Massachusetts vs. Microsoft (The Dan & David Show)

Massachusetts vs. Microsoft (The Dan & David Show)

Summary: In this latest episode of the Dan & David Show, we discuss how Microsoft lost its battle, at least for now, with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over whether Office file formats are open enough to be included in the state's Enterprise Technical Reference Model, which favors the OpenDocument Format (ODF).

TOPICS: Microsoft

In this latest episode of the Dan & David Show, we discuss how Microsoft lost its battle, at least for now, with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over whether Office file formats are open enough to be included in the state's Enterprise Technical Reference Model, which favors the OpenDocument Format (ODF). According to David, some of Microsoft's arch rivals, including Adobe, IBM and Sun, took advantage of the democractic process to loosen Microsoft's grip, and governments at all levels around the world are paying attention. Check out David's deeply researched investigative report. The podcast can be delivered directly to your desktop or MP3 player if you're subscribed to our podcasts (See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), or you can just download the MP3.  Let us know what you think.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Who lost what?

    Last time I checked, MS Office was still the standard in office productivity software. Think this will change because some (soon to be unemployed) bureaucrats in MA had a hissy fit over "open" standards? Let's check back in 5 years and see how it played out.
    • Why not EBCDIC?

      25 years ago, that particular closed format would have been chosen. So you think the right thing to do is pick the largest-used format of the moment. You want to check back in five years? What format will you be supporting at that time?

      Maybe it's not such a bad idea to get off the merry-go-round and move to a standard?
      • Even open standards change

        As was stated at the Sept. 16 meeting of the Technology Leadership Council in MA, history has shown that even open standard formats are not necessarily backward-compatible with each other. And by the way, you can still read MS Word files from the 1980s with the version of Word that's out there today. You might need a compatibility package, which is downloadable from MS's Office site, but you can do it.
        Mark Miller
        • The point of Open Standards is NOT that they don't change.

          Of course Open Standards change over time. But you *always* have enough information to extract your data from the old format and convert it into the new format. And you *don't* need to depend upon a proprietary vendor to provide you with a suitable tool which will run on *whatever* OS you happen to be using at that moment.
        • problem

          Yeah, but what if Microsoft decides a couple of years from now it want to squeeze some more money out of users and starts charging big bucks for the compatibility package? MS has done that sort of thing before, like License 6.0.
        • Will the "compatibility package" work...

          Will the "compatibility package" work on Mac or Linux...?

          I should be able to read/view/print a [b]publicly owned[/b] document anywhere, at any time, on any OS, without relying on the good will of anybody or any special downloads to do so...

          The sooner people get off the Microsoft treadmill, the better.

          This isn't an anti-Microsoft thing, Microsoft is perfectly free to support open formats or even to open up the Office format. If they did this then they wouldn't be excluded.

          The real problem is that Microsoft is all about lock-in and forced upgrades.
  • People's Choice

    I am not sure why microsoft can't get along with other companies and states. The people of MA overwhelmly decided they want open formats. What is technically superior for microsoft is not superior for people becuase it is closed. No one asking them not participate in the legitimate process.
    • Market choice

      There was no vote on this in MA. Bureaucrats chose. Democracy? Not.

      The people choose in the marketplace, that's why Microsoft Office is the de-facto standard. Not Wordperfect Suite, not Lotus SmartSuite (IBM), not OpenOffice or StarOffice.

      If the people of MA really want "open" formats, they should vote with their dollars, not have some bureaucrats decide for them.
      • And you think they won't

        By "vote with their dollars," I assume you mean buy whatever they think best meets their needs. You have presented no evidence to suggest that the people of MA have not in the past exercised their wallet freedom or that they will not in the future. Same goes for NM, AL, TX and any of the rest. If you think the residents of any state will cease to exercise free choice, please put forth the argument.
  • as long as fanatics like a couple of MA bureacrats are in control ...

    It is pretty obvious. The ODF requirement that the a few people in power at the govt of MA insisted upon had everything to do with these guys being anti-Microsoft.
    IBM - at the highest level, is an incompetent software company. Thats why they resort to politics to make life harder for Microsoft. Open one on one competition we know who lost.

