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Microsoft Government Politics

Massachusetts' CIO Defends Move to OpenDocument 274

Posted by Zonk
from the back-off-stick-wavers dept.
Mark Brunelli writes "A public hearing concerning Massachusetts' plan to dump Microsoft for OpenDocument featured a fair share of controversy as the state's CIO tried to fight off naysayers. Linda Hamel, the general counsel for the Massachusetts Information Technology Department (ITD), suggested that groups that oppose the OpenDocument file format standard might be influenced by Microsoft." We reported on the bounce back against the OpenDocument move this past weekend.
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Massachusetts' CIO Defends Move to OpenDocument

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  • by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @04:53PM (#13926365)
    "Bottom line: OpenDocument is bloated. Just like we like things in government."
  • by honeypotslash (927312) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @04:54PM (#13926379) Homepage
    Most likly they think Word Processing IS Microsoft Word.
    • by mysqlrocks (783488) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:03PM (#13926462) Homepage Journal
      Pacheco said it appeared that no cost analysis had been done before ITD committed to OpenDocument, and that the agency had moved forward unilaterally without input from other agencies.

      How did they end up using MS Office? Did they get input from other agencies? Probably not. At the time, as the parent comment says, they probably thought "Word Processing IS Microsoft Word".
    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:10PM (#13926544) Homepage

      <crazyRant>

      Word processing IS Microsoft Word.

      It was the first word processor.

      Don't let them tell you lies. There were no word processors before word. Why do you think it's called a "Word" processor? That's right, that name comes from MS Word. "WordStar" and "Word Perfect" didn't exist, you just think they did because they put something in your water and brainwashed you.

      And don't tell me about typewriters. Typewriters were based off of the design for Microsoft Word. In the future a time machine will be invented which will be used to go back in time and give the man who invented the typewriter what it should look like to look like MS Word. Why do you think the longest word you can spell on the top row of letters on a keyboard is "typewriter"? That is EXACTLY the kind of easter egg people at Microsoft LOVE. They put it there when they gave the design of the QWERTY keyboard to the guy who designed it (note: I'm not using his name because due to this revisionist history, we don't know the real creator's name).

      And how do I know all this? They told me next Tuesday. Right before they executed me. That wasn't a good day.

      </crazyRant>

    • Most likly they think Word Processing IS Microsoft Word.

      If so, they're going to be hard to pry away from Word regardless of what anybody says. Nobody likes to be "reeducated." Instead, the people behind this movement to OpenDocument should keep the debate about the format, not about dumping Word.

      The CIO should say, "We have decided to adopt an open document format for reasons X, Y, and Z. In order to keep our business and earn the $X million dollars we pay them every year, we hope Microsoft will be

  • $50M verses $5M (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob_Robertson (454888) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @04:57PM (#13926407) Homepage
    The early audio recording of the two hour meeting between the CIO's office and various members of the vendor population including the idiot... I mean, the representative of Microsoft, is really amazing. If you haven't heard it, I suggest you do a little digging and find it.

    The CIO did make one very interesting statement about money. $50M in order to get Office-12, because of license fees, OS and hardware upgrades, for something that cannot even be tested at this time.

    In comparison, to roll out OpenOffice to every state employee, including training (which never seems to be in the pro-Microsoft column), $5M. Mostly because there is no hardware or OS upgrade requirement since OpenOffice runs on everything. Today. Now. Including using the document specification they really want, which Microsoft says they have no plans on supporting.

    Fascinating. Foot, rifle, Microsoft pulls trigger.

    Bob-

    • "OS and hardware upgrades"

      Sorry, why do you need OS and hardware upgrades for MS Office-12? I sense a bloated budget proposal. MS says that Office-12 has the same hardware requirements as Office XP, which runs fine on a PII 300mhz. So the IT departement tried to sneak hardware and OS upgrades in with the Office software upgrade budget. Cant blame Gates for that one.

