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Minnesota Standards Bill Could Affect Microsoft Word, Adobe

Legislation calling for open data formats is gathering support in Minnesota. Passage could require proprietary software providers including Microsoft and Adobe to adhere to state-mandated documents standards. In the meantime, additional details on the proposed legislation have been disclosed.

In an interview Tuesday, state employee John Nesbitt said: "The bill doesn't promote any particular format, because it regulates NOT using a particular format. We're looking at all data and who owns our data and what can be done about it."

The legislation, for instance, goes to the heart of a struggle between Microsoft and some of its major competitors including IBM and Sun Microsystems over the next generation of office software. Nesbitt, who was referred by the bill's co-sponsor Representative Paul Thissen, said the legislation seeks to define characteristics that should be included in all state documents.

"For example," he said, "all information managed by the State must be in formats for which there are no royalty payments, human-readable documentation exists, and [which] new software can comprehend."

Although neither Microsoft, nor Adobe, nor the OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) are mentioned in the legislation, the problems of dealing with Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF -- both in widespread use in Minnesota state government offices -- are cited by Nesbitt.

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