Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 19th Jan, 2011

AGIMO standardises on Microsoft

To Minister Andrew Leigh,
Federal Member for Fraser

Dear Minister Leigh,

I read a paper recently published at:

http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/strategy-and-governance/docs/wofg_coe_policy.pdf

Which states (on page 10) that:

(Office Productivity Suites) "Must support the Office Open XML file format as defined by ECMA-376"

This is a deeply concerning thing to me and many people I know for the following reasons.

ECMA-376, commonly known as "Office Open XML", is a 7000+ document that Microsoft forced through ISO by stacking committees, bribing officials and other underhanded means (see http://www.noooxml.org/irregularities). Microsoft has also publicly stated that it has no intention of following the standard (http://goo.gl/hT8uZ) and it does not already follow the "Strict" standard anyway. It seems extremely unwise to me to mandate a standard that is not supported by the single vendor that wrote it to comply with what their own software did.

One must ask, therefore, if there is a better standard. Indeed, there is - ODF, also known as ISO/IEC standard 26300:2006. This standard is around 600 pages long and is also supported by over twenty different applications, many of them free to use and distribute, from OpenOffice to Microsoft Office. This not only gives agencies the choice of software to use, but cost savings to be realised should free alternatives to costly commercial software be chosen.

The rest of the document has similar specifications which seem to make little sense unless the goal is to put money in a software or hardware vendor's pockets. Specifying the use of Microsoft proprietary mail protocols (page 10), the Microsoft Windows specific program iexplore.exe (page 11), support for the proprietary MPEG-2 codec (page 12) and use of the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system (page 20) seem like needless specification at best and vendor lock-in at worst.

One feels that a whole-of-government computer deployment plan should not have the implicit specification that the government pay whatever a bunch of proprietary software vendors choose to charge.

If you would like to meet with me to discuss any of this further I would be happy to do so.

I have also written this on my blog - see http://mabula.net/tbfw/.

Thanks in advance,

Paul

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