CyberTech Rambler

December 16, 2005

Alan Yates @ Massachusett’s Open Forum

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:39 pm

After listening to the audio of the MA Open Forum on the Future of Electronic Data Formats for the Commonwealth, I agree with Pamela Jones that Andy Yates of Microsoft comments on the Massachusetts’s Open Forum (REF) is asking Massachusetts to adopt two standards, OpenDocumentFormat (ODF) and MS Office XML format (MS-XML).

Assuming that MS Office XML format meets the requirements set out by Peter Quinn on the September meeting, whether Massachusetts adopts two standards, change to MS-XML format, or continue using ODF, is of course Massachusetts’ decision and theirs alone. My gut feeling, as inferred from Peter Quinn’s comments in the September Meeting, Halloween Meeting and this meeting is that Massachusetts is receptive in adopting two formats. If I were the Massachusetts Officer in charge, I will think very carefully before adopting two standards. By adopting two standards for the same purpose of archiving documents, I am very likely to cost the state more money then it would be if I stuck to one standard, because I have to do things in the double. Alan Yates is correct in pointing out that competition between the two formats is good, but it does not mean that “adopting the two standards” make economic sense. Moreover, I am not sure that it is Massachusetts government’s job to ensure competition between the two standards. Someone did mention that “the competition is in the applications, not the standard” (REF). Linda Hamel characterizes Massachusetts State Government as a 23 billion dollar enterprise . Like any enterprise, they are entitle to choose which standard they want to use.

As I mentioned in my previous blog (REF), Microsoft is finally making the right approach in Massachusetts. Asking Massachusetts to adopt two standards and bringing their attention to the possible advantages of adopting two standards is the correct way to go, especially for the “loser” in the selection process which is effectively a “beauty pageant” (as oppose to an “auction”). I use loser in inverted commas because it is still unclear whether MS-XML or ODF is the loser. The only thing I can say is that MS-XML is at a disadvantage.

To support his case for adopting two softwares, Alan Yate’s characterize Microsoft’s (MS-XML) approach as the “software-based approach” and IBM/Sun (ODF) approach as “service-based approach”. His speech writer should had checked Linda Hamel’s written response to the Halloween Meeting where she said “The overarching goal of the ETRM is to create a web-based service oriented architecture.” as this effectively means Yate’s conceding that ODF is better for Massachusetts.

Alan Yate said that Microsoft is not oppose to ODF. I doubt this. First of all, they are still insisting not to support ODF in Microsoft Office and instead, pushing the State to adopt two standard. Secondly, while it is true with an exception of an interview with David Berlind and Brian Jones’ blog, Microsoft was mum on the subject all along. However, the influx of articles berating Massachusetts for not endorsing MS-XML from Microsoft supported organizations and Senator Panacho’s almost point-for-point parroting Microsoft’s argument in the Halloween meeting simply imply that they choose to fight by proxy. So, no, Mr Alan Yate, your action shows that you are oppose to ODF until today.

Andy Updegrove managed to squeeze in a question asking Yate’s to comment on MS FAQ item about Office XML ECMA process misrepresented the ODF standardization effort in OASIS. Yate’s response is that they simply wants to point out that both MS-XML and ODF started as proprietary format and that they are pointing out that the quantities of written comments from SUN do indicate that SUN has very strong influence in the process and the OpenOfficeFormat (predecessor of ODF) made it to ODF without much alteration.

Considering the fact that only OpenOffice and SunOffice are extremely closely linked, and they are the only two software using OpenOfficeFormat, I will agree that it is a proprietary format for the purpose of this discussion. I am, of course, ignoring the fact that unlike MS-XML predecessor, there is no obstacle for third parties to implement OpenOfficeFormat and in that sense, it is not proprietary. Let’s not split hair here.

However, while I am sure that Sun’s has the most written comments to OASIS with reference to ODF, I would not consider that to be prove that SUN has undue influence in ODF standardization. Why? First, Sun, via OpenOffice and SunOffice initiative, has the most experience in the field of office documents. Hence, they are going to be the more prolific in commenting. Second, Koffice is also heavily involved, they were the first to implement ODF and was used as a proof that two separate initiatives can implement the ODF standard. Also, as application writers that implements ODF rather than end users of ODF, Sun is going to be more vocal as it discover problems etc when implementing it. Thirdly, IBM is on the committee. It brings on to the table expertise in using ODF in Back office application, namely server-oriented architecture as can be expected to object if things does not go their way. As IBM is almost equal in size with Sun, it is difficult to see how Sun have an unimpeded passage to force its view on others. Finally, simply because someone is more active in a standardization, i.e., commenting, simply means they are more committed than others in the process, not that they have undue influence over the process. It is the content of SUN’s comments that counts, not the quantity.

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