Shane Peterson, who has been following document formats legislation in the US for some time, has a new article on Public CIO entitled "What Domino Effect?" that takes a close look at how the situation has evolved in Massachussetts and Texas.
The article includes some quotes from my friend and colleague Stuart McKee on the value of choice:
"The reality is that many file formats exist to satisfy the incredible diversity of needs in software applications," he said, noting that some document formats present a fixed representation of information so that it can't ever be changed. "Other formats are designed to maximize the ability to edit documents, and formats for spreadsheets or designing page layouts to suit the specific needs of software applications and systems. "Since each of these features can be necessary given the goals of a specific project, locking in a single file format standard simply makes no sense," McKee said. "Choice among overlapping and even competing file format standards best enables governments to meet their needs, today and into the future, and ensures the efficient use of government resources and taxpayer monies."
Stuart discusses some related concepts in his column last week on "Translating Interoperability." As a former state CIO (Washington), his pragmatic perspective is very much in line with the thinking behind the Massachussetts ETRM (Enterprise Technology Reference Model), which stipulates a list of open-standard document formats for various types of applications including text, HTML, PDF, ODF, and Open XML.
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The full article is rather interesting. In one spot, it seems that the Massachusetts migration is competely off their timeline, but other evidence suggests that there is take-up of OpenOffice.org, so I think the comment about the Sun translator is simply garbled.
It is also encouraging that no one seems to be in a hurry to dictate ODF considering the small matter of reality and the prospect for dramatic unintended consequences.