The Secretary of State of the Texas Legislature received a Bill (SB 446) yesterday (5 Feb 2007) stating the goal of requiring Texas State agencies (including the executive branch, the legislature, the courts and the schools) to conduct their work in an open document format.
The Bill, if passed into law as drafted, would take effect December 1, 2007, at the end of this year. It contains a provision requiring the Department of Information Resources to develop guidelines by September 1, 2008, for converting and storing existing documents in the open format, to inform on cost and other requirements wherever conversions are deemed necessary.
Definition of an "open document" format
The Bill establishes that agencies must specify for themselves an "open Extensible Markup Language based file format" for the creation, exchange or maitentance of their electronic documents. They must be able to receive such documents and "may not change documents to a file format used by only one vendor."
This Bill provides a working definition of an open document format. According to the Bill, such a document format will be...
(1) interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications;
(2) published without restrictions or royalties;
(3) fully and independently implemented by multiple software providers on multiple platforms without any intellectual property reservations for necessary technology; and
(4) controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard.
These four criteria are sound, in my opinion. Presently ODF meets them.
As in Massachusetts, Microsoft may propose a format that meets these criteria and thus has in its power the chance to qualify a format that Texas state government agencies could use. However, the Microsoft Office Open XML formats -- as presently specifiied and developed under the Ecma consortium -- would not meet these criteria.