LibreOffice: ignore Microsoft's "nonsense" on government's open source plans

26 Feb 2014
Westminster

LibreOffice makers hit back at Microsoft's lobby against open file standards

The makers of LibreOffice have slammed attempts by Microsoft to derail the government's move to open source, accusing the company of protecting its own interests rather than users.

The government is consulting on plans to switch to open file formats, with the aim of making it easier to switch away from proprietary productivity suites - notably Microsoft Office.

Microsoft has opposed the move and asked its UK IT partners to fight the proposals, saying open formats would cost the government more money. It argued for the inclusion of its own standard, OOXML, among the government's chosen file formats.

A spokesman for the Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, claimed Microsoft had opposed the government's adoption of open file formats, such as the open document format (ODF), because of the potential impact on Microsoft Office - and that the company's counter argument didn't make sense.

"Microsoft’s business model is based on selling licenses - of course it’ll be heavily affected," Italo Vignoli told PC Pro. "I perfectly understand Microsoft's position – if I were a Microsoft employee, I’d support that position. But I think this isn’t in the interests of users, it’s in the interest of Microsoft."

Double standards

Vignoli said adopting two standards would confuse users.

"You basically don’t solve the problem - there should only be one standard," he said. "It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have two standards for the same thing."

While OOXML was ratified by the International Standards Organisation, critics suggested Microsoft pushed the standard through. "It was not a regular standardisation process," said Vignoli. "It's two standards for the same stuff, which is nonsense."

Since Microsoft's call to arms, the number of comments on the Cabinet Office's consultation on adopting open file formats has risen to more than 100. Most have opposed including Microsoft's OOXML.

Developer Rich Marr pointed out Microsoft's flawed implementation of its own standard would mean most government PCs would need to upgrade to a newer version of Office.

"This doesn't seem like an effective course of action," he wrote. "It would also benefit Microsoft in several ways, at the expense of vendors who have invested in open formats."

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