It's official: after 2006, Massachusetts isn't going to use Microsoft file formats any more.
At the moment, Microsoft says they aren't going to change their software to be able to produce open formats, so by inexorable logic, Massachusetts won't be using Microsoft Office either.
This has caused a flurry of outrage from the usual Gates fans, calling this a "dumb move" and so on. That neglects the real problem, which is and always has been Microsoft. My home state is quite correct: public documents shouldn't be stored in proprietary formats. That's simple, obvious, and really has no argument against it: these are public files, and there should be no requirement to use proprietary software to access them. Arguments that there are "readers" for Microsoft formats are fallacious and misleading: the readers often misrepresent the actual formatting and are never guaranteed to work with future Microsoft formats. Microsoft formats are always secret, so readers can't be relied upon, and it's even possible that at some point it could be illegal to reverse engineer the formats to produce a reader. Open documents are the only answer.
So what to do about Microsoft's stubbornness? Again, wrong question. The better question is what to do about the states that DON"T require open document formats. Get enough states to understand the real obligation they have to eschew proprietary documents, and Microsoft will either have to toe the line or become completely irrelevant.
Therefore, I say to Microsoft: Hold your ground, boys. Don't let us wacko liberals on the East Coast interfere with your destiny. Never embrace open formats; hold fast against the tide and die with your chin held high. Ignominious irrelevance is nothing but what you deserve.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence
The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he, by peddling second rate technology, led them into it in the first place, and continues to do so today. (Douglas Adams)