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Microsoft Lap Dog, Ms. Wyne?Microsoft Lap Dog, Ms. Wyne?

Memo to Melanie Wyne, executive director of the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC), evidently a Microsoft PR program masquerading as a trade organization: When you get what you want, you are supposed to say "thank you." Didn't your mother teach you any manners? The state of Massachusetts' request for a OpenDocument format plug-in for Microsoft Office is a very reasonable compromise. So why are you doing <a href="http://www.techweb.com/wire/software/187201420">a very unattractive imitation of a

David DeJean

May 9, 2006

2 Min Read

Memo to Melanie Wyne, executive director of the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC), evidently a Microsoft PR program masquerading as a trade organization: When you get what you want, you are supposed to say "thank you." Didn't your mother teach you any manners? The state of Massachusetts' request for a OpenDocument format plug-in for Microsoft Office is a very reasonable compromise. So why are you doing a very unattractive imitation of a junkyard dog?Actually, the way I read the situation, the OpenDocument Foundation saved Microsoft's butt last week when it announced its plug-in.

The background: The Massachusetts state government's Information and Technology Division (ITD) opened this can of worms last year when it announced it would stop buying software products that didn't save files in non-proprietary open formats. Microsoft Office was the clear target of the decision, and the reasons made sense. The state wants to deliver more information to its citizens in digital form. It wants to maintain accessible archives. Both those goals are tough to reach if the citizenry has to have a very expensive software application to open the files -- or even if state departments have to use software that creates only proprietary file formats to distribute information. Microsoft was by turns angry and conciliatory. It offered half-way measures and vague promises and XML everywhere. The software giant has good reason to be afraid. If the open-document snowball starts rolling, inevitably Microsoft will lose the natural monopoly created by the .DOC, .XLS, and .PPT file formats. The idea of a plug-in that creates OpenDocument-format files seems like a win-win. Microsoft can continue to sell Office to Massachusetts -- and to Minnesota and the European Union and other government entities that have been looking at the problem -- and these governments can make their data more widely accessible through a variety of software. There is a catch, of course. Microsoft is going to have to compete on price with open-source applications that create open-format files. This is apparently what galls Ms. Wyne as she rails against "ITD bureaucrats" and "a specious administrative process" that set out to spend Massachusetts tax dollars as wisely as possible. (Full disclosure: Some of those tax dollars are mine. I live in Massachusetts. Nice state. You should visit sometime.) Wouldn't you think she would be pleased? After all, this situation looks like it could eventually lead to her association's members other than Microsoft selling more software -- that is, if she's something besides a Microsoft lap dog and her association has other members.

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