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Norwegian Minister: No More Proprietary Formats 697

Been on TV writes "The Norwegian Minister of Modernization today at a press conference in Oslo declared that proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communcation with government. He also calls for all parts of government to have a plan ready by 2006 for use of open source solutions. Taking great care not to mention the name Microsoft directly, but rather referring to 'the spreadsheet almost everyone uses' or saying this is the last time I will present a plan for information technology being broadcast on the net in Windows Media, the Minister sent strong signals in the direction of Redmond to open up or become irrelevant to the Norwegian Government."
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Norwegian Minister: No More Proprietary Formats

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaxPowerDJ ( 888947 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:04PM (#12923334) Journal
    This is a very good example for other countries to follow. This actually encourages competition and speeds up the embrace of open standards. The government should always be involved in iniciatives like this.
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:28PM (#12923694) Homepage Journal
      This is a very good example for other countries to follow.

      Two quick (and largely similar) stories:

      -I was at a Rona recently getting some bags of gravel for a project. A gentleman walking by saw my gravel, at this point 9 bags on my cart, and suddenly decided that he needed gravel. It was obvious that he didn't intend to buy gravel, but seeing me buying gravel made him believe that there was something interesting about this gravel, and he should follow.

      -Again at a Home Improvement store, yesterday I was at Home Depot and a gentleman was standing there trying to decide which soil to buy, asking the clerk to help him out, when I pulled up and started loading some "magic soil" into my cart. Instantly his mind was made up, and he started loading up. Seeing two people loading up, suddenly several other people pulled their carts over to get some of this deal. Of course I chose this soil completely randomly.

      Both were cases of a social proof, and it's much like everyone waiting for the first one to leave a party. For these reasons this sort of event, even when it's a small, seemingly inconsequential Scandinavian country, are very much noteworthy. Often it's the pebbles that precede a landslide.
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Funny)

        by squidfood ( 149212 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:54PM (#12924025)
        ...a small, seemingly inconsequential Scandinavian country

        That's almost as good as "Mostly Harmless."

      • Re:Good (Score:3, Funny)

        by nizo ( 81281 ) *
        So THATS why I suddenly had the urge the other day to buy tampons while walking through the grocery store. Strange considering I am a man, and I doubt my SO would have appreciated them as a gift :-)
      • Re:Good (Score:3, Funny)

        by say ( 191220 )

        a small, seemingly inconsequential Scandinavian country,

        Hey! You said I'm inconsequential, you insensitive clod! Fortunately for you, I am Norwegian and don't know what it means.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

      by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:38PM (#12923842) Journal
      This is a very good example for other countries to follow.

      Much as I love Norway, Norwegians and Nemi, Peru is the one leading the way on this. They got their first and are even mandating open source software for all government use.

      Still, great to see the Vikings joining in. :)
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

      by pllewis ( 634741 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @04:57PM (#12924936)
      Yes, I totally agree on open standards, however there is more to it then that. MP3 ( MPEG 1 Layer III ) is a standard, MPEG4, and now WMV9 are standards ( WMV9 goes by the name VC-1 and is will be used for HD-DVD content ). You can read all about their structure, but you cannot implement them without a license. That is the real issue.

      MS will be using XML to replace proprietary file formats in MS Office. So the Norwegian's will still be able to use Office.

      It still all goes back to patents. MPEG and SMPTE need to release MPEG4 (AVC) and SMTPE (VC-1) to the world, but that will never happen. And no Open-Source product will be able to compete effectively in these markets in the near future. The reason I say this is that it has been 10 years since MPEG-2, and we are finally seeing a MPEG-4 (http://www.mpegla.com/avc/ [mpegla.com]) and VC-1 (http://smpte.org/smpte_store/standards/ [smpte.org]). These will be used for future High Def. Video and Broadcast. MPEG-7 and MPEG-21 are on the way, but that's another story, and still patent encumbered.

  • by r_cerq ( 650776 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:04PM (#12923342)
    Hardware? Where?
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:05PM (#12923348)
    ...since government is supposed to serve all people, not just the ones who use Windows.
    • It actually does make sense. Not only is it too costly to try and support every format, open or not, and it is too costly to ensure there is licensed software on every machine you may or may not use for documents... but you wouldn't change the language to make the government inaccessible would you?

      Before this it was almost like saying: Mandarin only please!

