Looking first to the central definition of an "open format," we see that the Oregon definition is more detailed than that which is found in most of the other bills. For example, while the California formulation is very high level and would provide more flexibility in interpretation, the Oregon text is more precise, and often provides examples of what would be required in order to comply with the bill. Here is a direct comparison of the definitions found in these two bills:
Unfortunately for the Information Technology Division (ITD) in particular, and state government in general, the new bill would provide only a fraction of the funding that would have been provided under last year's legislation. As proposed by Patrick, the bond would offer only $95 million, rather than the $250 million originally proposed. According to MHT, $75 million would be dedicated to planning and procurement, a further $15 million would fund a statewide system to mange performance and measure efficiency of agency databases, and $4.9 million would be given to the state attorney general's offices for IT projects.
Last Friday I thought I could sneak a few days of backcountry hiking in over a weekend without neglecting the news and my site too badly. But as soon as I was able to connect my laptop again late today, I learned how wrong I could be. So here goes with my effort to catch up.
The first item that broke over the weekend was the not wholly unanticipated news that ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) has approved ECMA 376 (a/k/a the format formerly known as Microsoft OOXML) to progress into the five month second phase of the Fast Track process. That story appears to have been first reported by Eric Lai, at ComputerWorld. And the second and third stories that I've noticed (so far) are by Carol Sliwa, also of ComputerWorld. In the first, Carol once again interviews Louis Gutierrez, the former Massachusetts CIO. And in the second, she reports on a poll of CIO's in which she asked whether they would consider implementing ODF.
Both of these journalists have provided excellent coverage to the ODF/OOXML story. It always pays to pay special attention when they have something to say, because each has provided some of the most carefully researched stories. Lately, Eric has been first to break several stories, while Carol went to the trouble last summer of filing the Massachusetts' equivalent of Freedom of Information Act requests that uncovered the real facts regarding Microsoft's lobbying (and more) in Massachusetts. And in the "welcome back" department, PJ at Groklaw (who has also followed ODF and OOXML tirelessly) weighs in with her own insights on several of these stories here.
I'll take a look at Eric's story first, and see if I can provide any additional context. Eric reports that Lisa Rajchel, of ISO's JTC1, made the announcement Saturday in an email that OOXML would proceed on schedule, despite the unusual level of commentary received from qualified ISO/IEC members, many of whom had objected to the brief time (30 days) allowed to digest the over 6,000 page specification.
What happens next? The files sent to me also include the JTC1 transmittal note, which indicates that after internal consultation, next steps will be communicated to the National Bodies "in the very near future."
Here are the extracts, divided by category, taken directly from the original responses filed by the 20 national bodies.
Updated 10:50 EST 3/3/07: I have not felt comfortable posting the full documents that I have received. However, I will provide links to them as others get copies and post them on line. You can find the summary Ecma document, with Ecma's proposed actions, through the following link that appears in a March 1 article by Eric Lai at ComputerWorld, or in this link from a March 3 Groklaw article by Mathfox. The same article by Mathfox includes the full text of the French response.
When deciding how to implement this section, the department in its evaluation of open, XML-based file formats shall consider all of the following features:(1) Interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications.
(2) Fully published and available royalty-free.
(3) Implemented by multiple vendors.
(4) Controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard.
How bad can it get? Apparently pretty bad, according to the South African national body, which thinks that the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) avenue to ISO/IEC adoption is being abused. After being apparently subjected to the lobbying efforts of camps pro and con through both the ODF and now the OOXML adoption process, they have become down right testy.
Microsoft has determined that it is important to shine a bright light on IBM's activities that will have a negative impact on the IT industry and customers, including taking concrete steps to prevent customer choice, engaging in hypocrisy, and working against the industry and against customer needs. Microsoft will continue to be public in identifying the ways that IBM is trying to prevent customer choice.
-- Statement by a Microsoft spokesman on February 14, 2007
Given that there has been a fair amount of information, disinformation, and supposition flying around, I thought that I should share some additional details that I've learned relating to the contradictions received by JTC 1 regarding Ecma 376 (nee Microsoft OOXML).
In doing so, I'll borrow Stephen O'Grady's trademark Q&A approach again, albeit not as skillfully as he does. Here we go, starting with Stephen's traditional conflicts disclosure, which I try to remember to include from time to time for the benefit of new readers.
Q: I hear you do work for OASIS, and that IBM is behind all of the contradictions activity. Are these conflicts, and are there any others to report?
A: Yes, I am counsel of record to OASIS, the developer of ODF, although in fact I do very little work for them. Also, I've had no involvement with ODF at OASIS, nor been consulted in any way by OASIS regarding ODF, ever. Neither IBM nor Sun, another ODF proponent, is a client, although each is a member of many consortia that I represent – as are thousands of other companies, governmental agencies, universities, NGOs and individuals. Sun did fund the creation of the Standards MetaLibrary section of this site, but that was four years ago.
Q: Got it. So let's get down to business. I hear that Microsoft's Tom Robertson was quoted in eWeek saying that 103 nations have standards bodies "with the authority to act at the ISO on behalf of that country," and that ,"What we see is that only a small handful have submitted comments." MS' Brian Jones also says at his blog that " It sounds like about 18 of the 100+ countries reviewing the standard came back with comments."
So just how big a deal is that, anyway?
One of the things that you learn early when you blog is to ignore the flames, or at least try to. Lots of people will assume that you're a jerk (a/k/a you think something they don't), or that you have all of your facts wrong. They can often get pretty harsh about it, too. Still, you have to keep in mind that you're not going to always be right, and own up and take it in the chops like a grownup when you get called out. Assuming, of course, that the one calling you out has their facts right.
For example: yesterday I noticed that someone had posted a trackback to this entry of mine to one of theirs that they titled Andy Updegrove's Indian Fancy. That post, at a Microsoft site, and written by self-described "Open XML Technical Evangelist" Doug Mahugh (I see from this entry that he's also the person who wanted to hire Rick Jelliffe to edit the ODF/OOXML entry at Wikipedia) , included the following, beginning with an out take from my blog entry:
"According to one story, at least one of these countries (India) was considering responding by abstaining from voting, in protest over the extremely short amount of time provided to review the voluminous specification. Instead, it appears that it opted to knuckle down, finish its review, and submit contradictions instead."
…Well, maybe Andy knows something I don't, or maybe he's just quoting somebody who got the facts wrong. There's been rather a lot of that getting-the-facts wrong stuff lately when it comes to file formats, you know. :-)
Sun announced today that it would make a "preview" version of its Office to ODF plugin in "mid February," with the full version to follow "later this spring." Plugins will be available for use with both Sun's StarOffice as well as the open source OpenOffice.org office suite. The announcement comes five days after Microsoft announced the immediate availability of its Office to ODF plugin at SourceForge.
At this time, neither plugin will work with all versions of Office. According to the press release issued by Sun just now (the full text appears below), the Sun plugin will only work with Office 2003 text documents, while the Microsoft plugin will (according to Martin LaMonica) apparently be usable in connection with Office 2003, Office XP and Office 2007 (Elizabeth Montalbano, on the other hand, says that it will only assist users that upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007; I'll give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, and go with Martin's report). Initially, that means that most Office users will be able to use either one, the other, or both alternatives.Similarly, both plugins will initially only convert Word documents, although the developers on each version team are working on enabling conversion of spreadsheets and presentations (the Sun version will be available in April; I do not know the expected delivery date for the Microsoft version). Again, the Microsoft plugin will only work with Office 2007.