Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software Government IT News Linux

Dutch Government Adopts Open Source Software Initiative 118

Posted by Zonk
from the who-doesn't-love-a-good-open-government dept.
christian.einfeldt writes "The Dutch government has set a target date of April 2008 for its agencies to start preferentially using open standards-based software. Organizations in the government will still be able to use proprietary software and formats ... but will have to justify it. A Microsoft Netherlands spokesman claims that Microsoft's Office productivity suite will still be used widely in the Dutch government until April, and that Microsoft Office will comply with the new Dutch rules once Microsoft's so-called "Open Office XML" standard is approved as an international ISO standard in February."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dutch Government Adopts Open Source Software Initiative

Comments Filter:
  • I love it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wvmarle (1070040)
    I love my country, now and then. This is such a moment.

    And I love Microsoft's comment as well. Now lets first see that they manage to make OOXML an open standard! But at least someone still beliefs in it. It's so heartwarming. And actually a bid sad.
    • Re:I love it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DFJA (680282) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:53AM (#21697178)
      I can't help thinking that we are seeing a tide starting to turn in mainland Europe - governments and public organisations are starting to wake up. It's a case of 2 steps forward, one step back, but progress none-the-less.

      Now if only the Dutch could export this way of thinking across the North Sea to us non-mainland Europeans, we'd all be happy......
      • Brazil too has directed ms crap not be used if I recall correctly. ms was furious over that one ( tee hee, cheer cheer cheer ! ) ya know how to send a message to the capt. of a battleship? use a torpedo
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tim C (15259)

        Now if only the Dutch could export this way of thinking across the North Sea to us non-mainland Europeans, we'd all be happy...

        Assuming you mean the UK, you should perhaps have a read of the eGIF rules sometime. They're quite explicit - while proprietary software is not forbidden, open standards and formats are very strongly encouraged. Failing to comply with the rules can result in funding being pulled.

        Now I don't know how vigorously the rules are enforced, but certainly the times that I've worked with v

        • IBM didn't sink from prominence overnight. It took from about 1980 to about 2000

          at first there was a whisper of dissent along the hall in acedemia

          and then new voices joined the complaint

          and the pundits all screamed we are set upon by fools

          and as it turned out the king actually did not have any clothes at all.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HiThere (15173)
            Did IBM sink?
            FWIW, I've heard that they're worth a lot more now than they were in 1980. They just don't control as large a proportion of the computing industry. But the industry's gotten a lot bigger.

            My information says that IBM is a larger and more profitable company than MS. They just aren't quite a centralized, so they don't have as many superstars. (I.e., MS has two, Gates and Balmer. IBM doesn't have any.)

            OTOH, what IBM *did* do during that period was reinvent itself.
          • by Smauler (915644)

            IBM _have not lost_ in any way at all here. They never lost. What are you smoking to think they did?

            • by jacquesm (154384)
              they lost their near monopoly. IBM used to be the dominant force in enterprise computing. Basically there were three parties at the time, IBM, Sperry-Rand and Data-General, roughly corresponding to Microsoft, Apple and Linux today in terms of marketshare.
              It took a decade and a half of consistent decline and a lot of kicking and screaming by IBM and it's fanboys of days long gone before the hold they had over the market was finally broken. Then there was a rash of 'mini' and PC based solutions, the enabler o
      • by foobsr (693224)
        I can't help thinking that we are seeing a tide starting to turn in mainland Europe

        Yes [bbc.co.uk]: "Open source gets European boost"

        Quote: "The European Commission has added its voice to the debate about the use of open source software. A report funded by the Commission concludes that the software could offer considerable savings to organisations with little effect on their business."

        It is viral :)

        CC.
      • by ignavus (213578)
        Microsoft charging the whole world monopoly rent for software might appeal to the American government. But I can't see why the EU or Brazil or China would want to put up with it.

        The UK, on the other hand, seems to want to give Bill Gates their collective wallet: "Here, help yourself. Want a knighthood with that?"

