ODF Notes and Reports from All Over (Installment III)

Today's update includes access to a verbatim transcript of the October 31 hearing, notes from the Technical breakout group at the Armonk meeting, and more.

Here’s today’s round up of what’s popped up in the media, the blogosphere (and even the real world) on ODF over the last couple of days:


Events first: A full transcript of the October 31 hearing held by Massachusetts Senator Marc Pacheco, paid for by the Information Technology Division (ITD), was sent yesterday to Pamela Jones at Groklaw, Dan Bricklin and me by ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel. While not an “official” Senate transcript, it was taken by a stenographer and supplied to us in unedited form.


Pamela Jones has posted the transcript in its entirety at Groklaw, together with her own commentary and links to related materials. If you read my earlier rough transcript and were (how to say delicately) put off by the proceedings and the lack of understanding on Pacheco’s part of what (for example) the difference between an open standard and open source is, or the amount of FUD that had found its target, you’ll find this energizing reading.


Further information on the contentions bandied about should come shortly, when Information Technology Division (ITD) General Counsel Linda Hamel’s official rational for the ITD’s legal positions, as requested by Senator Pacheco, is released. I’m told that this could happen as early as today, although internal review may delay its release.


Some additional detail on the technical front comes in the form of a more detailed summary of the technical breakout group at the November 4 Armonk meeting than I have previously seen available on line. This particular set of notes was taken by Nathaniel S Borenstein and represent his own summary of the topics discussed and the consensus conclusions reached, rather than a record approved by those present.


In the media department, CIOToday.com posted an article by Elizabeth Millard on the Armonk meeting and subsequent events called OpenDocument Format Gathers Momentum. The article is brief and doesn’t include anything new, but to Millard’s credit, she contacted Pamela Jones, and included this exchange: Many in the open-source community expect debates to rage for some time over ODF, because Microsoft is involved both behind the scenes and in its dealings with Massachusetts, noted Pamela Jones, who runs watchdog site Groklaw.


“With Microsoft involved, there’s going to be debate,” she said.


Beyond the inclusion of Microsoft, ODF likely will keep up the lively discussions because it will be new to many users, and the impact on them will need to be considered, Jones added.


But Jones and others feel that the meeting in Armonk shows promise for raising the level of the conversation. “[Sun’s] announcement is proof, to me, that Microsoft’s old business practices will sink their ship if they don’t improve,” Jones noted on Groklaw. And speaking of Microsoft, we haven’t heard much from our friends in Redmond for a while, other than the occasional statement by Alan Yates when asked to comment in connection with an ODF story. As I’ve noted earlier (see, for example, Corel and Microsoft say Blah Blah, Woof Woof, he has been remarkably brief and consistent in his statements, and I have not been able to detect any change in messaging for quite a while. ComputerWorld interviewer Carol Silwa did ask Steve Ballmer, however, where Microsoft stands on ODF. The interchange appears in a sidebar of an article not yet available at the ComputerWorld site titled, “Ballmer Looks to Change Users’ Views of Database.” It reads like this: Silwa:Is there any chance you’ll support the Open Document Format, which the Massachusetts government’s IT division adopted as its standard?


Ballmer:We’ve announced support today for the PDF format, which is one of the interoperability formats the state of Massachusetts has indicated. We have our own formats for doing kind of bridge documents of our own styles. So I think that’s where our energies are focused right now.


Silwa: Never say never?


Ballmer:That’s where our energies are focused. The article is datelined November 14, but as you may have picked up from Ballmer’s reference to adding support to PDF “today”, the interview obviously did not take place recently. One assumes that Ballmer would be reading from the same file card today, however.


Computerworld, incidentally, has been doing what many media outlets have been doing: covering ODF solely as a “challenge to Microsoft” issue rather than addressing the independent virtues of an open standard format that becomes more and more useful the more it becomes supported. If you’d like to perform a little test for yourself, do a word search on “Open Document” at the ComputerWorld site, and you’ll see that the second paragraph, if not the first, of every article tees up the Microsoft challenge story line. True, the face off with Microsoft is part of the ODF story, but it’s not the whole story.


And, while we’re at it, in the Big Surprise of the Day department, I note that the Word spellchecker is set up to be sure that you spell Ballmer’s name correctly. Oh well. At least Mr. Clippy didn’t jump out of the bushes and yell at me (does he remind anyone else of Doonesbury’s Mr. Butts?).


All for now, but tomorrow’s another day.


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