So, what's Microsoft's next move in Massachusetts?

So, what's Microsoft's next move in Massachusetts?

Summary: No citizen or government agency should be compelled to buy any vendor's products in order to have access to public records.

TOPICS: Microsoft

In John Carroll's article, Democracy and standards, he quibbles with David Berlind's statement:

Not only has Massachusetts developed a modern and virtually unassailable test (particularly for its requirements since virtually every part of the test can be connected to the state's need for sovereignty), it has fully leveraged the democratizing forces of government and technology to arrive at an informed decision that serves the best interests of its public.

While I agree with John that no one should be surprised that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts received a "firestorm of commentary" regarding their initial decision to include Microsoft as an "open" standard, nor should any of us be surprised that Microsoft's competitors spoke in favor of ODF over Microsoft's formats, I think that he's missing the point. I too would have to disagree with the notion that Microsoft's being displaced from the MA ETRM had anything to do with democracy -- or sovereignty for that matter.

The point is that no citizen (or government agency) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be compelled to buy any Microsoft product (or products from any other single vendor) in order to have access to public records. Period.

It doesn't matter why Microsoft was left off the list -- or even whether or not they were treated fairly. The fact is that they WERE left off the list. Why in the world they didn't see the writing on the wall and send Bill Gates (or the more likeable Steve Ballmer) to Massachusetts rather than Mr. Yates, who clearly was in no position to change the collective Microsoft mind, is beyond me.

The question in my mind isn't why they were left off. I don't really much care. What I want to know is what is Microsoft going to do about it? They have several choices. Among them, they could:

  • ignore the entire situation and assume that Massachusetts will continue to purchase (if not use) Microsoft's products despite the MA ETRM -- and that the same will go for its contractors.
  • decide to sue the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the basis of unfair treatment during the selection process. (This action could take years to resolve -- and comes at a pretty high price. Win or lose, Microsoft does not need more detractors.)
  • adopt the approach long used by Adobe (which permitted PDF to stay on the list) -- that of offering free cross-platform document readers.
  • add read/write support for ODF in Office 2003 and include it in the next release of their Office suite. This seems like the simplest "no harm, no foul" solution to me -- after all, they still support TXT, RTF, & CSV formats in their Office suite -- and these are clearly formats which are badly outdated and inferior to most modern document formats. What's one more "inferior" file format?
  • publish their formats -- or otherwise open their licenses to development and transfer without royalty payments. Microsoft is so protective of its intellectual property rights that the likelihood of this ever happening must be vanishingly small.

In the end, some of these choices would make Microsoft 'look better' in the public eye than others -- although most of Microsoft's critics will never look favorably upon them -- no matter how benevolent Microsoft might appear.

Most of the rest of us will keep buying Microsoft products regardless of the grumbling we might do over a lack of "acceptable" (less expensive?) alternatives.

However, if the decision to preclude Microsoft from the MA ETRM stands, the opportunity for others to encroach on Microsoft's market share will grow larger. As other governments are emboldened to look for ways to mitigate the high cost of upgrading software and hardware, Microsoft may find themselves left out of many opportunities to compete -- and slowly but surely, Microsoft customers may be compelled to look for alternatives which meet the needs of their governmental business partners.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • I think Gates can do whatever he wants at this point because of Microsofts

    power. Its a mad mad mad mad microsoft world.

  • They are sending Balmer and some chairs to Boston!
    Reverend MacFellow
  • Air supply

    Keep in mind that although 80,000 users in Massachusetts (or for that matter in State governments across the USA) is a drop in the bucket to Microsoft, it's a good step towards "critical mass" for would-be competitors.

    [b]That[/b] is the intolerable prospect that Microsoft has to head off. Supporting ODF, opening up Microsoft formats, walking away from the deal -- all of these lead to the Apocalypse. The only tolerable results depend on Microsoft somehow managing to get the Commonwealth to do what businesses have: ignore the whole subject of file formats and just buy office software as a toolset.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • BTW

    Any news out of San Diego and the conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers? (NASCIO)
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • its pretty obvious that you dont care about a fair process.

    "The question in my mind isn't why they were left off. I don't really much care"

    Its pretty obvious that you are pleased in the fact that Microsoft was left off the list. I guess it makes sense now asto why you dont care.

    Microsoft was treated very unfairly.

    And most of their competitors lost a fair battle. Now they resort to politics to get back at Microsoft. Talk about a bunch of loosers.
    • Microsoft was treated very unfairly

      How so? They, the state, said what they wanted. Microsoft said they wouldn't produce that. End of story.

      If you want to talk about politics, look at the not so subtle, innuendos that are being tossed around aimed at state officials for not allowing a product which failed to meet the state published requirements.
    • It's not that obvious...

      [i]Microsoft was treated very unfairly[/i]

      You have backed this up by saying Marc doesn't care about a fair process, saying he is pleased, and calling MS competitors "loosers". Wow, this is quite a convincing argument. All you have to add now to cement your credibility is to say exactly how MS was treated unfairly.

      Microsoft effectively took themselves off the vendor list by not meeting the business requirements of a customer. The requirements had nothing to do with vendors or specific applications, but with file formats. MA decided they did not want the ability to access their archived data to be at the mercy of one vendor who dictates the file formats, and as Marc says [b]no citizen (or government agency) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be compelled to buy any Microsoft product (or products from any other single vendor) in order to have access to public records[/b]. Note the [b]any other single vendor[/b]. Exactly what is unfair about this?

