Aaarrrgh. I've been busily trying to deal with the FUD or
ill-informed comments on the UK Govs proposal to set ODF, and only ODF
as standard format for editable word-processed documents. But this
one is such a long comment that i find it difficult to summarise or
deal with at all!
Suggestions would be welcomed a long as they manage to stay polite and
cool and maybe a bit posh. Here goes ...
The proposal premise is flawed.
The users are being compromised by this overtly technical discussion
over proprietary versus open formats that seems to have been sparked
by this Cabinet Office challenge.
For the average user, there is no distinction around document formats.
The Government department user wants to be able to create, collaborate
and distribute the most effective and well formed information
internally and externally to citizens and business users.
The citizen wants to be able to respond and interact with the
Government in the simplest and most effective way.
The choice of appropriate software for both user groups is governed
directly by these fundamentals, not by the type of document format
that is produced. Until now! By positively discriminating against the
Open Office XML format, The Cabinet Office is proposing to force tens
of thousands of users (internal & citizens) who have older versions of
MSFT office to upgrade or to find alternative Office type software. As
a citizen I do not just interact with the Government, I have work to
do and social activities which require interaction and collaboration
too. Am I supposed to also start creating documents for sharing with
my local club and request that all participants also upgrade or
otherwise change their software to access these open documents. The
answer is yes if this proposal in current form gains any further
traction. Please stop and think hard about the short to medium term
consequences of this proposal.
The proposal contains a statement that "Users must not have costs
imposed upon them due to the format in which editable government
information is shared or requested" There have consequently been
numerous comments on this forum regarding the perceived cost burden to
run MSFT Office. I would seriously question the premise of no cost.
How or why is this realistic and why therefore is it included in the
original challenge? This, I believe is another deliberate attempt at
positive discrimination. The Government is freely able to impose cost
burden across numerous other activities. As of today I believe that
all UK citizens can purchase full MSFT office suite for £7.99 per
month that is available for 5 devices per user. If the user is unable
to own their own cheap PC or laptop they can use the web based version
included in any library or public place that has bandwidth, thus there
is not a requirement for an expensive piece of hardware as many have
eluded to in previous comments. As you can hardly buy a gallon of
petrol for this amount, it has to be seen that this represents
extremely good value for money.
The proposal does not mention the cost to Government of using
proprietary licences including Microsoft, but again there are many
comments that the perceived saving of £m's will directly ensue form
this proposal being adopted. If this is the intention of the proposal
then please explicitly state so, otherwise, as I say, the proposal is
flawed. Mandating a change to ODF across multiple Government
departments, agencies & NDPB's etc. will have huge implementation and
subsequent Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) costs in addition to
significant migration costs onto ODF.
New products such as Libre Office from Germany, have well-formed
credentials, but have grown out of the ashes of Open Office which has
in the past had Oracle licencing connections. Oracle stumbled as they
acquired Sun Mocrosystems and the result was a breakaway called The
Document Foundation. Perhaps this is why comments regarding Open
Office are light by comparison to Libre Office. Interestingly when
researching this organisation, I noted that Michael Meeks who is a
Director has published some positive comments about Microsoft's
adoption of OOXML when it was first introduced.
There is very emotive and strong criticism of Microsoft in many
responses to your proposal and I feel that such emotion should not be
part of what needs to be a professional debate. I have taken the
opportunity to read and digest Microsoft's formal response to this
proposal and find that their stance of requesting ODF and OOXML
together is well founded, pragmatic and entirely supportable. If a
Government Department is to request say Tender Submissions, they
should be entirely free to request submission on both formats. Many
Government Departments that I have dealt with still request submission
in .doc format rather than .docx. I have no problem or issue in
dealing with those requests.
There are many comments regarding the view that an ODF format will be
robust and unchanged for many years to come, in comparison to an
implicit suggestion that the MSFT format will not, thus supporting
ODF adoption to protect the ability to view digital information
archives in the future. I was very interested in this and consequently
did my research. I was unable to find any such assurance from any
source that ODF will remain unchanged in the future. Perhaps my search
was not exhaustive enough, but I would be very interested to see what
actual evidence there is to support these numerous claims. The issue
of future proofing digital archives is a vast and complicated one and
I suggest that if there are some solutions forming then it would be
most useful to everyone to share the facts. Personally I am still able
to access Word & Excel documents created as far back as the 1990's
with my current software and this has served me well without
interruption or complication.
Finally, whilst I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this
debate, I am very concerned that this consultation does not appear to
be far reaching and has therefore attracted a tightly formed,
vociferous minority voice, which has no basis on which to make
fundamental policy change the like of which is being proposed here.
The vast majority of individuals that I have spoken to are simply
unaware of it and are therefore excluded from giving an opinion. We
need to have a much wider user based forum which extends well beyond
the mainly technical discussion that has raged here. Perhaps this is
the intention and of so I would welcome that wholeheartedly.
In conclusion, I would submit that there should be a longer period to
extend the consultation and consider more fully the wider implications
of this proposal. My combined personal and professional opinion is
that we should conclude that the proposal should extend to include the
widely adopted MSFT OOXML format to allow the best and widest option
for maximum user satisfaction across all users that this proposal will