Document Formats Battle Moves To The Server
Gary Edwards frequently tells us that SharePoint is the key to the whole strategy of Microsoft. I have recently noticed a number of deployed SharePoint servers paid for by your taxes. While the Redmondians are out there using questionable techniques to try to make their patent-encumbered proprietary formats into recognized standards, a second column is working to put server-side OOXML-fluent software into key positions in government and large corporations, where presumably any non-Microsoft office suite will lack the proper "hooks" to properly integrate with these servers.
Their targeted customers appear to be larger enterprises that centrally-manage their technology. Where I've encountered it, it is in places that are permission-based, meaning that you are not allowed and are not expected to attempt to do anything that you are not expressly authorized in advance to do. While this helps sell the security features of the product, it means that it fails as a collaboration tool.
This means that this is the time to promote FLOSS products like Alfresco for internal use in your workplace and in your local, state, and national government agencies. As you may know, Alfresco now has the ability to use an installation of OpenOffice.org in the background to power important file-conversion functionality that is frequently requested by users, such as .odt to or from .doc and .pdf from either .odt or .doc. Magnolia and Daisy are two other alternatives. Magnolia it does appear to be strong on access-control, which can be a leg up on permission-based environments. Daisy appears to be strong in access-control and to have some capabilities in regard to full-text indexing of such document types as .doc, .xls, .pdf, and "OpenOffice Writer". (I have no idea whether this is specifically .sxw or the newer .odt or even both.)
What this does is put a kink in someone's grand plan. Why have an intranet full of public announcements and policy statements that employees won't read when you can intersperse that with content that is both interesting and useful to employees on the job?
While we must continue to oppose the buy-your-own standard process that is being used to try to get Office Not-so-open XML the international stamp of approval, we must not lose sight of the fact that Microsoft is like an octopus, with several different arms working in concert to try to preserve and extend their monopoly. If we turn them back in multiple areas, the humiliation may be enough to work a change of heart. Don't you long for the day when Microsoft is no longer evil? Well let's hasten that day along!
Taken on capabilities alone, document format conversion gives the nod to Alfresco. Together with its FLOSS cousins, the market is ripe for the taking. Freedom from vendor lock-in and freedom to access and modify source code to suit the organization's needs, along with the use of open standard formats and protocols make these winners. Now all we need to do is get behind them and promote them from within and without. You can start by writing a letter (yes, snail mail) and an e-mail message to your state's CIO, telling of the advantages of using these products in state agencies. Contact your congressional representatives also.