Governments around the world have begun to specify that their computer documents be stored in an open — non-proprietary — accessible format. This policy brings important advantages to governments, and in fact to anyone who follows it. For example, if the format is open and non-proprietary, the data itself are safer. As the horrible example, think of all the Microsoft documents that can scarcely be opened and read because the newer versions can't read the older versions correctly. Or of all the times that you were forced to upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft software; not because you wanted to, but because colleagues bought the latest version and started sending you documents you couldn't read. In my opinion, companies have a fiduciary duty to avoid proprietary document formats.
This brings us to an organization that calls itself "The Initiative for Software Choice." I'm persuaded by other analysts who claim that the Initiative is actually another Microsoft "front" organization. The Intiative's director recently published a polemic that raises a series of straw-man arguments. It's as if though adopting policies to safeguard their data against obsolescence, and getting off the merry-go-round of continuous software upgrades by Microsoft that render previous formats obsolete, is an attack against the U.S. flag, Mom, and apple pie.
The disaggregation of data formats from any particular vendor means data will become interoperable, that vendors will have to compete on features and price of their programs, that new and exciting ideas of how to manipulate data will become possible, and that software vendors will no longer be able to introduce format changes at random in order to force periodic updates of their software (and higher sales). It's a win for competition and for the customers — and loss for obsolete business models, such as Microsoft's.
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