        Maybe it is some kind of Stockholm syndrome. Perverse loyalty to your abusive monopolist: "I know they keep over-charging me for insecure trashy software that would not stand up to real competition
    • Re:I love it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fjhb (1169335) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:00AM (#21697246)
      It doesn't matter how "open" OOXML is, or if it'll become an "open standard". The bottom line is, that whatever it becomes, it'll never be a specification of all the secrets that Microsoft Office puts in its file formats. Things like autoSpaceLikeWord95, etc, must remain secrets since their secrecy is the only thing that makes MS-Office worth buying.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Sczi (1030288)
        See, I don't think that secrecy is the only thing that makes ms office worth buying. It really is a fairly nice package in most respects (except price.. $400?!), and of course it integrates well with Windows. The latest versions come with lots of options and clip art and little niceties that users like, and I think even if MS switched to ODF by default, they would still sell just as many copies of Office. Hell, they could sell a suite of conversion tools to batch convert from proprietary formats to odf acro
        • Re:I love it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by yo_tuco (795102) on Friday December 14, 2007 @01:04PM (#21698930)
          "I think even if MS switched to ODF by default, they would still sell just as many copies of Office. "

          Me too. So why in the Hell does MS fight ODF tooth and nail at every turn? They just can't wrap their head around the concept of winning their customer based on the merit of their product. The user has choice? OMG, the sky is falling!
          • So why in the Hell does MS fight ODF tooth and nail at every turn?

            A colleague of mine recently asked me "somebody recently sent me a .docx document, does that mean I should buy a copy of MSO 2007?"

            Many people won't replace software until it is broken, or there is an anticipation that it will break if not replaced. If MS were to (properly) support ODF, there would be nothing to come after it to 'break' their software and force an unnecessary upgrade. People could still be encouraged to upgrade, and many would, but many will resist until it is absolutely necessary.

            - RG>

        • by viscus (1178513)
          Precisely. Microsoft using ODF wouldn't put a dent in their Office sales, especially since Outlook and Exchange Server is so established in enterprise operations (besides MS Office, I've only ever used Lotus Notes at work and it sucked in comparison). But this isn't about MS Office sales, it's about crushing OpenOffice.org and TOTAL CONTROL.
      • I agree and over time economics will cause open standards to be a requirement and organizations will require complete interoperability. I'm not sure I agree with forcing anyone to use open standards through litigation, but I'm glad to see the government as an organization leaning that way strictly for it's internal policy.
    • by jkrise (535370) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:23AM (#21697470) Journal
      The Associated Press article yet again misquotes the MS standard as "Open Office XML". It is Office Open XML; and the tragedy is that neither is it Open; nor does Office 2007 fully support the OOXML; as documented.

      The only saving grace would be for the BRM to reject this from becoming an ISO standard in February. Else Microsoft's efforts to confuse the market with their skewed terminology looks set to continue.
      • Microsoft's efforts to confuse the market with their skewed terminology looks set to continue.

        Dude, that's what Microsoft DOES. It's been part of their core strategy for decades.
      • The Associated Press article yet again misquotes the MS standard as "Open Office XML".

        Worse than that: the author (Toby Sterling) who wrote the original piece states: "Microsoft has raced to achieve "open source" certification....but has so far failed to receive endorsement from the International Standards Organization".

        Methinks Mr Sterling was clearly out of his depth in this report: perhaps he should stick to writing about flower shows in future; they must have loads of those in the Netherlands.
    • I posted a similar comment before, but I'll say it again: this won't change *anything*. There will always be an excuse to stick with Microsoft, making it "better" than the open source alternative in at least some way (it could be vendor support, training costs, exact compatibility with Microsoft Office, or just about anything else). And the weasels that are in charge of our computers will stick with the warm, fuzzy glow they get from using only Microsoft software.

