I just read this article today about Massachusetts wanting to move away from closed formats and standardize on open formats (OpenOffice’s XML and PDF). While it’s not mentioned in the article, from what I’ve been told there is not yet a decision made, rather a proposal brought forward and is under consideration.
I think that a number of the points raised in the article are really great. Moving to document formats that are open, documented, and royalty-free is actually really valuable. I’ve been talking for awhile now about the benefits people will get now that we are moving to open XML formats in the next version of Office. This is really a big deal. The default format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 12 will be completely open, meaning you aren’t tied into Microsoft software to access your files. They will now totally belong to you and you have control over them. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity this gives to people to build solutions that operate on Office documents and it’s royalty-free (no cost).
I’m a bit stunned by the overall proposal that was brought forward to the State though as it seems to be a bit short sighted and unnecessarily exclusive. I question why the proposal has this exclusivity given the fact that there has been no thorough research into the open XML formats for Office 12. The reason I say that there hasn’t been thorough research is that we won’t have our first Beta for another couple months, so I doubt they could have looked into it much. If they had, I can’t imagine that they would have made this decision as it actually provides the easiest path of moving from proprietary binary formats into open XML formats.
The Microsoft Office Open XML Formats will work for all those billions of Office documents that already exist today. We are going to provide bulk upgrade converters that allow you to easily convert from the binary formats into the XML formats. Everything that you could represent in the existing binary formats you will be able to represent in XML. This means all features and functionality that people have come to expect from their office products will be stored in XML. This was actually a huge undertaking. The Office applications are very large, and while most people only certain features, each person uses a different set, and in the end all features are used. Trying to lock out those documents and forcing people to lose data and functionality is not really a great idea.