      Not everyone knows Mandarin in Norway - but some do I'm sure. People who are more well off would be able to get training, and as with everything, some
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:05PM (#12923353)
    Just IMAGINE -- being irrelevant to the GOVERNMENT of NORWAY!
    • What happens when the entire EU follows Norway? Will you laugh that off too because it's only countries from Europe nobody cares about?
    • by ThJ ( 641955 ) <thj@thj.no> on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:27PM (#12923677) Homepage
      Eyh! I'm Norwegian, you insensitive clod! But seriously, Norway is the world's third largest exporter of oil. We influence *your* gas prices. We also happen to be pretty far ahead in the tech and telecom sectors. We're the second richest country in the world (GDP pr capita). Yes! That's right. We have it better than the Americans, *and* we have the Nobel Peace Price. Trolltech, the makers of QT, the base of KDE, is situated in Norway, and don't forget Opera software. "The Scream" was painted by "Edvard Munch" (pr. "Munk" not "Munch"), a Norwegian painter. So *THERE*! Once you know the above, the following references become completely unfunny: "I'd like to thank the Prime Minister of Norway" in one of the "Police Academy" movies. "Norway? More like Snoreway." in the Kenya Flash movie.
    • by __aaijsn7246 ( 86192 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:48PM (#12923969)
      I spent a few days in Norway last year (Fredrikstad, Oslo, and Bjørkelangen) and it is really a beautiful and well developed nation.

      Check out their GDP per capita: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/eco_gdp_ppp_ca p [nationmaster.com]
      Index of Economic Freedom is good too, although a bit socialist:
      http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/co untry.cfm?id=Norway [heritage.org]

      Norway can afford to do what it wants. They are very rich (being one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world helps), and aren't even in the European Union nor do they use the Euro. The Norwegians I know are also very well educated, and tons of good software comes from .no as well.

      Their drug laws aren't as terrible as those we have in the United States either, nor do they have the death penalty, etc etc..
    • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:59PM (#12924088) Homepage Journal

      It's somewhat more serious than that. Because if the government of Norway is going to be moving to OpenOffice.org formats (for example) then everyone that wants to communicate with the government (which likely includes most Norwegians) will have to have software that reads and writes those formats. That means that lots more Norwegians are likely to have a copy of OO.org on their machine. All of a sudden the file compatibility shoe is on the other foot and its MS Office that has poor compatibility with OO.org formats.

      Not only does Microsoft lose the Norwegian government accounts, but it almost certainly will find it harder to sell to Norwegian businesses and individuals in general. If this experiment is successful then Microsoft is also faced with the negative PR of a Free Software office suite migration on a massive scale. Norway might not be much of a hit for Microsoft, but throw in a few more EU countries, and Microsoft would definitely start to feel the pain.

      Besides, Microsoft still has a ridiculously high price/earnings ratio. If Microsoft wants to keep its stock price where it currently is then it needs to be generating new business, not losing existing business. Microsoft employees, and especially Microsoft executives, have a great deal of their personal wealth wrapped up in MSFT. The last thing that Microsoftees what is for Wall Street to reevaluate the MSFT share price.

  • Peru? (Score:5, Informative)

    by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:05PM (#12923356) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if he's been reading a certain letter [opensource.org] from Peru?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    or become irrelevant to the Norwegian Government

    Well i expect that Bill Gates will probably handle this one personally. Because the last thing that Microsoft would want to do is piss off the Norwegian's.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:07PM (#12923369) Homepage Journal
    2004 figures:

    Norway's GDP: $183 billion
    Norway's Military spending: $4 billion
    Microsoft's revenues: $36.8 billion

    These numbers indicate that the best way for Microsoft to solve this issue is to simply raise an army and invade Norway. Don't be suprised if Norway is renamed to Billgatsia sometime in the next few years.
  • Message Received (Score:3, Interesting)

    by malxau ( 533231 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:09PM (#12923409) Homepage
    Office 12 will have open, XML formats, by default. We got the message. http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=7332 9 [msdn.com]
    • by zanderredux ( 564003 ) * on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:24PM (#12923618)
      Perhaps. But keep in mind that Microsoft can still publish stuff in XML and keep data proprietary, encoding binary data in a ASCII-or-something-like-it-encoded XML field.

      The *format* will be open (it's just plain XML), but the data it contains (the binary thing) is not. What if that ASCII-encoded-binary-field contains key formatting data? How do you expect to properly view the document?

