser know why you voted for/against them.

When enough people do that, real change will take place.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099931)

Budget, government efficiency, consumer choice are not campaign issues?

to a statistically significant percentage of the voting population, the answer appears to be "no".

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100227)

The other reply to you has it right. The sad fact is, all of those IMPORTANT issues you mentioned fly right out the f---'n window as soon as one of the candidates says "gay marriage".

I'm a MA resident, it's useless, the vast majority of the voting public here, just like all over the US, is mostly concerned with one or two polarizing issues that really do nothing to shape how the actual government will be run here. Open formats? Hah! I doubt even 2% of the people I see in a day know about the issue, let alone care about it, even though it's THEIR tax dollars being spent(wasted) on closed MS products that lock our own government's files away from us.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100861)

That is the difference between a Democracy and a Representative Republic. Being a republic gives huge amounts of powers to those who are elected. And minority issues like this are never really addressed.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100187)

It will be if you ask your candidates about their positions. It's not their fault not to have a position on something few people care about.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100229)

You need to open your wallet, and make a campaign contribution to someone who actually has a chance of winning. Then when you send hand written letters making an issue of it. One nerd isn't going to make that much of a difference, but several hundred nerds who are also campaign contributers will. You just have to put your money where your mouth it and get other other like minded geeks to do the same.

Or you can whine on /. about the 2 party system being unfair and keep supporting the libs.

hehe (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099805)

Actually, i'm sitting in Hungary where there was a recent raid against the local M$ crime gang. But, Slashdot users just fired cheap jokes about hungary/hungry.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

drawfour (791912) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099827)

We're all waiting for Internet-based voting to become popular so we don't have to get off our fat asses. Then we won't vote using that because we'll bitch about how it's not secure and everything.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

wilder_card (774631) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100075)

So who says we can't do both? Of course, for this I'd have to move to Massachusetts, and I'm not THAT committed.

Re:Wait..So Sitting Around Posting On Slashdot... (1)

xfmr_expert (853170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100247)

Ah, but it isn't that simple. Take for example a race for state Governor. We have two, maybe 3 candidates to choose from. Each have positions on an array of issues that we care about. Most likely, our opinions will not perfectly align with any single candidate. This means we have to choose which issues are most important to us and pick the lesser of two evils. So, there very well may be people who voted for the current administration in MA, knew about the office format issue, but had to pick the lesser of two evils.

Massachusetts (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099233)

Home to gay marriage, and now gay standards. Congratulations.

Re:Massachusetts (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100279)

Except the first one is a good thing, the later one isn't.

Of course gay people shall be allowed to get married if they want to, why not? The spaghetti monster will get upset of some male to male or female to female love?

Re:Massachusetts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100399)

The spaghetti monster won't get upset because he's gay too. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Nothing like the color of money.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099247)

Well, I'm sure the decision will be welcomed by the sponsors. The problem is, the original decision has already sparked somewhat of an avalanche and even the "after the facts", "standard that isn't" OOXML will not halt it. Given the kind of tricks MS had to pull out of its hat to make this reversal happen there is scope for some good digging by the assorted press.

Unless they want to keep their advertising..

Actually... (5, Insightful)

bomanbot (980297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099255)

if you read TFA it says that they are including both ODF and Open XML as acceptable document formats.

So while the original intention to only include really open formats is regrettably given up (curiously by an interim CIO, why does he decide that if he is only a temporary hire?), it is not like ODF got dumped for the Microsoft format.

Re:Actually... (5, Insightful)

visualight (468005) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099533)

what?

By including a non-open format they are locked in to MS products. Not being locked in was the point of the entire endeavor.

Re:Actually... (1)

slobarnuts (666254) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099545)

Comeon man, your ruin peoples perceptions, which i am pretty sure go a little something like this: The Microsoft guy strolls into the interimOs office with a wad of cash, waves his hand in the jedi mind trick motion, and says 'You will not reject OOXML' to which the response was 'I will not reject OOXML'.

