Taking a page from Microsoft, citizens group bashes Mass.'s OpenDoc plan

Citizens Against Government Wasteissued a press release Wednesday bashing Massachusetts' plan to move to the OpenDoc format. Their criticism, sounding like it was written by WagEd, fundamentally misses the point.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a right-leaning group founded by Peter Grace of Grace Commission fame and former columnist Jack Anderson, issued a press release Wednesday bashing Massachusetts' plan to move to the OpenDoc format. In language sounding very similar to Microsoft's the group charged:

"It is bad procurement policy for any state to unilaterally lock itself into one set of technologies. Agencies should be able to accept bids from any company that can provide the desired product or service. Government earns the best value for taxpayer dollars through a competitive, transparent, and accountable bidding process."

Of course this fundamentally misses the point. The Massachusetts plan says nothing about not accepting bids from Microsoft - only that Microsoft and all other competing vendors must support the open, published OpenDoc format. It is Microsoft's refusal to consider supporting anything other than their proprietary approach to XML that would lock them out of the bidding.

The press release goes on:

[T]he switch could incur
additional costs: Converting more than one million current files to the open source format; teaching and training a new technical support staff to provide state workers with assistance on the new systems; and re-training the entire state's workforce to use the new software. Furthermore, private sector businesses and average citizens could face compatibility problems in exchanging documents with the state agencies.

All true, exactly as Microsoft has said, and all most likely overblown in terms of one-time costs of the conversion. The state has made technology transitions before and will again, and knows just how to do  it. What CAGW would have you believe is that it is uncompetitive to  adopt a standard that all vendors must support (this used to be  called a "technology requirement"  I believe) and competitive to stay locked into a current vendor out of fear of incurring transition costs.

And see these blog posts from David Berlind:

Carr gives Microsoft a taste of its own OpenDoc medicine (and I pile on) 

Should more public agencies heed Massachusetts' OpenDoc policy? 

Microsoft blogger draws fire for criticizing Massachusetts' OpenDoc policy 

And from George Ou:

The wonderful world of XML?