Preserving History

I use StarOffice on my Sun Ray and Solaris laptop, and I use OpenOffice on my Windows laptop. I can’t wait to try out Base in this latest version … I’ve been waiting for it. It’s been five years since I’ve used Microsoft Office, so I don’t even know what it looks like anymore. I haven’t finished converting all my old MS Word files, but that’s ok. I’m confident that OpenOffice will open them when I get around to it. And it will be comforting to re-save the important ones in the OpenDocument format. I’m happy to be one of those who are "turning the world inside out."

There has been a lot of press and blogs out there the last couple of weeks on OpenOffice, OpenDocument, and now Sun’s new StarOffice 8 product release. But a few paragraphs jumped out at me recently in this eWeek article — StarOffice 8 Is Office’s Toughest Rival Yet:

One main reason for considering the potentially tricky migration from Office to StarOffice in all or part of an organization is the significantly lower per-user license costs for the Sun suite — $70 for a downloadable version of the product, compared with about $500 for Microsoft Office Professional Edition.

StarOffice’s wholly open-source sibling, OpenOffice.org, is available free of charge, comes bundled with most Linux distributions and is completely compatible with StarOffice.

But perhaps just as important as licensing costs is cross-platform support, and StarOffice clearly beats Microsoft Office here, running on Windows-, Linux- and Solaris-based systems. And through OpenOffice.org and OpenOffice.org derivatives such as NeoOffice/J, support for StarOffice 8’s formats and scripting framework extends to Mac OS X and FreeBSD, with other ports in progress.

I just don’t see how Microsoft can compete with this in the long run without eventually changing its business and/or development model around Office. I bit they will, too.

I also tripped over these comments tonight in eWeek from Peter Quinn, the CIO of the state of Massachusetts — Massachusetts Mandates Open-Format Documents, Edges Towards Linux:

"Microsoft has remade the desktop world," Quinn said. "But if you’ve watched history, there’s a slag heap of proprietary companies who have fallen by the wayside because they were stuck in their ways. Just look at the minicomputer business, for example. The world is about open standards and open source. I can’t understand why anybody would want to continue making closed-format documents anymore."

CIO Peter Quinn challenged Microsoft and other companies who sell software that uses proprietary document formats to consider enabling open-format options as soon as possible.

Quinn said that "government is creating history at a rapidly increasing rate, and all documents we save must be accessible to everybody, without having to use ‘closed’ software to open them now and in the future."

Very nice.

I met Mr. Quinn a couple of months ago at LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco at the Linux in Government Day: Bridging the Open and Proprietary Divide. The guy can talk, that’s for sure. I was impressed because his message was 100 percent positive. He didn’t criticize anyone or any company. Instead, all vendors were welcome to compete for his business, as long as the products offered support open standards so he — as a customer who serves the citizens of Massachusetts — has the freedom to switch and as long as the public’s data is not locked in to any one vendor’s application. That’s not too much to ask, right? I think he believes deeply in his assertion that history should be documented and preserved only in open file formats for the benefit of  future generations. I totally support that position, and I believe we should expect nothing less from our elected officials and civil servants.

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2 thoughts on “Preserving History

  1. Yep. I have an old clunky Sony laptop with a busted screen that I have to prop up straight … it has been on its last legs for over 6 months now. I’m surprised it’s still going, actually. It will die soon, I’m sure. 🙂 After it goes, I’ll get a Mac for home. I’m not religious with my computing, I can assure you, so if you didn’t read after that first sentence, oh, well.

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