Oh wait, i was supposed to compare Microsoft to Darth Vader or something. So the Microsoft guy strolls into the office 'I find your lack of faith disturbing' then goes all Force Choke on him.

Star wars aside, most people on here, as well as Microsoft as 'OMG TEH EVIL BIG BROTHER' faceless Corp. view these MS vs Open Source Alternatives wars as Zero-Sum. I cant blame anyone on the "moral high ground" -I quoted this from the article-, for taking this poorly. Once Microsoft has its foot in the door it tends to push the opposition out the window. But we will see how it goes.

Re:Actually... (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099665)

it is not like ODF got dumped for the Microsoft format.
Nor was Netscape dumped when IE first came out.

[ The Ring Bell sounds. Ding! Ding! Ding! ]

Announcer - "In this corner, wearing gold pants with horseshoes in gloves, Red Mond."
Announcer - "And in this corner, wearing tattered hemp woven underwear lined with crotch protectant kevlar plating, Odie Eff."
Announcer - "May the best format win. Fight!"

Hey, you can't blame the fighters either way. We the fans, in large part, put them there. Personally, I smoke my macanudos in the bleachers for the undercard - Gah Nome vs. Katie Eee. That's where the real blood is at baby.

Re:Actually... (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099679)

Then it means open standards initiative has failed, so the summary and title are right, two standards is the most stupid thing ever done, congratulations Massachusetts!

Re:Actually... (1)

bomanbot (980297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100005)

Then it means open standards initiative has failed, so the summary and title are right, two standards is the most stupid thing ever done, congratulations Massachusetts!


No, the summary is not right, although the title is correct the Open Standards Initiative has failed. Look, I despise Microsofts business practices as much as the next slashdotter and I think the decision is stupid and especially shortsighted because as the article says, they did not wait about a month to see whether OOXML would really be approved as an ECMA Standard, they just assumed it would and so included it on their belief alone.

So is the decision in Massachusetts premature? Sure, only a month of waiting would have made every doubt about an standards-approved OOXML disappear (whether it gets approved or not).

Is it stupid to just give up the Open Standards position just on good faith that Microsoft will make the cut? You Betcha.

Does it smell fishy that the interim CIO gives up a position his precedessors defended for two years all of a sudden? Definitely.

Is the summary right that Massacusetts chose OOXML? Well, no because ODF is still an accepted format. Of course that will open a whole new can of worms (that whole two standards thingie), but technically ODF did not get dumped in favour of OOXML, which is all I was saying...

It could all still change... (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099273)

...if it's rejected as an ISO standard, there is plenty of room for rejecting the present acceptance.

But that said, I am admittedly ignorant of any appeals or reapplication processes that Microsoft would undoubtedly pay... err, uh attempt.

Nutrasweet was rejected multiple time until the company that makes it put someone into the FDA office that would approve it. ("No, we reject it because it's poison... we reject it because it's poison... oh okay, we no longer 'feel' it's poison...") OOXML was rejected by two or three parties in a position to do so (depending on how you count them) until finally, Microsoft got someone in office that they could bend to their will.

This is "competition in the market place?!" This is "innovation!?"

I'd like to hear from Microsoft apologists why they think this is an ethical and acceptable way to do business.

Re:It could all still change... (2, Insightful)

debrain (29228) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099901)

I'd like to hear from Microsoft apologists why they think this is an ethical and acceptable way to do business.

I'm no MS apologist, but some might argue that this is "ethical" because the populace is too weak, uneducated, and disorganized to stand up and cry foul. A population that lacks the will to assert its rights neither deserves nor receives them. The masses, through their own ignorance, get what peanuts they deserve. And a company, through its successful organization and exertion of will over the public offices, gets what it deserves, too.

I'm sure someone can phrase that much better. I don't buy into this argument at all, but I'm sure someone out there will argue it (there's always one ... haha).

