While the proposed legislation in both Texas and Minnesota does not specifically mention ODF, sources say that is the intent. Legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced a similar bill in the last session, which stalled. But this latest version is believed to have garnered enough support to pass.A Texas legislative aide, who would only talk on background, told eWEEK that the move was not specifically designed to take aim at any particular company, but rather to ensure that Texas got the biggest bang for its buck in this regard, interoperability is assured and document preservation is protected so there will be no lock-in if support for a particular format is dropped down the line. Click here to read more about how Microsoft hit back at its Open XML critics. Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, a group of organizations, governments and companies in 51 countries that promotes and advances the use of ODF as the primary document format for governments, is encouraged by these legislative moves, which he sees as an endorsement of ODF. "After Massachusetts, the ODF genie is out of the bottle here in the U.S. We are encouraged that Texas and Minnesota seem to be following suit. Governments are intrigued with the notion of guaranteeing access to electronic documents many decades into the future, and for having a variety of cost-effective choices," he told eWEEK. "Clearly, they also recognize that a standard like ODF, which has the imprimatur of the worlds foremost standards body, is the best way to accomplish this," he added. On the ODF front, the OASIS standards body approved Version 1.1 of ODF the week of Jan. 29, which makes the format more accessible to those with disabilities. "ODF already enjoys the ISOs imprimatur, widely considered to be key for its adoption worldwide," Marcich said. Read here about Office Open XMLs approval as an Ecma standard. Robertson told eWEEK that Microsoft is looking into this proposed legislation and will comment more once it has studied that further. But the company supports customer choice and interoperability and urges governments to also support these, he said. "In that vein, we encourage them to adopt neutral technology procurement practices so that they have the greatest choice among available technologies, and so encourage competition in the marketplace and get the maximum value out of their IT investments," he said. "Mandating a specific document format for government use reduces a governments ability to communicate with its constituents, make the best use of available technology, and promote competition and innovation in the marketplace." But the legislation calls for the adoption of open standards in the document format space, and "Open XML already meets that bar, having gone through a rigorous process in Ecma, which controls the standard going forward. All I can say is that there is a lot of hype in this area," Robertson said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
The full text of the Texas legislation can be found here, as a PDF.