ODF Notes and Reports From All Over [Installment II]

Here's another edition of ODF Notes and Reports From All Over, with corporate announcements, state CIO interview answers, and more

[Updated 8:45 AM 11/11/05]

As predicted in my blog entry on November 9, news is starting to flow in the aftermath of the Armonk ODF meeting, as meeting participants begin to give interviews and make announcements, following up on commitments they made last Friday. Herewith, a sampling from the last 24 hours:

First, in the corporate position department, there is news from IBM. In furtherance of the meeting’s pledge to address disability accessibility issues, IBM was scheduled to announce today that its Workplace Managed Client productivity tools, including word processing, spreadsheet and presentation editors, are now planned to be fully accessible on a Windows platform by 2007, and on a Linux platform by 2008. As far as I can tell, Armonk meeting co-sponsor Sun Microsystems has not yet made any significant statements since the meeting, but if you have not yet read it, the statement it presented in print (but was not allowed to present as a witness) at the October 31 hearing called by Senator Pacheco can be found in full at XML author Tim Bray’s Website.

Next, on the Massachusetts legislature front, I am told by a different source that the Senate and House versions of S 2256 will be reconciled by November 18, which is faster than I had previously been led to believe. Speaking as a resident of Massachusetts (but not one that’s paid much attention in the past to how such things work), I am appalled at how deliberately opaque those involved have made the system, and how little it’s possible to find out about the progress of “public” legislation. Please, if you have any information on the schedule, sponsors, or current status of the Senate bill, add a comment below to let us all know (and send me an email, too, if you would).

One group that I failed to mention in detail in my prior reports is the OpenDocument Fellowship . Ryan Singer, one of the founders, attended the meeting (as did co-founder Adam Moore), and volunteered to take a number of follow-up actions. I received an email from Ryan today with a copy of a letter sent by the Fellowship to Senator Marc Pacheco, and a link later in the day from Adam. You can find the letter, which addresses Pacheco’s concerns and also supplies links to materials that explain the concepts that the senator acknowledged he did not really understand here. You may also want to check out the Activities page, which includes a number of resources, including a list of Massachusetts legislators.

On the topic of what other states may do CNET’s Martin LaMonica posted one of the most informative articles I’ve seen about ODF in the last several weeks. In this article, he interviews James Gallt, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (as well as RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady, another Armonk attendee, and Bob Sutor). There’s a lot of detail in this article on a variety of current aspects of the ODF situation, so it’s worth a read in full. For now, however, here’s what Gallt and O’Grady had to say about where State CIO’s heads are at when it comes to ODF:

 James Gallt,…said Wednesday that there are a number of state agencies are exploring the use of the document format standard….”It’s more grassroots, starting small and working its way through individual states and agencies,” Gallt said, but did not specify which governments were looking into it.

Those state customers are seeking alternatives to Microsoft Office, while the technology providers are looking to loosen Microsoft’s grip on the desktop marketplace, said Stephen O’Grady, an analyst at RedMonk. Those factors are what are fueling the growing momentum for OpenDocument, he said.

“There’s a confluence of events,” said O’Grady, who attended the ODF Summit. “You have customers like Massachusetts asking for choice and the ability to play vendors off each other, and at the same time, you have vendors looking at an opportunity to compete on a Microsoft control point….Office 12 is a very, very nice package. If [Microsoft] were to support ODF, they’d do very well just competing on technical merits of applications. It’s very nice package. That’s the shame. It doesn’t have to be an anti-Microsoft thing,.”

Because OpenDocument-based products are not widely used, the financial incentive for corporate or governmental customers is still not thoroughly tested, analysts and industry executives said. NASCIO’s Gallt said that state governments are looking at whether Massachusetts can make the case that adopting OpenDocument will provide a compelling return on investment….

Gallt said that the other states’ agencies exploring OpenDocument are doing so in a far more scaled-down and less visible way than Massachusetts. “It’s still, in a lot of ways, behind-the-scenes discussions and evaluations at this point, because it is such an emotional and volatile topic, as Massachusetts has found,” he said.

So what’s the latest internationally? LaMonica is on that as well, reporting:

The French state tax agency said Wednesday it intends to migrate 80,000 desktops next year from Microsoft Office 97 to OpenOffice, an open-source product that uses OpenDocument. The move will save about $34 million dollars, the agency’s chief technology officer told ZDNet UK.

So that’s all for now. I’ll check in on my ODF agents later this evening, and add to this post if there’s anything else noteworthy to add.

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