Re:It could all still change... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100725)

"the populace is too weak, uneducated, and disorganized to stand up and cry foul"

The populace has better things to do, and more important (like family, jobs and so on) to care about something as trivial as formats. Who cares? Only stupid, unwashed nerds reeking of shit.

We have other priorities. You do not, because you don't have a life. Keep wasting it, it's not like you can get a real one anyway.

Now shove a knife into your throat and twist sideways hard. One less lowlife nerdo.

Re:It could all still change... (2, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101019)

No, "everyone else" doesn't care because whenever their PC's implode due to the sort of crap using programs like msword causes, they just bring them over to my house so I can clean them up for free. Let's just say that among other things, we are all tired of cleaning up after other people's unwillingess to put as much thought into their Computer purchasing decisions as they might put into deciding which detergent to buy.

Do they take my advice and just go to the Apple Store. Nevermind actually buying anything. Will they actually just take a look. Nevermind 'sticking a toe in the pond'. They won't even enter the state park so they can even get a gander at the pond.

Re:It could all still change... (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100211)

Do you got a link/source/referense who tells the story about rejection and why? For NutraSweet that is.

Re:It could all still change... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100577)

http://aspartamekills.com/ [aspartamekills.com]

Dig around in there. You'll find some history about how it got approved. Would you believe that even in matters such as this, Donald Rumsfeld had something to do with it?

Some people wouldn't be surprised, but I'm still awed how so many of these sorts of stories have so many of the same players involved.... so much so that it becomes increasingly difficult not to buy into conspiracies and such.

My usual snide remark ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099303)

They have the best politicians money can buy.

What can I say? (1, Interesting)

nutshell42 (557890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099307)

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
Aha-ahaaa
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world.

Lobbying: Providing the best government money can pay.

So, um... (1)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099327)

One could say this was Mass(ive) fail?

Not really (2, Informative)

l33t.g33k (903780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099801)

Well, it's not really a massive failure, nor is it a massive success. The article says that Massachusetts has now approved both MS Open XML and OASIS OpenDocument (ODF). Hence, ODF is not dead in Massachusetts. But the issue is that they initially were resisting Open XML (in Aug. 2005), but have now caved in.

Small consolation and the silver lining ... (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099367)

... is that, this scrape has raised the profile and visibility of the importance of document formats and vendor lock. Many people in power are now more aware of these issues.

How much can MSFT charge for MS-Office? It can price it just a shade under what it would cost you to switch to an alternative. Your switching cost determines the money you need to pay to MSFT. If a company wants to lower the money it pays, it has to lower the switching costs. Slowly ODF will gain acceptance.

Also the ODF proponents should realize that the total money collected by MSFT is just 40 billion dollars. I say just because, for the amount of money corporate America is spending, it is not much. For most companies their core operation is transportation or retail or selling insurance or whatever. Compared to the health insurance, labour costs, office building maintenance and rent, advertising expenses, the amount they spend on Office software is a pittance. As long as MSFT keeps prices that low, it is difficult for ODF to gain traction.

The switch will be very very gradual initially. First companies for whom office software costs is a significant portion of their operating expenses. Then slowly it will spread to other companies. We should not expect any quick victories. Then once the alternative formats have gained enough critical mass, and the backward compatibility issues have become less of an issue, there would be quick upsurge for ODF. But still MSFT will have a significant market share in office software for a long time to come.

Re:Small consolation and the silver lining ... (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099829)

Yeah, people in power will now ask for fatter bribes. But it won't change anything as we all eventually pay the microsoft tax.

Re:Small consolation and the silver lining ... (2, Insightful)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100359)

You make very good points about how the adoption of ODF might take place, the problem is your model assumes MS's position and influence remains static during all those steps, which it won't. We've seen that MS will lobby, lie, bribe, etc to get what it wants. At every step of your theoretical adoption chain MS will find ways to disrupt it further. Like you said, it's often about price for companies, but I don't doubt that if it came down to it MS would cannibalize some of its Office profits to keep its monopoly in Office. After all, if everyone you do business with can only handle MS formats, then that's what your business is forced to use. MS will probably do something like subsidize those businesses for whom the cost of switching to OO is actually viable.