    And the couple of MA bureacrats, let see how long they are in power. It wont be long before their time is up and the next person coming would have to undo the current ODF requirement. In the end its the citizens of MA who lost because they are the ones footing the bill.
    • Yeah, that fanaticism

      Imagine the nerve of those Massachusetts bureaucrats - holding open, inclusive hearings, publishing the process and actually following the published process, publicizing the criteria for selection and ruling out a special-interest proposal for specific refusal to comply with these criteria. Don't they know that the norm for public conduct is no-bid contracts and money laundering. Yes, that is the BrutalTruth, but maybe, just maybe, there is a place for open and honest government somewhere. Wouldn't it be something if this fanaticism were to spread - would we see an epidemic of unused grand juries and unemployed judges?
    • There will be some changing of the guard

      One of the proponents of this policy, the Sec. of Finance, Eric Kriss, is leaving his job soon, though he's leaving voluntarily.
      Mark Miller
    • Um, who's the fanatic here?

      The MA bureacrats went through an extensive process to decide on a completely open standard. Meanwhile, when MS saw that Word wouldn't be the standard they went crying to the decision-makers' bosses, and we're told they had to play by the rules everyone else does (translated: "get lost").
      So picking a format other than MS makes things fanatical?
      "In the end its the citizens of MA who lost because they are the ones footing the bill"
      What bill? they can convert with and use open-source products; And I'm sure some commercial products will be developed with more features because of this.
      All without the MS patented format.

      I don't hate MS, I just like choice.
      They made their choice.
    • Choice


      Consider: MS is not allowing sublicensing of their patents on their formats. On the other hand, Sun and IBM *are* allowing sublicensing of their patents. Which philosophy will foster the greatest choice in applications?

      Remember, with Steve Ballmer intent on destroying the competition, he will also be destroying our choices. Besides, the *only* way MS could have a monopoly is if governments let it happen. MA realized that was happening and decided to make a change.

      If you truly believe in free markets, then you should applaud this move. You just seem really bummed that MA is not supporting the MS monopoly anymore.

      Every successful protocol on the internet is an open standard. HTTP, TCP/IP, SMTP, and on and on and on. This is our chance to apply the same philosophy to productivity applications.

      So when MS decides to unencumber their patents, natively support ODF, or allow third parties to create filters for ODF, then they will be let back on the list. It's that simple.

      They're a big company now, and they have nothing to fear from real competition.

  • Correction

    You say in the podcast that contractors with MA state government are going to have to switch to ODF. According to Andrew Updegrove this is not the case. Though I'm not surprised that you or anyone else has gotten mixed up about this (I was as well for a bit), because I don't think that MA has clearly and concisely stated what they're doing.
    Mark Miller
  • MS is right

    MS is SO much used to getting everything they want by federal
    and state governments as well as, big firms, they are having
    VERY hard time swalowing the COMMON SENSE decision of a
    state authority to NOT to LOCK UP public information within
    proprietary document formats.

    Ofcourse, the open format that is to be selected must be
    accompanied by FREE document readers, which should remained
    free with a guarantee.

    I can understand MSs huffing and puffing trying to bring down
    the decision, but I just don't get all those 'individuals' which will
    just stick it out to defend their beloved s/w giant no matter
    what. They are as miserable as the quality of their beloved
    company's s/w.....

  • Microsoft's dirty business practices

    1)Lock customers' data in proprietary formats (unethical and should be illegal)
    2)monopolize the industry
    3)control and/or influence Government Officials
    4)Spread FUD in media (MS buys people now: John Carroll, George Ou & David Coursey)
    5)False TCO studies and advertisements

    Microsoft is desperate and dieing.
    • You forgot MS astroturfing...

      FOX News has been blasted by some for running a pro-Microsoft/anti-MA article (Sept 30) written by James Prendergast, executive director of the Americans for Technology Leadership, [b]an organization Microsoft co-founded.[/b] (unannounced/not revealed when posted)

      Fox has since clarified his biased position but the intended "damage" has already been done.

      MS is pathetic.
    • prices

      you left out

      6) charge grossly excessive prices.
  • Regarding the MS/MA fracas...

    The thing that I don't understand about this is whether Microsoft has really put together a cost/benefit analysis of offering a way to save in ODF. I wonder if all the time and money (via billable hours and expenses) they incur as a result of this whole legal debate will end up being more than the cost of simply implementing support for ODF.

    And for that matter, what does Microsoft have to gain from this? In my opinion, if they stick to their guns and decide they don't want to do this, they could wind up losing the Massachusetts government as a customer. Other state governments could very well follow, and Microsoft would wind up locking themselves out of the government market. All for the want of a nail...
    Third of Five