Live Q&A with The Washington Post Online

I spent about two hours answering questions on washingtonpost.com online on Dec. 16, hosted by Kevin Dumouchelle. Here is the transcript of the entire interview. The questions were remarkably technical and not surprisingly focused on standards — which are a major concern for government agencies (this is Washington D.C. and northern Virginia, after all).

Here’s a sample question and answer:

King George, Va.: MS Office products are moving to xml in the next release; how will that affect compatability with other products?

Tony Bove: The creation of a fully documented standard derived from the formats, called Microsoft Office Open XML, will likely take about a year, according to Microsoft. Microsoft is submitting the format to the European standards body ECMA International (ECMA is a Geneva-based standards organization which issues standards and recommendations). While Microsoft wraps its public announcement in the mantle of “openness” the formats submitted are not open. Microsoft doesn’t relinquish control of the Office formats to other companies. All Microsoft is promising to do is provide information about the formats and not sue anyone for using them.

Microsoft’s strategy is to confuse the public by obfuscating the details involved in the standards process and in legislative actions, and by claiming its move will “open” these file formats. We’re all supposed to wait another year while Microsoft finishes Office. The company could have supported OpenDocument in order to remain competitive with OpenOffice.org and other Office rivals, but instead, Microsoft is maintaining its monopoly position with Office by sticking with its own formats. How will this affect you? As you move your documents into future systems, you may want to rid yourself of Microsoft formats that lock you into using Office. At this point it seems that the OpenDocument standard is the only truly open standard that is guaranteed to work with other applications.

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