      • Re:$50M verses $5M (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tran (721196)
        You must have missed the earlier articels where MA said that they still run many machines with Win98. IIRC, office 12 does not run on that "OS". Not sure if OpenOffice 2.0 does.
    • mmm, If you noticed the OpenOffice running at 1/3 the of MS Office article. Then I would think OO would be the one with more requirements. Irregardless, this argument is about OpenDocument, not open office. And i really doubt either side is promoting their idea for the good of society, they do it for their own personal beliefs.
    • So why does it take 3 minutes for Calc to open up a spreadsheet while it takes Excel less than 10 seconds to open the same file?
      • Multiple reasons. M$'s closed format that OpenOffice had to work around to get to open Excel (and other format files) in a somewhat proper fashion. You notice you get those may not open correctly or appear properly messages with OpenOffice. Oh and then there is the fact that the Office Suite programs have hooks into the OS. I mean when you have the source code for the OS available to you, of course you know how to treat it just right to open files faster.

        Besides, what are you using that takes 3 minute
        • Besides, what are you using that takes 3 minutes to open a spreadsheet anyway?

          Calc itself, for one thing. When I first tried using it I thought it had hung because it took so long to fire up. Only by accident when I tried starting it up and walked off to get a Dew did I notice that it was just taking a horrendously long amount of time just to start- and that's not involving an Excel worksheet or anything like that.

          I can also say that Write literally drove my wife to tears it was so difficult for her to use,
      • I've found Calc 2.0 to be pretty much as quick as MS Office for XLS spreadsheets with about 20,000 lines. Calc takes longer to open OpenDocument spreadsheets than it does to open XLS because OD files are compressed, so they have an extra step. IMO, this extra step is made up for by vastly smaller files, which is really noticable for large spreadsheets.
  • Obvious Tag (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wrought @ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:00PM (#13926435) Homepage Journal
    From TFS: Linda Hamel, the general counsel for the Massachusetts Information Technology Department (ITD), suggested that groups that oppose the OpenDocument file format standard might be influenced by Microsoft.

    Later on in the press conference she goes on to assert that rain is wet and and that 2 plus 2 does indeed add up to 4. She did not, however, make any comments concerning what you get 4 of.

  • by pvt_medic (715692) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:01PM (#13926445)
    Being from Tax-achusetts, i am glad to see that the state continues to move this way. This saves tax payers money, which in the end benefits everyone in the state. But also it is the state realizing that they are doing something that will help allow easier (still far far from perfect) access to state records which we have a right too.
    • I'm always interested when I see Massachusetts called Tax-achusetts. The overall tax burden on MA residents (10.1%) is only slightly above the national average (10.0%). You never hear of "Taxes" (10.9%), "Utax" (11.1%), "New Taxico" (12.0%), or "Louisi-assess" (13.0%).

      I live in Colorado, and the tax burden for CO residents is below average (9.5%), but we cannot fund all of the new unfunded mandates from the new "debt and spend" ruling party.

      Brining this back on topic, I'd welcome an OpenDoc initiative in
  • I would think she'd lose all claims to credibility by making statements like that. For one, she's making an ad hominem (although not against a singular person in this case) argument by arguing that the groups are wrong because they are (allegedly) supported by Microsoft. That argument falls apart, logically, because someone could offer a simple counter statement of "so, why does that make them wrong?"

    I do find it interesting to note that the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science is criticiz
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:26PM (#13926706) Homepage
      I would think she'd lose all claims to credibility by making statements like that. For one, she's making an ad hominem (although not against a singular person in this case) argument by arguing that the groups are wrong because they are (allegedly) supported by Microsoft. That argument falls apart, logically, because someone could offer a simple counter statement of "so, why does that make them wrong?"

      This complaint would be more... moving?.... if that was all that she had said on the topic. She was at a hearing on the subject, and among other things, was asked about some complaints. Her response was that many of the groups who have complained had been funded by Microsoft.

