And it has inspired Bob Sutor, IBM's Vice President for Standards and Open Source, to caution vendors against obstinacy in the face of the drive to open standards. Sutor says the Massachusetts decision should be taken as a warning sign for vendors. He says the decision should be seen as emblematic of the fact that consumers, or customers, are beginning to assert much greater control than vendors are used to, and that vendors, who have frequently used proprietary document and data formats to lock in customers, will have to respond.Oh, please. As I pointed out in this post below, XML is not enough. It's the vocabulary that matters most. Back in the early days of XML, when everyone was running off half cocked
'Vendors, whether IBM or any other company, now have to be far more responsive to the mandates of government and these companies,' Sutor says.
Microsoft reportedly declared itself a 'bit stunned' over the Massachusetts decision, with Brian Jones, a program manager in Office calling the results 'unnecessarily exclusive' in his blog. The company has also consistently insisted its support of XML in Office and other products shows that it too, favours open formats for data interoperability and the archiving of public records.
And it has said it doesn't believe the public sector should force a single document format on its agencies, especially one that may be less functional than what they are already using. A spokeswoman recently warned Massachusetts that as various file formats, such as those for documents, photos, video and audio files, become more intertwined, it would be a mistake to support OpenDocument and not other XML schemas for different file formats.Right, it shouldn't force a single format on its agencies... Can't you just feel the irony in that statement?
The "less functional" meme is one that simply doesn't fly. The vast majority of users don't use the vast majority of obscure, yet continually accreting functional bloat. That just makes the software more complicated to use and less likely to run on older systems. This latter point is an important one for governments because they are more likely to be in the unenviable position of having to live with out-dated equipment than those of us in the private sector. When was the last time your local school board systematically replaced all of its aging classroom PCs with brand-spanking new, top of the line high-performance desktops with the latest OS? Think about that for a moment.
Yet as a number of bloggers have pointed out, government officials in Massachusetts, Europe, and elsewhere have repeatedly warned the company to stop posturing and instead address customers' calls for unrestricted interoperability. Now there are signs many other governments are paving the way for adoption of XML-based office formats, which is likely to drive the rest of the industry to follow suit. This has led to speculation that Microsoft might end up being stuck with a proprietary format no-one wants to use.+1
Sutor says IBM is 'very much in favour' of the decision by Massachusetts to use the OASIS OpenDocument format for all interactions with the State from January 1 2007, believing it will give it a way to maintain its history while interacting with its citizens in a way that doesn't require them to purchase an application from a particular vendor.