Bloggers on Mass/MS flap

Here are some news and blog perspectives on the showdown between Massachusetts and Microsoft over the state's insistence on the Open Document format.

Here are some news and blog perspectives on the showdown between Massachusetts and Microsoft over the state's insistence on the Open Document format.

ZDNet UK: "In the end, Microsoft has a simple choice: it either adopts the industry standard or gets locked out. It may not like this — it prefers to use this logic to cow its competitors — but it should have no reason to avoid a level playing field. Quite the opposite; in so doing, it will prove that it doesn't seek to manipulate the market by brute force. All such criticisms removed, attention will fall instead on the quality and value for money propositions in its products — something that any competent company should only encourage. We're certainly open to that."

Stephen O'Grady, software analyst: "The importance here is more symbolic than anything, of course. While Massachusetts is undoubtedly a sizable contract for Microsoft, the revenue is incidental to the big picture: a sizable win in the US for the ODF. As many purveyors of alternative desktop or office productivity tools can tell you, traction for their products have been good to great in various geographies abroad, but far less impressive here in the United States. That's attributable to a variety of factors: some technical, some political, some economic, but the net of it is that the US market has been a difficult one to crack. With a state of Massachusetts' economic and political significance mandating standardization on an open standard currently not supported by Microsoft Office, however, it's interesting to speculate on how long the market will remain similarly impenetrable."

John Patrick, former IBM exec: Microsoft also says it plans an XML approach for documents in the next release of MS Office and that it will be superior to OpenDocument. It likely will be superior. Excel is superior to the OpenOffice spreadsheet ... A company with the resources of Microsoft can bury us in features. ... There are two questions. Do standards matter? Does the "superior" feature-set that MS Office provides matter?

IBM learned this lesson the hard way. In the mid-1980's the United States government began to issue requests for proposals which included a restriction that any proposed solution must operate on Unix. At the time, Unix was not used much in the corporate world where IBM gained most of it's business so the company ignored the RFP's that required Unix. The government argued that Unix was going to be the standard for all government IT and that it was important because all agencies and departments could more easily share software and data. IBM argued that it's mainframe solutions were more robust, more scaleable, and easier to manage. After losing a lot of government business, IBM started taking Unix seriously and introduced AIX which went on to become very prevalent in not only government but also in financial services and other corporate sectors. IBM saw the light and began a transformation toward open industry standards and today is a model for leadership in Linux (the most popular flavor of Unix) and in collaborative innovation (see Irving's blog). 

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