      Yes, I know, I'm still bound to run into shouts of "AD HOMINEM!!!" People just love to show off that they know the technical wordings for things. However, whether these groups are influenced by Microsoft goes to the heart of things. You see, any response that she comes up with as to why these objections are invalid/wrong, she must answer the question: well, why would they just make these things up then? What's the motivation of some group or another to claim that a file format is insufficient? Why would normal people go out of their way to spread lies and misinformation about something like a file format?

      The answer being, they have a political agenda and economic incentive.

      I'm assuming they (or at least Ms. Hamel) don't think things through all the time.

      Yes, ok, so why does that make her wrong? AD HOMINEM!!!

    • Surely any complaint should go to Microsoft for not supporting a popular and soon to be commonly available document format?

      OTOH, perhaps a note to Google who are planning on supporting some programming work on OO.org could be effective?

      To presume that Microsoft is the alpha and omega of software is to surrender your world to a company whose only interest is to restrict innovation and kill competition.
    • by gpw213 (691600) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:32PM (#13926762)
      I would think she'd lose all claims to credibility by making statements like that. For one, she's making an ad hominem (although not against a singular person in this case) argument by arguing that the groups are wrong because they are (allegedly) supported by Microsoft. That argument falls apart, logically, because someone could offer a simple counter statement of "so, why does that make them wrong?"

      And if this were the only argument presented, then you might have a point. However, when the specific points *are* addressed, and then in addition it is pointed out that the majority of the opponents also have a suspicious commonality, then that is no longer an ad hominem attack, is it?

      I do find it interesting to note that the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science is criticizing the move and I think they offer legitimate reasons for using Microsoft products-- that is, until OpenDocument supports the same braille readers and other screen-reader programs.

      You are making the same error that many of the opponents of this move seem to be making. Namely, confusing OpenDocument with OpenOffice. OpenDocument is the file format. It does not now, nor will it ever "support the same braille readers and other screen-reader programs". That is the job of the application, not the file format. Massachusetts is not mandating any particular application.

      If the blind state workers are using MS products and the other state workers are using OpenDocument, I'd think that might cause some problems.

      This is nothing that they won't be dealing with anyhow. They will not be able to magically switch everyone over in a day, and they will have to deal with all of the pre-existing documents in Word format. Getting the occasional Word document from a blind worker is not going alter things substantially.

    • I'll step up to the plate here and ask any blind computer users what their requirements are with regards to Open Office, braille printers and the interface to them.

      I'll gladly contribute some time to help towards filling the gaps in.

    • I have yet to see a list of what features useful to the visually impaired are present in MS Office and absent from the word processors that support ODF. Until I see such a list, I can only consider this to be FUD. OpenOffice Writer, for example, has some accessibility options in its options dialog. Maybe they aren't sufficient, but it certainly isn't the case that accessibility has not been considered by the authors of software supporting ODF.

      On the other hand, how good is MS Word? According to the Wiki

  • God Damn it, Zonk! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:03PM (#13926469)
    We reported on the bounce back against the OpenDoc move [slashdot.org] this past weekend.

    OpenDoc [apple.com] is not the same thing as OpenDocument [wikipedia.org]. If you need to shorten it, you can say ODF.
    • by plj (673710)
      Bullshit. What once was OpenDoc is now totally obsolete. .DOC, instead, is the most widespread word processor document format in the world, so it is only convient and logical to call the open and standards-based alternative "OpenDoc".

      Not that ODF is bad either, but the risk of confusion between OpenDoc and OpenDocument is virtually nonexistent. And ODF could also refer to .ODF files, which is the format used by OpenOffice.org Math and the like, and is definitely not among the most important of OpenDocument
  • Officials can't confirm, nor deny that companies that are using the OpenDocument format might or might not be influenced by Microsoft.
  • Groklaw coverage (Score:4, Informative)

    by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:10PM (#13926543)

    For details and analysis you can't beat Groklaw's coverage [groklaw.net], including notes by two [consortiuminfo.org] bloggers [danbricklin.com] who attended the meeting.

    Also note that the hearing was convened by a senator who seems to confuse "OpenDocument" and "OpenOffice" and "open standards" with "open source software".