      I applaud this initiative, but after dealing
  • Erm? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DeeQ (1194763) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:47AM (#21697122)

    Microsoft Netherlands spokesman Hans Bos noted that its Word documents were still allowed as equal alternatives for the moment and said he expects the company to receive approval soon for its Open Office XML to qualify as open source
    Don't they mean Office Open XML [wikipedia.org] Not Open office XML?
    • by DFJA (680282)
      No, they must mean that their stinking Office product is shortly to support the OpenOffice XML format, i.e. ODF. Well who'd have guessed it?
      • Re:Erm? (Score:4, Informative)

        by rvw (755107) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:02AM (#21697262)

        once Microsoft's so-called "Open Office XML" standard is approved as an international ISO standard in February
        No, they must mean that their stinking Office product is shortly to support the OpenOffice XML format, i.e. ODF. Well who'd have guessed it?
        I'm afraid you're wrong. The summary is wrong as well. It should read "Office OpenXML". ODF is already approved as ISO standard. OpenXML has yet to be approved. But Sun has created an ODF plugin for Office, so you only need to install that to comply.
        • Re:Erm? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DFJA (680282) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:28AM (#21697510)

          I'm afraid you're wrong.

          Sorry I missed off the humour tags here.

          In all seriousness, this type of confusion is *exactly* what Microsoft intended when they wanted to call it this. Get people to inadvertently get it the wrong way round so that people think it's the same thing and so forth. Basically just another type of FUD.

    • by rolfc (842110)
      Probably and they probably mean open standard instead of open source.

      Microsoft doesn't get much right these days.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Perfect anti-competitive naming. Everyone that tunes out after the first half technical sentence will think OOXML, Open Office's XML format and ODF are one and the same. You got to give Microsoft's marketing department some credit for this one, it's a extremely good case of "If you can't beat them, confuse them".
    • Did anyone else read that as "Microsoft Neanderthal spokesman..."?
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday December 14, 2007 @10:54AM (#21697180) Journal
    Let us not confuse the issue. Open Standards are common minimum goal for all advocates of open source software, new comers promoting closed software, free software and new entrants selling software. Let us not play into the hands of advocates of walled gardens, established players desperately clinging to straws by conflating the two. If the public and government officials confuse between the two, the other side can argue against Open Source to defeat Open Standards.

    Supporters of open source should tone down the rhetoric about it and fight for open standards. If open source is better, as they believe, it will win if the playing field is level. What levels the field is open standards. Same is true about the free/paid software issue.

    We should not fall for the well engineered PR spin of conflating these two.

    • by the_brobdingnagian (917699) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:28PM (#21698402) Homepage
      Although the primary goal is the use of open standards for documents, they are working on promoting open source software.Last Wednesday I attended a meeting in Den Haag where this plan was discussed. The general attitude of the different political parties was very positive. Most questions where about details. This is going to happen, and I expect most of the government will be switched in between 2 and 5 years. Now open source: It will be used if the quality is equal to the current closed source alternative. All software written for the government will be the intellectual property of the gouvernment and the plan is to release it as open source. But this will probably be more difficult because of vendors using closed source components in the software. And for OOXML: I never heard OOXML in the meeting. They used ODF as example of open documents and did not seem to be happy with Microsoft.
      • Wasn't SAP going to integrate with OpenOffice? I haven't see ln anything about how that worked out, and googling didn't work for me.
      • by richlv (778496)

        All software written for the government will be the intellectual property of the gouvernment and the plan is to release it as open source. But this will probably be more difficult because of vendors using closed source components in the software.

        could you expand on this ?
        like, does "releasing as open source" include complying with existing license of established project ?
        which particular vendors and products are exposing the problem of using closed source components ?

        the general direction seems to be in ver

        • I wish I knew more about this. But I think this is still an issue they need to work on. Does anybody know where to find official documents related to this matter?
  • by zehaeva (1136559)
    I wonder what happens if MS's OOXML doesn't become an ISO Standard in time. Will their complacency cost them too much? Will they crumble under the weight of rushing to swap everything over to a real open system?

    This should prove an entertaining(and educational) event to watch unfold.

    • Re:mmmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Skinkie (815924) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:18AM (#21697426) Homepage
      I was at the commission meeting, lets say the Christian Democrats really don't get what Open Source is. They think in terms of 'Experimental' and 'Gratis'. The other parties understand the concept completely, thank God ;) ODF is the preferred way to go. Open Source should have preference if the software is equal on the requirements. Next to this, software specially made for the government shouldn't be licensed to, but completely owned by the government. This was the procedure but many 'errors' were made at some ministries.

