OpenDocument Debate Enters Round Three

Posted by dcparris on May 25, 2006 7:18 AM EDT
LXer Newswire; By DC Parris
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  LXer Feature: 25-May-06

Steven Titch responded to yesterday's article with a single question: "If this is simply an issue of Microsoft's willingness to commit to open standards, what is your take on Open XML?" Thus, I find myself dealing with yet another missed point.

Steven Titch responded to yesterday's article with a single question. "If this is simply an issue of Microsoft's willingness to commit to open standards, what is your take on Open XML?" Yet again, Titch asks askew. You can see Titch thinking here. If it's really about committing to open standards, then I should be fine with Microsoft's submission of a competing standard. However, in order to determine the logic behind Massachusetts' policy (what the real issue is), one has to examine the policy, not my opinion. Even so, here we go again. My Response?

If you want to know whether it is really about Microsoft's willingness to commit to open standards, why don't you check with the ITD to find out what their policy actually says? Everything I have said is based on the fact (as opposed to your fiction-based straw man) that the policy is about defining standards that everyone can meet - something that is currently impossible, given the status quo.

Government agencies should be allowed to choose whatever office suite they desire, provided that the citizens of the Commonwealth - including its employees - can still use alternatives when the situation allows or dictates. In other words, right now, Sun, IBM and other companies face the artificial barrier of a proprietary document format. With a standard format that everyone can implement, this artificial barrier is removed. Thus, Sun, IBM, Corel, or even me (assuming I can prove I have the abilities) can compete based on the standard.

Most people call this a free market. I'm sure you've heard of such a thing. If Microsoft's XML format meets the definition of a standard, then I don't have a problem with Massachusetts using it.

Then you should compare the two formats to see which one measures up to the definition of a standard. If you examine a two brands of tape measure, say one from Stanley and the other from Black & Decker, you'll discover that, although the two products differ in composition, they both use the same standards of measure. You will not find Stanley extending the inch in a proprietary way - something the Microsoft XML format allows. This defeats the purpose of a standard, and could jeopardize the whole experiment. At the very least, government agencies will not be able to make use of the proprietary extensions, since that would lock down the data contained therein.

Microsoft have tried to make the standards debate about GNU/Linux, about FOSS, and about anything else they can think of that will draw attention away from the fact that they refuse to commit to an open standard. This is a point that you nor anyone else has adequately addressed.

That's how I responded. If you want to know whether this is about standards, check the ITD policy itself. If you want to know whether I think Microsoft's format meets the qualifications of a standard, the answer is a resounding no. If you want to know whether I think Microsoft should be allowed to defend its monopoly, using proprietary mechanisms to lock customers in and lock competitors out, the answer is, again, a resounding no.

When I was in the Marines, we did an exercise in Okinawa, at night. During our raid, someone released tear gas. It was already dark, and the tear gas cloud made it even more difficult to see. Crazy as Marines can be at times, we did not even don our gas masks, per our training. Instead, we cut quickly through the haze and took our objective. I hope I have been able to help others cut through the smoke screen of fiction and straw man arguments raised by Titch. Hopefully, I have been able to bring clarity to the OpenDocument debate. I also hope that Titch has been able to better understand the real issues at stake.


Per SJM's comment (, I confess I omitted the word "open" from my discussion of the standard. Microsoft's format may well be a standard, but allowing proprietary extensions excludes it as an "open" standard. My point stands, but with the qualifying term "open" in the appropriate places above. My apologies for the omission.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Rev You are putting too much effort into this answer. dinotrac 83 3,598 May 31, 2006 4:14 PM
More From Titch Next Week? dcparris 10 1,795 May 27, 2006 9:07 AM
Completely enlightening cendoubleu 0 1,422 May 26, 2006 4:28 AM
In answer to his question... moopst 0 1,658 May 26, 2006 12:01 AM
macho dopes! tuxchick2 4 1,552 May 25, 2006 3:42 PM
Microsoft & Open Standards hkwint 1 1,648 May 25, 2006 12:46 PM
Bayonet practice kozmcrae 0 1,662 May 25, 2006 9:18 AM
Who is this guy? Inhibit 2 1,582 May 25, 2006 9:11 AM
about Open XML cjcoats 0 1,503 May 25, 2006 8:49 AM
Not quite sjm 1 1,724 May 25, 2006 8:48 AM
you have jsusanka 0 1,663 May 25, 2006 8:10 AM

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