  • by daeley (126313) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:13PM (#13926574) Homepage
    Frankly, they could take a portion of that $45 million cost savings and dedicate it to making those blind- and deaf-user devices work swimmingly with OOo.... and still have enough to pay Manny Ramirez's salary next season, assuming he doesn't get himself traded to the Angels before then. ;)
  • I think the obvious outcome of this and similar efforts will be that Microsoft puts all the actual content of Office documents in some sort of open format, and "extends" that format to support all the goodies such as fancy formatting, macros, Excel formulas, and so on. The extensions will be proprietary and for the most part not accessible to open-source programs, but the base content will be easy to get at.

    Since Word is following Pages [apple.com] in its future approach to document formatting, a lot of those ex

    • Well, if they extend it in such a way as to break conformity with the standard, then it isn't really standards-compliant and fails the requirement.

      There has to be some policy regarding software which start out compliant with the standard then deviate later on.

      If MS can improve the format and still maintain compliancy in one mode, then well and good.
      • For an example of what it might look like, check out any reasonably complex PDF in HTML format on Google.

        You do actually have (usually) all you need there, information-wise, but it's not a lot of fun to look at and you can't do any fancy PDF things with it. But you do get it in an "open" format (HTML in this case, leaving aside whether G's converter is open or not), which has a lot of advantages.

        That's more or less what I expect. Not that MS actually locks you in so tight you might lose your data, just ti
  • by ansak (80421) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:13PM (#13926577) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft's position:

    * Every new box pre-installed with Windows $100
    * Every new box pre-installed with Office $200
    * Having the option of following up an OS upgrade with an Office Upgrade that renders old file formats unreadable: priceless.

    Everyone else's position:

    * Looking for (and finding) tools to make OpenOffice compatible with any imaginable disabled-persons' enabling tool: probably as little as 10 minutes
    * Off-sourcing production of a filter to convert current word document files to OpenDoc: a little embarassment
    * Having government-provided and -required documents in a format that will never be submerged by near-simultaneous OS and Office Tools upgrades: priceless.

    The cost to a society of having a monopolist control the format that its documents are published in is as desirable as it would be to have to continue paying the Gutenberg family for the privilege of having your book printed in the 21st century.

    nuff said...ank
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:18PM (#13926630)
    My big complaint about OpenDocument [wikipedia.org] Schemas [coverpages.org] are that they rely on RelaxNG [wikipedia.org] that has poor support in developer tools. It also adds another layer of confusion for customers who are veeery reluctant to accept non-W3C [xml.com] standards.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:23PM (#13926677) Journal
    Microsoftbot hate Open Document! Microsoftbot eat Open Document and shit out Word97 pellets! Microsoftbot angry with Massachussetts, and funny name state will suffer wrath of Microsoftbot, just like South Korean smarty pants will! Microsoftbot fucking kill Open Document! If you use OpenDocument, Microsoftbot come and tear your computer into many pieces! Microsoftbot unstoppable! Someday Microsoftbot will rule world, and all will bow to Microsoftbot's creators, and burn open source demons and Steve Jobs, because Microsoftbot think him weirdo hippy.
  • Wonder why they don't use HTML?
  • Sorry to shout, but come on guys, it's tough enough getting past the FUD from the Friends of Microsoft without mis-stating things...

    The guidelines do not ban Microsoft's Office product, they merely state that the state of Massachusetts will need to use products which support OpenDocument.

    If Microsoft decides to support OpenDocument, or a third party makes a Microsoft Office to OpenDocument converter which works well, the state of Massachusetts will still be able to use Microsoft Office.

    They're just expressi
    • I smell astroturf, personally. Too many people saying exactly the same thing every time one of these stories gets posted. They've been corrected again and again and yet they spew the same drivel every time. Either they are stupid, fanboys or shills.

