ODF Update: Notes and Reports from All Over

What's happened since the Armonk meeting, what will happen next, and where things stand (or not) on Beacon Hill.

The following is a compendium of information from a variety of sources (which I’ll identify as I go along).

First, some additional information from the Armonk conference (including an update on how discussions are proceeding since Friday):

– From the technical breakout group: As I noted in my first Armonk post, a great deal of discussion focused on overcoming the discrepancy between ODF and Microsoft Office as regards disability accommodation. The discussion considered what approaches made the most technical sense, could be completed most expeditiously, and would be most useful in accommodating those with disabilities. Several subcommittees were identified that will be recommended to OASIS, with the hope that OASIS and its members will agree to move forward on these recommendations.

Since Friday’s meeting: I’m told that the focus of these efforts will also be to ensure that the resulting standards will be harmonized on a global basis, and integrated at the public and private levels.

Several additional subcommittees not related to disability accommodation will also be recommended. Patrick Gannon, CEO of OASIS, was present throughout the day, and many of the corporations represented at the meeting are OASIS member, so the recommendations were conveyed in real time.

– From the strategy breakout group: The strategy breakout group, predictably, covered a lot of ground. One of the discussions that may have the most immediate concrete results involved the possibility of additional companies making patent non-assertion commitments, either identical or similar to the non-assertion pledge already made by Sun. The effect would be not only to waive any actual patents claims that might be infringed, but also to augment the “aura” of ODF and signify determination among those committed to support ODF’s success.

And lastly, you may recall that while the meeting had not been publicized in advance, IDG got wind of it and Elizabeth Montalbano posted a heads uplast Wednesday, based on a copy of the meeting invitation that came her way. That invitation mentioned the possibility of a new organization being formed to promote ODF. While that is still a matter of discussion rather than a binding commitment of those that attended the meeting, Bob Sutor, IBM’s Vice President of Standards and Open Source and the host of the Armonk meeting, has agreed to develop a proposal for forming a new organization to promote the implementation of ODF.

Now, a bit on the Massachusetts Senate bill :

First, here’s a link to the full text of S 2256 (recall that Section 4 is the language in question). I don’t know whether the fact that the language appears in the draft at the Massachusetts site indicates that it has been approved in the Senate version or not.

I’ve done a bit of asking around about bill sponsors, and apparently in our “transparent” system here in the Commonwealth the sponsors of amendments need not disclose their identity.

Regarding other sites:

Over at ZDNet, David Berlind has a very long piece analyzing the October 31 Pacheco hearing at which State CIO Quinn and ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel testified. David has done his own transcription directly from the audio tape of the hearing (a link to the audio file is embedded in his article). David is appropriately outraged at the “hearing” and highlights some examples of exchanges that will be likely to elicit a similar reaction on your part.

David also takes a crack at trying to divine why the MS XML Reference Shema license isn’t “open enough” for Massahusetts, and brings Larry Rosen into the question. He offers some ideas about how and where it falls short, but it would have been helpful if the Massachusetts ITD had been more specific on this point.

Speaking of the October 31 hearing, several frustrated ODF advocates that were denied the opportunity to provide affirmative testimony to Senator Pacheco brought written materials as handouts for those that attended. Sun’s submission is now available on line.

Not surprisingly, Groklaw is covering this story as well. The main comment thread ( 331 comments, as of this moment in time) has been running since Pamela posted a piece on November 3 called I’m Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help. All manner of ideas, proposals and opinions are offered there, as well as bits of useful information , such as a link to list of Massachusetts representatives by district, and several sample letters offered to others to use or adapt if they wish to contact their representatives.

And finally, in the Be Kind to Microsoft [Not] category, there are already announcements that plugins have been completed that will allow Office users to save documents in ODF form. Here’s a prototype converter that’s already available under a BSD open source license. Thank goodness – Microsoft will be able to get with the ODF program after all.

That’s all for now, but I’ll have more in a day or two.

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