The battle lines of document standards

It’s hard to remain dispassionate about this, but the battle lines are bieng drawn on whether public administrations should “standardize” around the OASIS and SUN-originated “Open Document Format” or Microsoft’s offer of OpenXML with some administrations coming out early in favour of ODF.

My personal view is that this is not the way to go: if governments and public agencies really want to promote open standards they should do so in reference to objectives rather than named specifications, standards, etc.

In other words, I think it is more sustainable to state something along the lines of “administrations should use interchange formats that permit/preserve the following characteristics of the content…” rather than stating bluntly “you will use Office2003” or ISO whatever or ODF or whatever else…

The irony is that Microsoft is in the process of considering plug-ins for ODF and recognise the arguments of authorities – public and private – wanting specific formats to preserve ownership of the content: I think this is a healthy development, where MSFT’s business model is based on “lock in” of customers through a desire to use advanced features and capabilities of their Office suite rather than the older approach of lock-in to the basic content format: use “open standards” for the content formats and whip the competition on the strength of your product, seems to be their take.

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