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View Diary: MA-Gov: So, when's Romney retiring? (147 comments)

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  •  .NET developer (none)
    K S,

    You bring up some interesting points.  I may have misunderstood ODF, and you're right that my comment, "the format is difficult to use" is incorrect.  More accurately, what I meant was that I have tried OpenOffice and disliked it, and I know that people like my mom, like my grandmother, and others that have the courage to try new technology would be turned off by this move.  Government workers in MA who have to use it are bound to be confused, but more importantly, if this is the MA standard, what happens if communications with the public are in this format and they can't access it?  There is no way that even my tech-savvy younger brother is going to go to the lengths of downloading the free OpenOffice.  Or, if I do it for him, after he uses it once, he's going to say, "forget it."

    I'm an ASP.NET developer and am somewhat familiar with the XML standard.  My understanding is that there is no real difference between ODF and, say, the upcoming suite of Microsoft Office 12 products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) that will be (finally) replacing their binary-based format with an XML-based format.  

    ODF was first and led the way, and I respect that.  I also respect that Quinn wanted to make the MA government a leader in this technology, and you made the excellent point that his move is a symbolic leadership one, similar to say, Deval Patrick's initiative to replace government vehicles with hybrid ones as the old vehicles need to be replaced.  That is the kind of leadership we want.  However, and maybe I'm wrong, but the move to ODF, while looking out for data loss problems, is going to confuse many people and will ultimately be an expensive move to switch back and forth when they are going to want to go back to MS Office in a year or two, anyway because those will simply be superior products that have a critical mass of market share.  The switch to XML-based documents has been a transition happening over a number of years, and Microsoft has been slower than the proponents of ODF in implementing a legitimate solution, but they're getting their act together and come 2007, will be dominating this space.  

    In terms of attracting Microsoft, I definitely hear what you're saying about their "gobble everyone up" nature and I didn't know about the Frontpage company being Cambridge-based (Frontpage is what hooked me on web development about 10 years ago, although I quickly dropped it as I discovered Dreamweaver and MS's horrible markup).  I'd be careful of holding DEC up as the model of an effective company, however.  I work with dozens of ex-DEC employees and they all agree that company deserved to go under.

    Almost because of that "gobble up startups" nature, I would think Microsoft would want a bigger presence in MA.  With all the venture capital in the Boston area (it is one of the 2 or 3 biggest concetrations of VC in the country, I believe) and all the brainpower between MIT, WPI, Harvard, Holy Cross, Dartmouth, Tufts, BU, BC, Northeastern, etc. this should be a breeding ground for bleeding edge, ODF-like-developing incubators.

    Deval Patrick is the type of governor who can sell MA (and Cambridge in particular) as that type of area.  Reilly, Romney, and everybody else have no clue about attracting biotech companies and refuse to consider something like stem cell research in order to pander to voters.  Patrick, on the other hand, has made this "selling MA as the Silicon Valley + biotechnology + nanotechnology / innovation capital of the country" a high priority in his campaign, and I think he can pull it off.

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