      One of three things will probably happen: MS will give up on MA; MS will support ODF; or MS will result to some serious politics themselves to try and get the rules (and therefore the requirements) changed.

      Up to this point, there was hardly ever anything in the way of any process like this. MS was the vendor regardless of cost because [i]everybody[/i] uses MS applications. Now, it is not about the application or the vendor, it is about the data -- as it should be, and about the cost of accessing that data over time.
    • What list is this Microsoft was left off?

      Be very specific. What is the list, what is on it, and what company is on it? Then you can tell us what it means for Microsoft to be left off, and what is "unfair" about it. If you read before you posted you should be able to do this.
    • BOO HOO .... Poor Little old Microsoft

      "Microsoft was treated very unfairly"

      Can you really make that statement and keep a straight face. That sounds like something Mike Cox would say. The loosers you talk about are the ones that keep thinking the word FAIRLY is even in M$ mind set.
      Can you hear me
    • Re: its pretty obvious that you dont care about a fair process.

      [i]Microsoft was treated very unfairly.[/i]

      Oh, boo hoo hoo! Why is it when MS is dealing the dirt the NBMers say it's "ferociously competitive," but when it's left holding the bag, the fight must not have been fair.

      I can't believe the wailing and gnashing of teeth by you NBMers. I've got bad news for you. This is just the beginning.

      none none
    • oh boo hoo

      Hey, I have an idea, start a new 'grass roots' campaign of users, developers, owners to moan and complain about how awful it is that a potential CUSTOMER choose NOT to use a potential vendor.

      MS is REAL good at 'grass roots' campaigns....their employees and shills stay up late at night typing memos and emails using names like 'Concerned User'...Bwah ha!
  • That is soveriegnty...

    [i] I too would have to disagree with the notion that Microsoft's being displaced from the MA ETRM had anything to do with democracy ? or sovereignty for that matter. The point is that [b]no citizen (or government agency) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be compelled to buy any Microsoft product (or products from any other single vendor) in order to have access to public records.[/b] Period. [/i]

    In the US, the people are also soveriegn - the Federal government has powers and those not reserved are left to the States. The States have powers and those not reserved by the States are left to the People. Those powers the People do not protect are eventually taken by the State and the Federal government, but that's another story. Though Crisp was not referring to the soveriegnty of the People when he made his statement about choosing formats in-re: soveriegnty; you were Marc, and it's important to recognize that you were.

    The options for Microsoft are rather much what I've been saying for days: walk-away, sue, adopt, or adapt. Sums up the options nicely, I agree. I think we can add one more: FUD - wage a war of public opinion, so that any outcome short of immediate perfection will be viewed as a failure. Attack the process, since attacking the soundness of the technological decision hasn't worked. Sling mud. Sling ill-will. Complain endlessly. Bawl. Cry. Thrash. Throw tantrums. Be an 800-pound gorrilla with nappy rash.

    Personally, if Microsoft released their format with no legal gotchas for both reading and writing and subjected it to a public standardization process; I'd read the license, subject it to my own analysis, ask lawyers, and yes, be suspicious. However, if the license satisfied the MA requirements for an open format and MA still did not accept it, then i too would cry foul. However, i don't see any statement by the principle decision makers that indicates this is the case.

    PS - Microsoft likely would not mount a legal challenge to the selection process. They'd not have much luck in claiming cronyism when the technology choice allows more companies to bid and not fewer.
    John Le'Brecage
  • Customer Requirements?

    In my humble opinion this is all about politic and nothing else. MA's elected officials have no concern for its citizens but instead are on a vendetta to punish MS (Can you say antitrust action - guess MS didn't forward enough money to MA's coffers). Their so called business requirements were specifically designed to exclude MS. With MS being on about 95% of all desktops and the availability of free readers MA's actions are blatantly obvious. There so called open standard requirements don't even meet their objective other than being anything but MS. 50 plus years of liberal dominanfce in the Commonwealth must make the Pilgrims of old shake their head in shame.
    • There's a problem there...

      The last two administrations of Massachusetts were Republican. Mitt Romney is also a Republican. This decision was handed down by a board appointed by Mitt Romney's subordinate (also a Republican) in Commonwealth records. I'm sorry tb, but your "revenge" theory has been floated many times, and it just doesn't fly. At this point, only the Microsoft paranoid subscribe to it.
      John Le'Brecage
  • reasons

    It is interesting that the people who say Microsoft got robbed can't agree on why Massachusetts decided as it did.

    Some of them say Massachusetts is trying to get even for the poor anti-trust ruling against Microsoft. Others say it was pressured into it by a mob of open source activists flooding it with e-mails.

    You guys should come to some sort of agreement before you push your ideas to the public.
    • they cannot...

      The advocates for Microsoft's position cannot adopt a single message. They're still throwing excrement at Massachusetts to see what sticks. Thus far, they've hit teflon.
      John Le'Brecage
  • personally M$ is stuck

    IF they sue MASS this will be bad press ....
    if they walk aways they loose MASS.
    IF that do nothing well they loose anyways .

    you said (why they havent send Blamer or Gates to MASS TO DEAL) with the problem .. Simple M$ wanna dictate not deal.
    what Blamer and Gates will have to go make deal with all the those who wanna challenge there all powerful hegemony ,NEVER .

    M$ is cook in MASS they know it and if they sue public opinion will kick them in the balls.

    tough place to be

    2 fat ale please cheer to MASS you have the ball that very few possess