Microsoft Wins In Massachusetts, Sorta

    August 25, 2006

A war has been waging in ultra-liberal Massachusetts, the first major legislative war regarding open source software.

In it, the legislature was attempting a major blow to Microsoft Office, by mandating the use of open source document software, in order to provide a standardized, non-proprietary and non-royalty based document format. They settled on the Open Document Format, or ODF, supported by OpenOffice and StarOffice, which would cost Microsoft untold millions in sales, but, more importantly, could start a nationwide move towards ODF, and a move away from market leader MS Office.

Well, Microsoft has avoided all that. The state IT Division, citing accessibility needs, has decided to stick with Microsoft Office in the near-term. See, while Office requires a plugin to support ODF, it does have excellent support for those with disabilities, while OpenOffice and StarOffice, while natively supporting ODF, do not have those accessibility features, and will not have them by the January 2007 deadline.

This pretty much puts the move away from Microsoft Office in reverse. Microsoft now has a powerful footing (and if you don’t believe me, ask any legislator how powerful disability advocates can be), and can continue to develop Office with this in mind. They can insure Office has the most powerful accessibility features, and widen their support of ODF, and thus hold onto their massive market lead.

A bit of advice: Office 2007’s file formats are secretly ZIP files (just change the extension). Why not have an option to include the ODF version in those ZIP containers, ensuring that governments can use Office’s own file formats, but include a universal version for those who need it. Don’t make it a default, but something IT departments can force if necessary, and everyone gets the best of both worlds.

(via Slashdot)


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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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