      See the trend? Microsoft is continuously trying to charge access for your *own* data! Just like DRM!

    • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:52PM (#12924008) Journal
      And when the other shoe drops?

      You realize that only reason that many offices don't use something like OpenOffice.org is because they can't get 100% compatiblity when sending/receiving MS Office docs right? Now I'm not naive, there are plently of companies that would die without outlook and love sharepoint and Offices workgroup features etc. But and this is a big BUT, universities, consumers, small businesses, and even many larger business haven't sold they're souls to the Exchange demon. Your just going to let potentially millions of users just walk away from MS Office to OpenOffice.org OR any other office suite because your now a believer in Open formats? You'll pardon those of us who've been around a while from taking a wait and see attitude. Ms has wielded incompatibility as a club to bludgeon competitors for years. Why would they stop when they A)have a monopoly in the Office market B) have an MS "friendly" DOJ and president C) have so much to "lose" by working with others?

      Let me guess, there is some sort of provision or scheme somewhere down the road where OSS and GPL software won't be able to use this due to patents?
    • Right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dustmite ( 667870 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @04:14PM (#12924363)

      Microsoft pulled this "don't switch to alternatives just yet, the next version of Office will have an open format" trick the last two versions of Office. And you're falling for it a third time? Don't you people learn from repetition? I think Bush said it best, or tried to: "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me"

      There is no doubt that there will be something "non-open" about the formats when Office 12 arrives. Microsoft are playing this game of "we're moving the direction of moving open formats", the catch is that they will forever just be "moving in that direction" - they'll never "arrive".

      I suspect that in a few years you'll be posting on slashdot again with "don't bother switching to OpenOffice 3, Office 13 is going to have an open format".

      Microsoft will give up their proprietary formats when you pry them from Bill Gate's cold, dead fingers --- the core of their entire business model is that nobody else is compatible with Office.

    • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @04:20PM (#12924462) Homepage
      Ah, would this be the same Office XML format(s) that Microsoft has been filing patents for in various patent offices around the world?

      "Sure it's open, anyone can use it. Oh, there is the matter of patent royalties..."
  • by Ryan C. ( 159039 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:10PM (#12923419)
    Including the one for the "spreadsheet that almost everyone uses"

    http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:10PM (#12923422)
    The Norwegian Minister of Modernization today at a press conference in Oslo declared that proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable

    and he added: my sister was bitten by a prøprietary førmat ønce...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:13PM (#12923469)
    "I once had a pc
    or should I say she once had me.
    So I switched os's
    isn't it good
    Norwegian Minister"
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:15PM (#12923504)
    When CNN announced that hey were offering news video clips for free viewing I thought well good for them... Then I tried viewing one from my SUSE box and found that they were using Microsoft's media player :-(

    I left a message with them and explained the problem but I think it will take a LOT of people (hint, hint) to email companies who use proprietary formats before they'll get the message.
  • Yes, but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by eeg3 ( 785382 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:18PM (#12923542) Homepage
    What are the Norwegians going to do when the US or British governments, for example, send them a .doc? Tell them they have to redo it over again in a non-proprietary format?

    Norway isn't really a big enough country for other countries to worry about conforming to its standards of documents. They're probably still going need Office, or OO.org atleast, to read files sent to them from other countries.
    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:43PM (#12923899)

      What are the Norwegians going to do when the US or British governments, for example, send them a .doc? Tell them they have to redo it over again in a non-proprietary format?

      I imagine a secretary will open it with openoffice and save it to a standard format. If they are feeling evangelical, they may do just as you have suggested and request a standard format.

      Picture this, you're a U.S. ambassador and a foreign government that controls a fair bit of oil and is historically friendly to you and well respected by the rest of the world sends you a letter asking you to please resend the papers you sent them, but in a format that does not require them to buy special software from an American company. Do you A) tell them no; or B) tell your executive assistant to do it? The clock is ticking here. Gee, sure is a tough choice huh? For that matter if you have to do this a dozen or so times are you going to get pissed at the Norweigans or at your IT guys who can't seem to send documents in the right format (whatever the hell that is)?

      The truth of the matter is Norway can easily dictate the format they receive documents in, and if other countries (ones we are less inclined to cater to like Peru) ask for the same, it is much more likely we will do so for them as well. Some U.S. government officials might even wonder what the big deal is, research the issue, and try to mandate the same for their department, office, agency or whatever.

