In David Coursey's latest entry on the Massachusetts Open Document format fight, Coursey points out the futility in Massachusetts' position. Although Coursey agrees in principal with Massachusetts State Government CIO Peter Quinn, he sees this as a no-win situation for Massachusetts but feels that Microsoft should officially open up their proprietary document formats because they're pretty much already open.
"I find it hard to imagine that a set of files written in OpenDocument today will be as easy to open in 20 years as files written in Microsoft data formats. I'd be surprised if there were an OpenDocument format in two decades, unless it gains Microsoft's support."
Looking at this debate from a market share standpoint and what everyone (including Word Perfect and Open Office users) is compatible with, it's hard to argue with Coursey's assessment. Mandating the adoption of the Oasis Open Document format is kind of like mandating the conversion of all public documents from English to Esperanto. Even though English was a second language for me, I'm perfectly happy with it being the de facto standard and I suspect that most people are in no mood to learn another language because some State bureaucrat mandates it.
Coursey goes on to argue that since Word Perfect and Open Office already read and write Microsoft files, Microsoft has no significant advantage in keeping their file formats closed. Since Microsoft is already opening up its Office 12 XML formats (with some restrictions) and the existing Microsoft formats are already semi-open, why not officially open up their existing file formats and be a hero. Most people don't stick with Microsoft Office because they're locked in to the file format, they use it because that is the tool they learned and it works well. There is nothing to be gained by anyone from a file format war.