      The format choice does not effect me at all. I do not live in Mass, I do not use Open Office or MS Office, I don't run Linux, and my word processor of choice doesn't even support Open Document Format yet.
  • I don't see the problem; OpenDocument is royalty-free, thus everybody can implement it without having to pay anybody. This lets everybody compete; the contrarywise of excluding someone from the competition just because he _can't_ race without following some oligarchic rules.

    If paying zillions of dollars to those Big Companies isn't enough to have them snatch in a new feature, I wonder what shore we landed ...

    ... oh, well. Marketing & lawsuits' dep. People that are even able to _use_ handicapped peop [boston.com]

  • CAGW statement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srobert (4099) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:40PM (#13926887)
    FTA: "CAGW has issued a statement that said the move to OpenDocument would incur unnecessary costs as the state government would be forced to convert 'more than one million current files to the new [OpenDocument] format.'"

    I presume CAGW refers to Citizens Against Government Waste. But their statement on this doesn't jibe with the fact that most past documents in other formats would have to be converted to be compatible with newer proprietary formats as well. Also, it contains no comparison of the unnecessary costs incurred by not converting to an open format of some sort.
  • by daveewart (66895) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:57PM (#13927093)
    I was happy to read someone describing Microsoft Office as a 'legacy system'.
  • by Been on TV (886187) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @05:59PM (#13927109) Homepage

    One of the things one should consider when evaluation Microsoft's true openness is the company's willingness to support their own technologies on competing plattforms. More than often - virtuall allways in the public debate, Microsoft seem to forget that they actually do supply products for another operating system: Mac OS X, and one metric for testing their willingness to share their own technologies outside of Windows is to take a closer look at their Mac products. For instance both Microsoft Messenger and Microsoft Windows Media Player significantly lacks in functionality and features compared to their Window versions.

    Microsoft states in their response letter to MA:

    ...Microsoft has been deeply committed to supporting XML within Microsoft Office for a number of years and continues to work hard with many governments around the world toward these goals.

    In the case of XML support in Microsoft Office:mac 2004, only Excel supports the MS XML format, where support for XML formatted Word 2003 documents produced on Windows are completely lacking. It is also not possible to write XML documents from Word on the Mac. I blogged an article earlier this fall that explains in more detail how Microsoft's XML support is only Windows deep [andwest.com] and what they have stated on this in relation to Office 12 for Mac OS X. Repeated questions to Microsoft on the fact that this "openness" is only Windows deep remains unanswered.

    I have also posted a question to Microsoft's latest blog on the ability to save as XPS format [msdn.com] in the upcoming Office 12 for Mac -- a question that remains unanswered.

    Microsoft has been very active on Norwegian discussion boards lately where Microsoft employees have been operating under nicks posing to be normal discussion partipants rallying against the OpenDocument formats and promoting the openness of the MS XML formats well knowing that the country in Europe closest to follow follow Massachussetts is Norway. This following a public hearing [andwest.com] where the government wants to standardize on open document formats in all communication with, and within the public sector, in addition to promote the use of open source code. Microsoft's response to this has been surprisingly vague compared to the response to the Commonwealth of Massachussetts.

  • "-rant-"
    I don't read much in the TCO studies about the cost/risk/liability of lawsuits from this team. Can I buy insurance for this? :) Notice the $2 million Tuesday software audit. Any disgruntled employee can cause havoc. They can audit my winxp desktop but keep your grubby hands off the servers they are ALL GPL! Now beat it! They can pull out all your computers in an instant and you have to fight to get them back.

    BSA [bsa.org]
    $2 million dollars [bsa.org]

    The GPL is this organizations worst nightmare. So HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

    I
  • by Agilus (471376) on Tuesday November 01, 2005 @07:41PM (#13928022) Homepage
    Mass is fighting the good fight on this one. I'm not sure who exactly is behind it, but, as a resident, I decided it would be best for me to contact them and let them know how much I approved. I just contacted the ITD (Information Technology Division [mass.gov]) and let them know what I thought, and asked if there was someone better to whom I could send my thank yous. Our leaders need to hear from us when they're doing a good job.

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