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06.11.07

The Axis/Ally Against Free Standards Leads to Fragmentation, Lockin

Posted in America, Formats, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard, Xandros at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One thing to keep abreast of is Novell’s role in the selection of document formats. Being as obedient as it simply must be, Novell is on Microsoft’s boat. As for Xandros — it is the latest recruit.

Earlier today, ComputerWorld published yet another article among a recent series on document standards. It puts special focus on American state legistlation. The article explores what’s underneath the surface. It talks about a debate which has become a political one, not a technical one.

To those who observe, track and watch the developments like a hawk, it has become a recurring theme; a shrewd tactic too, no doubt. The article talks about “heavy lobbying” from Microsoft and its allies. The company consistently escapes gory technical details and uses diversive strategies to get its way. Not directly in response to this, a member of the Linux Foundation, whose writings on the topic have been very influential (his expertise is standards), has more to say.

As both Peter Quinn and Louis Gutierrez both found out, trying to make responsible standards-related decisions where huge sums of vendor revenues are at stake is scarcely a career-enhancing pastime. CIOs should be entitled to stay out of harm’s way, and try their best to serve the public’s interests the best they can. Where that can’t be done, legislatures should protect them, and keep them safe from the types of unwarranted threats and attacks that Carol Sliwa reported on in a series of public-records request-based stories at ComputerWorld last December.

[...]

After the impressive lobbying assault mounted over the past six months against open document format legislation, I expect you won’t be hearing of many state IT departments taking the baton back from their legislators.

And who can blame them? If they tried, it wouldn’t be likely to be anything as harmless as an open document format that would bite them in the butt.

A certain concensus has become that lobbying may just an integral part of this ‘debate’, which should have been a purely technical one (ideally!). The result of this is fragmentation. It has even led India to headaches, if this morning’s news is anything to judge by:

Adoption of open source software platforms like Linux is on the rise despite the [Indian] government’s refusal to officially endorse the technology as other emerging markets have done. However, the government wants to make clear in its national E-governance policy that “no compulsory open source” does not mean “no unified document standards.”

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