I guess I'm being fatalist, but I think my point is that the "wait and see, adoption will come gradually on its own" approach is going to need much more support from the community if we're actually going to affect any change on a large scale.

Re:Small consolation and the silver lining ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100693)

I think you're being a little optimistic. Its very difficult for anything to become a standard "gradually". The problem is that standards are a catch-22; no-one wants to use a file format if there is no wide-spread use/compatibility, and it won't become widespread unless people use it. This is analagous to how video game companies don't make video games for systems unless there is a large market, and there is no large market without the games.

Unless ODF gains market-share rapidly and over a wide area, it won't be used at all.

Government is the wrong power of choice (0, Redundant)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099417)

They should have taken a vote on what people wanted.

Re:Government is the wrong power of choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099745)

So you think Joe and Jane Average really care about document formats? They just want to click on their docs and read them. Format? What format?

Re:Government is the wrong power of choice (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099917)

Further, he is implying that Microsoft will be less able to slant the media or buy off people than the government?

And in other news... (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099577)

Government decision is corrupted and bought by money from big corporation.

Hang on, maybe that's this news!

Chocolate Gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099579)

Somebody give Bill Gates a chocolate gun. Call Jack Handy out of retirement to do it.

Report from Switzerland (Meeting of SNV/UK14) (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099653)

Just yesterday I was sitting in the relevant meeting of SNV/UK14 (http://www.snv.ch/), that decides how Switzerland will vote. The chairman (Hans-Rudolf Thomann) explained the following rules:
- we are here to create standards, not to reject them
- if we reach consensus (>=75%) to vote for Microsoft, we will vote for Microsoft
- if we only reach a majority (>=50%) to vote for Microsoft, we will vote for Microsoft
- if we reach a majority to vote against Microsoft, we will vote for Microsoft
- if we reach consensus to vote against Microsoft, we will abstain

The present spin doctors of Microsoft and ECMA managed to convince Mr. Thomann to reject every serious technical and general concern we had regarding OOMXL by pointing to compatibility reasons. At the end we had a majority _against_ Microsoft but which (giving the unfair rules) results in a Swiss vote _for_ Microsoft. Mr. Thomann was fretting and fuming at the end of the meeting how it can be that successful international companies (we had representatives from IBM, Google, ...) vote against the best interest of their customers and theirself!

Yes, this is how the democratic system at SNV / ISO works. After the meeting I could not eat as much as I wanted to puke...

Posted as AC for obvious reasons

Re:Report from Switzerland (Meeting of SNV/UK14) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099941)

What's the consequence to have OOXML become an swiss standard?

Re:Report from Switzerland (Meeting of SNV/UK14) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099991)

Another excuse for lazy Swiss organizations to stay in the Microsoft trap and pull others with them.

Re:Report from Switzerland (Meeting of SNV/UK14) (2, Informative)

Benanov (583592) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100329)

Don't tell us. Tell NoOOXML.org.

I think this sort of thing needs to be brought into the bright spotlight and the corruption exposed.

Not a terrible outcome (3, Interesting)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099791)

OK, so they allow the use of either ODF or Open XML - at least simple programs can extract text and style data form both formats. I blogged recently about how I prefer ODF, and included a little Ruby program to process ODF files:

http://markwatson.com/blog/2007/05/why-odf-is-bett er-than-microsofts.html [markwatson.com]

and one of my readers pointed out that by changing a line or two of my code, that Open XML could be processed in the same way - I stand corrected.

Still, I am a member of the ODF Foundation, and don't like Microsoft's heavy handed actions. I sold all of my Microsoft stock a few years ago specifically because I did not like their proprietary file format lockins. I use both Open Source and proprietary software - I have no problem with people (including myself) buying Microsoft products except for their use of proprietary formats: hurts users and could cause expensive data loss now and in the future.