  • Im not surprised. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <<daniel.hedblom> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:48PM (#12923972) Homepage Journal
    Norway is pretty used to open source compared to many other countries. Anyone who use or understand open source will also understand whats wrong with storing YOUR information in a format someone else has total control over. Its just not your own data in a sense. Forcing your citizens to use certain vendors products to function is not something the government should do either.

    Demanding your own data to be readable by anyone without tullbooting to a certain vendor is so obvious it almost hurts. The problem is people really dont understand how it works, once they do they wont put up with it. Governments is in a perfect position to demand theese kinds of rules since they serve the public and not any perticular company. It cant be considered a trade hindrance either since there are plenty of free open formats for the propriarity vendors to implement free of charge in their applications.
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @03:56PM (#12924055)
    Population of Washington State: 5,894,121
    Population of Norway: 4,593,041

    GDP of Washington State: 192,500,000,000
    GDP of Norway: 183,000,000,000

    So, like, Bill and Steve feel threatened?

    • Stop dick-measuring. It's not the fact that a Scandinavian country with a small population has had enough of being locked in, it's the fact that a sovereign country has woken up to the fact that using proprietary formats doesn't do anything for them, and has kicked sand in the face of the big bully.
  • by picz ( 264520 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @04:04PM (#12924178)
    Open Source is not very important. Open Standards are. That is what it should be all about. Open Source is in fact totally irrelevant, if all of your data is locked inside proprietary files. Somebody will sure start to reverse engineer the formats, but it almost never works 100% right.

    Right now I'm looking at an OS browser showing HTML with CSS. There are som jpegs around and some png's as well. If Microsoft or other company had their way, all of those formats would be secret, closed and patented and the software should be licenced from them.

    Open Source is nice and efficient way of writing code, but real freedom is inside open standards.

    As it is now, every government and every company has a lot of unreadable documents sitting around on their disks. They only become readable, when a licence is paid to MS or Adobe etc. And who knows, how long these companies will be around? And what if they choose to abandon old platforms and try to force everybody to use the newest Longhorn 2020 Ultra Plus for $499 pr. licence? This is not freedom.

    What if I work for some government office and would like to make a nice, indexed and searchable database of my Word documents available to the public. Where is the innovation, when the standards are closed and secret and unreadable for my programmers

    Knowing what's inside your own documents is essential. Specially if you are a government.

    I hope that EU will look at Norway and learn. There's not much hope for the US I'm affraid. Too much corporate influence inside the political system. /picz

  • by chrispolarized ( 881712 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @04:41PM (#12924757)
    It's absolutely true that Norway is not a big country (population about 4.5 million), but note that
    • it has lots of money, and
    • the Government controls much more than it does in the U.S. -- for example, private schools, universities/colleges and hospitals are nearly nonexistant. Heck, even the largest ISP in Norway is largely owned by the Government!
    Now, for years, the Government has been spitting out money to Microsoft to purchase licenses for Windows and Office in all schools, universities, departments, hospitals and the like. Each and every high school in Norway has Windows and Office readily available for its students, many of whom have Microsoft Word and Excel as a part of their compulsory curriculum. A middle-sized high school in Norway spends up to 15,000 USD on Microsoft licenses alone.

    So Microsoft has done very well in Norway. In fact, Microsoft's Norwegian division did such a good job at dragging money out of the Government, that its CEO got promoted [www.digi.no][link in Norwegian] to be the CEO of Microsoft Russia!

    Fortunately, certain groups [skolelinux.org] and politicians have realized that the money spent on Microsoft could be spent on more important things, and have objected to pouring out money to Microsoft, and Linux has been tried out in several schools throughout the country, with largely positive experiences.

    The Government has therefore finally realized that the continuous flow of money going to Microsoft is better spent elsewhere, and that there are cheaper and better alternatives. And with this statement from the Minister, Norway is one step further on its way to stop this terrible waste of money.
  • by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @05:41PM (#12925405) Homepage
    That means no more Java! They'll have to go to an open standard, like the ECMA C# language.
  • ogg (Score:3, Informative)

    by kisak ( 524062 ) on Monday June 27, 2005 @05:42PM (#12925427) Homepage Journal
    The Norwegian national radio (NRK) already stream all their radio broadcasting in the ogg format:

    NRK ogg [www.nrk.no]

    The official streaming is in the windows media format though...

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel