Nothing special is happening but a new PR is sent out, "Microsoft Drives Greater Openness to Fuel Innovation, Efficiency and Growth ". The alleged 'XML-inventor' Paoli says:
We’re going to continue working closely with others in the IT industry - customers, partners, competitors and developers, including those in open source communities. They will help identify and solve interoperability challenges. As we mentioned earlier, this is a time of change. We’ve made some progress and we’re going to continue taking steps toward fostering greater interoperability.
Also the terms openness and interoperability are embraced in the article as if the company was going to apply for OFE membership and to stop obstruction of forceful Slovak proposals in the European Parliament for better interoperability (which were initially overlooked).
We also find a reference to a public affairs forum:
One forum where this takes place is in the Interoperability Executive Customer (IEC) Council, which consists of more than 35 CIOs and CTOs from governments and leading corporations around the world. The IEC Council helps Microsoft identify and solve the top challenges facing customers today. Working with them, we’re actively resolving issues in the areas of systems management, security and identity management, as well as office productivity and collaboration tools.
Not IEC as in ISO/IEC. That acronym overlap seems to be just a coincidence. It was established in 2006 and made no significant impact on the OOXML process. Details about the process can be found here.
Anyway, what is hot? You know these PRs make you suspicious. They are usually sent out when something is going on. Texas to go for open document formats? One year old news. And I am convinced no one is aware of the Dutch economist message which could be turned into an openness tsunami in the context of recent bailout spending madness:
Governments should seriously consider to act as leading customers to enhance competition on the market for PC operating systems, office applications and enterprise content management software, suggest micro economists at the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB). Governments should also require open source software in public procurement.
The CPB economists write these three markets are 'tentative examples' of inefficient markets. Such markets suffer from vendor lock-in and the lack of competition is stifling innovation. Normal economic processes are not strong enough to correct such failing markets. "This will not lead to optimal choices of licensing, price, quality and innovation."
Paoli's colleague Craig Shank has a different concept: vendors help governments to make the most of their IT.
This is a time of change. Increasing globalization, rising Internet use, and higher consumer and business expectations are driving increased demand for technology choice and flexibility. Governments and businesses alike have assembled a diverse mix of applications and technologies from a variety of vendors. In this environment, technology can present new opportunities and deliver new solutions. Key to that is helping organizations make the most of their mixed IT environments.
"Vendor capture" as economists call that. Don't expect any trade association to lobby against it. This has to be left to common sense and the ethos of public officials who want to keep their independence. A focus on market order improvements, even in times of bulk emergency keynesian spending on broadband, green-IT and ICT education remains important. In the current situation I am sure a "microbillion" for interoperability actions can be made available in many nations around the world. Crumps for common sense, free markets and more openness.
Mandatory ODF policies are only a small step in a long transformation process in the field of communications technologies but it is time to walk the talk. The financial markets have shown that we cannot afford to lean back on the regulatory side as society as a whole suffers the consequences.