If Microsoft perfectly supported ODF in their release of Mac Office next year, I would buy a copy - but slap on plugins don't count here: I would require perfect native support.

Re:Not a terrible outcome (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100477)

>and one of my readers pointed out that by changing a line or two of my code, that Open XML could be
>processed in the same way - I stand corrected.

Then let's watch him do it. The objections to OOXML center around that fact that it's not really open, and that the significant information is buried in blobs and cruft.

IMHO the real task is to put tools out there to access and manipulate ODF data, making life easier for people. Then let the challenge become getting the equivalent done with OOXML. That's really what this is all about - access to data. At present the "tool of choice" for data access is MS Office, but the ability to script data access with ODF makes this look like a sysadmin problem, GUI single-system admin vs scripted multi-system admin.

Use ODF to make peoples' lives easier. If OOXML can't work this way, since we don't believe the "standard" is complete/workable, it will show.

Not Quite So Cut And Dry (5, Funny)

Arccot (1115809) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099855)

It's sad so many people instantly think "corruption" when the government makes a decision they don't agree with. Isn't it possible Microsoft made a better case for their standard? A decision like this is like a civil court case, the person with the best argument wins.

Of the top of my head, I can think of a few reasons lawmakers (from their perspective) might want to use Microsoft's standard before any others:

1. Microsoft is a very large, very well known company. They will be around for a very long time to support any of their formats.

2. Microsoft creates a lot of jobs.

3. Most government offices use Microsoft Office on Microsoft Windows for word processing, so Microsoft is the best format to use since the government is already integrated with their products.

This is probably what the politicians were thinking about, and from that perspective, Microsoft looks like the right choice. Most decisions in government are not bought and sold, they are negotiated based on the better argument.

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (2, Insightful)

lilomar (1072448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20099873)

Microsoft looks like the right choice. Most decisions in government are not bought and sold, they are negotiated based on the better argument.
Mod parent Funny!

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (2, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100001)

Most decisions in government are not bought and sold, they are negotiated based on the better argument.

This must be the single funniest thing ever posted on /. What a wonderful utopia it evokes!

TWW

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100153)

What, you mean money isn't an argument? ;)

Remember, these are politicians we're talking about. Bought and Sold are such dirty words that they're bound to find other words (much like it's a "campaign donation" or an "unconnected personal gift" rather than a bribe)

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20100521)

If a water company made a better case for leaving arsenic in the water supply,
would that be OK, too?

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (1)

Cathbard (954906) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100845)

What the hell has the size of the company that invented a format got to do with standards? Once it's adopted as a standard it is set in stone and the origin of the format is irrelevant. The reason people cry corruption is because it has become so common for decisions to be influenced by lobby groups that present rationalisations (erm, sorry - "arguments") to justify indulging their particular financial interests. How are political donations different from simply handing a sack full of money under the table? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck.........

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (1)

theOakwise (788892) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101151)

It's sad so many people instantly think "corruption" when the government makes a decision they don't agree with. Isn't it possible Microsoft made a better case for their standard? A decision like this is like a civil court case, the person with the best argument wins.

Of the top of my head, I can think of a few reasons lawmakers (from their perspective) might want to use Microsoft's standard before any others:

1. Microsoft is a very large, very well known company. They will be around for a very long time to support any of their formats.
And, of course, ODF will dissappear tomorrow. Anyone with experience with different versions of MS Office knows that MS doesn't have a great track record with format backwards-compatibility. Will their standard change this? Who knows?

2. Microsoft creates a lot of jobs.
Oh really? How many? Where? Do you have corroborating evidence for this, or are you just guessing?

