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Open Malaysia blog: “Why OpenDocument Format Matters to Texans”

The Open Malaysia blog writes a post on Why OpenDocument Format matters to Texans.

It’s based on testimony delivered to the Texas House and Senate by Bob Sutor in March. It’s detailed, it’s thorough, and it is relevant to Texas and any other regional, national, or local government that deals with digital data (thus, all of them around the world).

Sutor considers Microsoft’s monopoly on the current generation of file formats a hidden “tax” that is levied on everyone using it, and even affecting those who do not:

“When you and your citizens are effectively restricted to a single software supplier to access government information, you and they pay what I would consider taxes. Open standards avoid this.

“The first tax is the difference between what you must pay to that supplier vs. the lower cost if multiple suppliers existed and prices had to be competitive. You would also pay an innovation tax. The sole vendor has limited reasons to improve the product. Fresh ideas from new players such as Texan entrepreneurs are kept out of the product category. This is bad.”

It’s a clear argument that should be easy to understand. Competition in the marketplace has proven itself time and again, and software and data file formats are no exception. And open formats are the very essence of what led to the success of the world wide web (HTML, etc). The web is an unbeatable argument in favor of open standards–remember how quickly it overwhelmed the walled gardens of AOL, MSN, and others?

Sutor continues, “EVERYONE can implement a true open standard. This bill is about choice. ODF and open standards for file formats will drive choice of applications, innovative use of information, increased competition, and lower prices. Personally, I think these are good things.

“The world is shifting to non-proprietary open standards based on the amazing success of the World Wide Web, a success that was far more important than any single vendor’s market position or ideas for what was right for the world.”

Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing reports of open format bills being watered down in California, and being blocked by Microsoft lobbyists in Florida. Let’s hope that Texas’ bill avoids such a fate, and that other states (including my own, New York) start to move in the open data format direction as well.

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