      The Socialist Party wants the cost of a PC split in a software part and a hardware part. This concept of course is the way to go, but I don't see this happen soon.

      Microsoft should not worry at all, since the users in the government use the plug-in at some departments already. I didn't hear anyone mentioning OpenOffice.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Eelco (8198)
        Microsoft need no worry on the short term, because most departments will most likely resort to the Sun ODF plugin for MS Office. But a lot of cities and smaller goverment bodies are switching or have switched to OpenOffice.org. As for as their ooxml format: the new policy specifically names ODF as the standard for office documents. So it doesn't matter al that much if ooxml is approved as an ISO standard or not. I'm just curious how many countries need to adopt policies like this before Microsoft takes it l
        • by kryten_nl (863119)
          As I understand it the NEN [iso.org] (Dutch Standards Orginisation) isn't a government organization. Any influence would therefore have to be indirect.
      • For the Dutch government we created software for them based on a BSD Licence. If the organisation we build the software for would like to have the sourcecode audited, or replaced by something, the can do that. Despite the licence, we also agreed that *we* as a providing company would not open that source unless they'd like us to. For custom-made software solutions this is, in my opinion, great solution for openness to the right party, giving the customer all freedom that s/he needs. That is Open Source kin
        • by Skinkie (815924)
          The video thingie was mentioned for Uitzending Gemist [uitzendinggemist.nl] I really hope BBC's Dirac [sf.net] gets momentum ASAP to replace WMV entirely. The current Dirac performance has been increased by the Schrodinger [sourceforge.net] project. Now is it an open standard... nope, but it could be soon.
      • Hello,

        Is there a place where I can read (I read Dutch) the minutes or a summary of what was discussed?

        Or if that is not available, do you know where I can find the text of the decision itself?

        Cheers!
      • I was at the meeting too. The Christian Democrats didn't really understand open source, but seemed positive towards open standards. OOXML was not mentioned, but ODF was. The Dutch government is getting positive results from trials with Linux and OpenOffice. Open source will be preferred when the quality is equal. And getting rid of Microsoft seemed to be thought of as a positive thing. I think there will be more change than a simple plugin.
    • by erroneus (253617)
      OOXML will never become an accepted ISO standard. It does not meet the requirements of being an ISO standard and Microsoft will not budge to mee those requirements because, at present, secrecy of their formats is an important part of maintaining their monopoly. When they start divulging those secrets, not only will other software be able to read MSOffice created OOXML documents, but also the "backward compatible" document formats as well.

      After all, one of the factors contributing to Microsoft's dominance
  • In the short term, there will not be realy much change, I asume, but in the long term there will be.

    Also everybdoy will be thinking about word, but I am also thinking about Excel sheets and all the scripting that goes with it very often.
    • by rmcd (53236) *
      You're right that VBA compatability is a huge issue. However, there is a real opportunity for OpenOffice because Microsoft has dropped VBA from Office 2008 for OS X. If the OpenOffice developers can improve VBA compatability, I could see OpenOffice becoming a true cross-platform standard.

      The good news is that porting VBA to StarBasic is feasible (I just ported a handful of functions that I use in teaching). The available documentation is not good, but the help available on the OpenOffice forums is first-rat
  • by Twisted Willie (1035374) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:07AM (#21697308)
    This action plan (it's not legislation, yet) is intended to get government agencies to use both open source software, and open standards.

    I don't really care wheter or not our government uses open source or proprietary software, whatever works best for the task at hand. I do however care a lot about them using open standards. It sure would be nice if we can still figure out how to open a certain document in 50 years time, without depending on a single software vendor to help us out.
    • by leuk_he (194174)
      yes, the initiative focusses on open standards [overheid.nl]. The idea is that if data is locked in .doc documents noboy can read them without MS word. Instead open standards should be used instead.

