Microsoft Embraces ODF
Date: Monday, June 23 @ 15:01:14 PDT
Topic: News

A toast to Peter Quinn

Who follows the document format wars? I know I do, because it is important to me. It's been turning into one of Microsoft's more low-handed episodes, and it's been going on for years, and I doubt we're going to see a successful outcome for Microsoft, mainly because they can't get away with what they've been getting away with anymore.

But I digress. Let's look at some history first. It's not ancient history, but in Internet years, it's pretty old and possibly out of the minds of our readers (whatever ones there are anymore).

Way back in 2005 there was a little dirty war fought in Massachusetts. That uppity little state figured out that all of its documents were in a proprietary format which was likely to be undecipherable within a single generation. Understand how governments think, especially about their archives, and you can certainly see that this is a problem. Massachusetts (the colony was founded, depending on which group you want to count, in either 1620 or 1630) has a lot of old records, and fair sense of duty to preserve them. It also has some of the most vicious political environments on the East Coast, and has had a long and storyed history regarding fairly ugly politics, rivalling New York and Chicago anyday.

When Peter Quinn, who in 2005 was the CIO of the Executive Branch of the Government of Massachusetts, convened a study group to work out what to do with their document retention standards, little did he know just how much trouble he'd get into.

The Massachusetts Information Technology Division rightly was concerned about preserving digital documents. The status quo was disturbing, in that a daunting number of documents stored in .doc format were no longer readable within the short span of 5 years, due to a certain software company's insistence on non-backward-compatibility.

Massachusetts was, unfortunately for them, the first to attack Microsoft's dominance. It cost Peter Quinn his job, when an opportunity arose to smack him. Granted, Massachusetts has an entrenched political structure, and both the bureaucracy and the political ranks have friends, patrons, and backers. William Galvin, who runs the actual archive of Massachusetts, disagreed at the time, and it did not take long for ODF to get sidelined in Massachusetts, and for Microsoft to claim victory in the battle. And a good piece of politics it was too.

But the war moved on, as they do. You can win the battle, and still lose the war, except with Microsoft, losing isn't actually losing.

Paper rots, if you don't take care of it. So do your digital formats. Remember this if you want to make sure your great-great grandchildren can read what you are writing now.

Or learn to use a pen and paper again.

This article comes from LWD

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