3. Most government offices use Microsoft Office on Microsoft Windows for word processing, so Microsoft is the best format to use since the government is already integrated with their products.
I.e. vendor lock in. Standards are meant to allow competition by preventing lock-in, not encouraging it. You may be right in that this may have indeed been what the politicians are thinking, but to me it's more a cry to educate our politicians (I'll allow the "negotiated instead of bought" for the sake of argument, but it's a crock), it has nothing to do with MS being the better choice.

Re:Not Quite So Cut And Dry (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101159)

Considering that the basic sequence here was....

1) The technical expert in Mass makes a technical desicsion based on business requirements.
2) Microsoft complains because it's not in their interests.
3) Politicians start to meddle on Microsoft's behalf
4) The original technical expert is fired by the politicians.
5) Microsoft gets his way.

What could possibly NOT be corrupt about that?

Mass. is a BIG customer with certain business requirements. The vendor (Microsoft) should be bending over backwards to do what the customer wants, not abusing the political process to avoid doing what the customer wants. Microsoft does this to avoid weakening it's monopoly position which should have been eliminated by the Sherman Act anyways.

Microsoft should have no problem satisfying the actual business requirements of it's big customer.

In the end, all that really matters are the business requirements and Microsoft refuses to satisfy them. In a genuine free market, Microsoft should have been shown the door. Period.

Those who fail to study history are doomed to repe (2, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101229)

That's why the majority of people in the US still travel by rail and use AT&T phone service, right?

1. The Pennsylvania Railroad (or insert your favorite) is a very large, very well known company. They will be around for a very long time to support any of their formats (passenger and freight service).

2. They create a lot of jobs

3. Most government offices travel by rail (or they did), so rail travel is the best format to use since the government is already integrated with their products.

That would still probably hold true if the government didn't look at the monopolistic like power of the railroads after WWII and encourage alternative travel methods by building highways and airports to encourage growth and even more jobs.

The same could be argued for phone service from AT&T at one time everybody had them, so using the same logic, we should all still have them, since we were already integrated with their products and system. Again, the government stepped in and recognized that a monopoly wasn't the best solution for growth and now there are even more jobs and choices.

In Massachusetts, it was the monopoly that stepped in and realized that choice was not in the best interest for its own growth and changed the political process.

Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20099923)

The true situation is that Microsoft fought off an attempt by IBM, FOSS activists and others to exclude Microsoft from bidding on government contracts. I point this out since it is typically Microsoft charged with this offence.

Re:Reality (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20101195)

Microsoft could have adapted their software to fit the business requirements.

Microsoft could have adapted their software to fit the business requirements.

If "play nice" constitutes a poison pill then Microsoft SHOULD be excluded from government contracts.

The title of the post misrepresents the facts (2, Funny)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100327)

In the article is clearly states:

Therefore, we will be moving forward to include both ODF and Open XML as acceptable document formats.


The Open Standards initiative didn't "Fail" it became more open (IMO). Including both formats and letting users choose seems quite reasonable.

Re:The title of the post misrepresents the facts (2, Insightful)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100983)

hello? we're talking about standards here. choice is the wrong things. choice is bad. let me explain why.

what happens if a large company suggests that we don't just measure capacitance in farrad but also in #madeUpNameOfNewUnit? what's the point? people would have to learn, adopt and support it, all of which costs money and muddies the issue.

odf is already the standard for document exchange. we don't need and shouldn't have a second one.

if you combine this with the fact that you are not free to support and implement microsoft's ooxml standard, the whole thing just becomes ridiculous. what would the electrics company be told if they went before a standards committee saying "yes, the #madeUpNameOfNewUnit is just as good as the farrad, and if people pay us so much money they will be allowed to use it. conversion to the farrad is however never going to work 100%"? they'd be laughed out and with good reason.

this whole debate is utterly pointless and just shows how corrupt the system it. it is really inexcusable.

Hardly surprising (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20100549)

No matter how disappointing, it's not really surprising. Elected representatives aren't famous either for understanding technology or for being independent of commercial pressures.
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