      Note that even property programs like from microsoft can be open, if the standard is fully published.
  • by naich (781425) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:25AM (#21697488) Homepage
    For fucks sake, can't anyone in the media tell the difference? There is nothing to stop a closed source software using an open standard.
    • Absolutely right, the story and headline gets it all wrong over and over... geez
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Skapare (16644)

      And there's nothing stopping Microsoft from using an open standard ... except the guy wielding the chair.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is something that should have been settled along time ago (many years ago), yet just because someone wants to control the market and the interfaces between programs, it is taking much longer then it should.

    I believe that ODF allows for a new point of adjustment to the current way things are perceived in the Office suite environment.

    I have a hard time understanding why people don't see the benefit of standardizing ODF as the standard, it allows for so much progress. The fact that it is not controlled by
  • A Microsoft Netherlands spokesman claims that Microsoft's Office productivity suite will still be used widely in the Dutch government until April, and that Microsoft Office will comply with the new Dutch rules if Microsoft's so-called "Office Open XML" standard is approved as an international ISO standard in February."
    Fixed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems apparent that "Open Office XML" sufficiently resembles "OpenOffice.org", and moreover, that the standard sufficiently relates to the same market as OpenOffice.org, that anyone wishing to retain the OpenOffice.org trademark should demand Microsoft stop confusing the marketplace with the name of their coincidentally no-so-open standard.
  • by MadJo (674225) on Friday December 14, 2007 @11:58AM (#21697918) Homepage Journal
    In a recent Dutch Podcast ictroddels.nl [ictroddels.nl] Microsoft was complaining that this brief would hurt their business, and that it was unwise of the Dutch government to opt for the ODF, because MSOffice could not read it natively, and that they should also include OOXML in the brief.
    In the same interview, Theo Rinsema, general manager of MS Netherlands also said that MS doesn't want to compete on Office formats.
    He also mentioned that the .doc format was also open enough, because many open source solutions could read and write to that format.
  • Bad Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by orkysoft (93727)

    I talked about this with a friend yesterday, and we noticed that this was a very badly written article that gets basically everything wrong. But that's tech journalism for ya.

    Here are some relevant links from his blog [wordpress.com]:

  • Interesting tag (Score:2, Informative)

    by athdemo (1153305)
    What's with the !oktoberfest tag? I mean, yeah, oktoberfest is over, and this article isn't about it, but I think that kind of applies to just about everything.
  • OOXML will not be an allowed document format according to the current policy. ODF is the mandatory standards. If and when OOXML is ISO approved the Dutch government *may* add this format. But there is very little reason to do so. No applications use OOXML (the version up for ISO-approval anyway) and all applications (even MS-Office) support ODF. So MS-office will be usable as a tool as long as ODF is used to store documents.

    Rgds,
    Arjen
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Friday December 14, 2007 @12:24PM (#21698338)
    Ripped from groklaw posts regarding Denmark's decision (also applies here):

    Even if MSOOXML gets the ISO stamp, it doesn't make it "open", merely
    a standard. On the "open" front it's pretty much pretense all the way.
    Not that ISO even pretends to usually care if a standard is open or not, even if
    in this case even they seem to be party to the shell game. ...open standards in all new IT solutions, unless it will significantly increase
    the costs of the project.
    - new Office, not really ooxml: $$$
    - new OpenOffice.org: Free

    Moreover, all authorities must be able to receive office documents in two open
    document standards - namely ODF and OOXML. This allows citizens to communicate
    with government using open standards.
    - rx ODF with OpenOffice.org: True
    - rx OOXML with any version of MSOFFice: false

    The openness of a standard implies that:
    * the standard must be fully documented and publicly available;
    - ODF: True
    - OOXML: False, proposed "standard" includes by reference
    undocumented components

    * the standard must be freely implementable without economic, political or legal
    constraints on its implementation and use, now or in the future;
    - ODF: True
    - OOXML: False Legal Constraints

    * the standard should be managed and maintained in an open forum via an open
    process (standardisation organisation).
    - ODF: True
    - OOXML: False see recent articles on OOXML Bait and Switch

  • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Friday December 14, 2007 @01:00PM (#21698876) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft Office will comply with the new Dutch rules once Microsoft's so-called "Open Office XML" standard is approved as an international ISO standard in February.

