When IBM released the Personal Computer (IBM PC) in August 1981, it followed
its traditional practice of publishing a complete set of electronic drawings and
copious software details in order to help engineers maintain machines. It also
alowed any other supplier to "clone" their design and duplicate cheaper
copies. . Unintentionally they had produced a new de facto
global standard that lead to the highly competitive PC market and very low
prices we enjoy today. Although IBM defended its ownership of
the original design, many competitors developed a range of
machines that came to form an "open" design outside the control
of the hardware giant. Today IBM plays only a small part in PC hardware and
no single hardware supplier has a dominent and excessively profitable role
in the market.
Conversely, software has produced huge profits for a few companies who find
themselves as key suppliers to consumers 'locked into' their product. One
example is Microsoft (MS) with its operating systems (Windows 98, ME and XP) and
applications (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) but perhaps this powerul position is coming to
More and more documents are stored on intranets or the Internet but many are not
searchable because of the format used by Microsofts' word processor - 'Word'. If
a format - like HTML could be used then this would lead to hugh benefits when it comes
to combining and analysising information. One such format is XML (Extensible
Mark-up Language) which allows data to be saved with a structure. This allows
users to combine data from many different sources very easily..
The 'Open Document Format' employs XML and is an international standard developed
by a consortium called OASIS.
OASIS is a powerful alliance of international suppliers and users which is backed
by many governments which is intent on breaking the straanglehold that Microsoft
has on the way we decide to store and use information. An open standard would
drastically reduce software and upgrade costs.
Open Office is a suite of programmes that are free to download and
employs the OpenDoucument format. (The article above is BECTAs recommendation
to the UK government that programmes like Open Office be used). We recommend
that it is looked at too.
Microsoft is the only member of OASIS against the adoption of 'Open Document',
(we fail to see why) and it has issued its own proprietory XML format
that will become its base standard whenever Office 12 is released.
Microsoft claims that they aren't supporting Open Document because there is 'no
customer demand for it'.
When the European Union evaluated both Open Document XML and Word XML they
came down in favour of Open Document. The state of Massachusetts recently declared it
would only accept Open Document and pdf formats from 2007 and when Microsoft
whined about the apparent discrimination, against them, they were told they would
be considered once they had adopted the open standard - like everybody else. (Watch
this space!). So make your move - upgrade to Open Office and remove the microsoft 'tax'
on the software you use. Its the first step to a brighter furute.
|Download Open Office here.
|Open Source explained