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More chatter on Massachusetts' OpenDoc plan

David Coursey at eWeek wrote a Microsoft-friendly response to Massachusetts' decision to standardize on the OpenDoc format. And the response to his response has been both sympathetic and bewildered. ZDNet blogger George Ou found a lot to like in what Coursey said. But Sun's Simon Phipps, as published on Groklaw, finds Coursey's argument ill-informed.

David Coursey at eWeek wrote a Microsoft-friendly response to Massachusetts' decision to standardize on the OpenDoc format. And the response to his response has been both sympathetic and bewildered.

The gist of Coursey's argument is this:

"I am not sure what the real problem is with using Microsoft file formats. No, they are not open, but they aren't completely closed, either. There are a number of non-Microsoft apps that support them. That makes Microsoft file formats "open enough" for many users."

ZDNet blogger George Ou found a lot to like in what Coursey said. But Sun's Simon Phipps, as published on Groklaw, finds Coursey's argument ill-informed.

Regarding that statement, Phipps writes,

What a short-term view. The real point is not what applications are available today; it's that allowing the use of formats that are under the control of a single party - without transparency of process or involvement from any other interested group - results in what I call "corporate Alzheimer's", where you are condemned to be unable to use your documents at some point in the future where the tools available today that access the format are no longer available and/or usable. This becomes even more of an issue once the format gets wrappered in DRM, which causes early onset of corporate Alzheimer's. That's the reason the National Archive of Australia was involved in defining OASIS OpenDocument - to ensure future historians are able to access digital source documents key to Australia's history. If we don't use open standard formats, we are doomed to forget.

In a post today, Phipps blasts Microsoft for trying to make the issue into a competitive one, Microsoft vs. Sun.

[Microsoft wants] you to approach the discussion from the perspective this is Microsoft vs OpenOffice.org, Microsoft vs Sun, Microsoft vs Free Software - in other words, they want to frame the conversation as company competitive when it's nothing of the sort. Massachusetts are not mandating OpenOffice.org or any other specific product. If Microsoft would stop and listen for a split second, they would see they could trivially comply with what Bob Sutor explains is their customer's reasonable and necessary requirement for an open document format and add support to Office like they have for countless other file formats. The argument is not company competitive, it's about end-user freedom.

Of course, Phipps is a Sun employee, so you'll have to decide for yourself if he's biased or on point.

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