    This sounds optimistic to me, but it could easily be true. Actually, it would be very good news if it became n ISO standard ... if Microsoft gets the standard by improving and clarifying it, and by explicitly dropping all patent restrictions on its features. But it's entirely possible that they won't do that but will get an ISO standard anyway, in which case we'll have an "open" standard that can't be implemented properly by any third parties, and can't be implemented legally in the United States without licensing patents on the standard from Microsoft.

    This is why I think it's important for governments to clearly define what they mean by "open." The definition should have nothing to do with any standards body like ISO or Ecma. As we've all seen, ISO votes can be rigged, so "open" should mean that a standard is well-documented and contains no patent, copyright or trademark restrictions that would prevent a third party from implementing it without working with the developer of the standard. It should also require that the original developer of the standard not be the sole authority in charge of developing it further, and keeps their own products compliant with it. (How many people have imagined Microsoft "deviating" from their own OOXML standard in undocumented ways when they release the next version of Office?)

  • by udippel (562132) on Friday December 14, 2007 @01:42PM (#21699442)
    "We think it's not in the best interest of the wider software market to single out one model for endorsement like this" the spokesperson for Microsoft said.

    Think about it, think hard. A single model ? That is like the mafia boss telling the judge "it is unfair to single out the model of law-abiding citizenry as only allowable one".
    Nobody hinders Microsoft to compete in the market of open standards; just like Nokia and Ericsson compete in the world of the open standards of telecommunication. Sure, they'd prefer if each had a monopoly, and nobody else could even manufacture handsets.

    The Dutch policy directs government organizations at the national level to be ready to use the Open Document Format to save documents by April
    No reason for Microsoft to whine. ODF is some ISO standard, and they are more than welcome to place their ISO/IEC 26300-compliant product in the market. Nobody hinders Microsoft to make the big buck at supporting their software.
  • ...somewhere in between their competitors... between free, free and almost free.

    --

    I've been using OpenOffice in a corporate, MS only, environment for 3 years now... go on and try to tell me that it is impossible.
  • FWIW, the name of the Microsoft proposed ISO standard is "Office Open XML", not "Open Office XML", nor OOXML. Be accurate, please.
  • A standard ought to include an open reference implementation. The open implementation need not be the only implementation, but if the only reference implementation is confidential and proprietary, it's not an open standard at all.

  • Get the facts ;) (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CDR-80 (587551) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:26PM (#21702564)
    Hi All,
    I attended the conference of ososs.nl (http://www.ososs.nl/ [ososs.nl], mainly Dutch), which was held the day after the documents passed Dutch parlement. Ososs was set up by the Dutch government and they are co-writes of the document of the Netherlands Economic Affairs Ministry

    To get the facts ;), this is what it boils down to:
    1) Any govenmental agency must by default use solutions and products that use open standards. Only with a very good reason one can choose a closed standards product. If currently a closed standards solution is used, replacing it should be done with an open standards version ("ist" to "soll" situation).
    2) Open-Source products must be considered in any aquisition of new products. It must be weighted on equal terms with closed-source products.
    3) All things being equal, open-source is the preferred choice.
    4) Interoperability, govenmental transparancy and innovation are at least as important as the price of the solution.
    4) There is a deadline of April 2008 to implement the use of Open Document Format for all external communications within all branches of the govenment
    5) All semi-govenmental agencies have until 2011 to implement ODF
    6) The parlement explicitly stated that education must be included in this initiative. Not only for their internal ICT, but as an integral part of education of pupils and students in ICT.
    7) The parlement will keep watching progress being made.

    I personally feel that the most intresting point is not just the points above, but the fact that the govenment is using a top-down approach, which has full support of both the Home office as well as the Economic Affairs Ministry. I feel this is a landslide victory for open standards and open source in the Netherlands.
    Futhermore, I'd like to add that all parties in the parlement, left to right, were in favour of this act; this has not happened in a very long time...
  • will still be able to use proprietary software and formats ... but will have to justify it.
    Free as in "Wikipedia"...

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

Working...