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Letter to the Editor #2

Published: November 18, 2005
Section: Opinions


To the Editor:

I was interested to read Kevin Montgomery's column advocating for office software based on open standards. A couple of his points seem erroneous, and they are important ones for this debate. First, software that complies with open standards is not necessarily “cost-free.” Sun Microsystems contributes resources to both StarOffice and OpenOffice. Their website notes: “Sun has a full team of dedicated engineers working on developing StarOffice software who will continue work on the OpenOffice.org version.” [1] It sounds like those engineers are salaried employees, not volunteers.

Open-source software may also exact hidden costs down the line. Bugs may not be fixed promptly, or at all. Developers may abandon a project. What then? An organization either has to begin developing the product in-house, or find another solution. That could be pretty expensive!

The column also states that open standards “ensure that people can read and edit documents in the distant future.” We cannot assume that. In 2055, a Microsoft Word Document may be displayed more accurately than an OpenOffice 1.0 format (if either of them can be opened at all). Of course, we don't know for sure — which is precisely the point. I am no apologist for Microsoft;

but we should not view open standards and open-source software through rose-tinted glasses.

–Anonymous

Editors Note: The author's name has been withdrawn by request;

the letter as originally submitted is available in print form at Brandeis University's library archives. The views expressed in Letters to the Editor do not necessarily represent those of Brandeis University.

[1] StarOffice FAQs: “Will Sun continue to work on the StarOffice software sources as part of OpenOffice.org?” http://www.openoffice.org/FAQs/faq-community.html#4