State Open-Source Bills Get Microsoft's Attention

(via Stephe) The WSJ has an article up (also at MarketWatch) about Microsoft’s battle with State governments over ODF adoption. Stephe digs into the Microsoft site to see what their opinion was in the past. From the WSJ article:

The impetus for the Texas bill was similar to that in other states — a desire to ensure access to archived and current documents regardless of which company’s application is used to open them, and lower costs. “If the state could have these companies compete against each other, it would save taxpayers millions of dollars,” Mr. Veasey said.

Dr. Homan said he first became interested in the open-document-format issue when Florida’s Department of Health requested renewal of a three-year software agreement with Microsoft at a cost of $12.4 million. “I thought, man, that’s a lot of money, and that comes up every three years.”

Dr. Homan said Florida and other states could save money with genuinely open formats, because they are designed to work with other, conceivably lower-cost document applications than what Microsoft offers, such as the open-source technology OpenOffice. The idea is that not only state workers but also constituents could use such cheaper options.

“Microsoft sees what’s coming. Things like Word and Excel are sort of like a drug now getting ready to go generic,” Dr. Homan said.

That last sentence nails it in a clearer way than I’ve seen elsewhere. Despite what Microsoft lobbying may attempt to assert, real competition here would be good for State governments from a cost perspective. Even bigger to me though is the freedom state constituents would gain for accessing information they have a right to. With Office counting for Billions in revenue though, Microsoft has a fiduciary duty to downplay that. And they are. Will they be able to make a convincing enough argument to stave off the growing ODF swell? We’ll see.


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