UK government snubs Microsoft Office, moves to open standards

Earlier this year we covered reports of a UK government proposal to adopt open source and open standards-based software across all of their departments. In short, they were seeking to reduce reliance on a very limited selection of IT vendors, and an associated huge spend on the Microsoft Office software suite.

The big news to hit in late July is confirmation that the proposal has now been formally adopted by the UK government, with immediate effect. All government departments are now mandated to use the openly-standardised ODF file format (as used in the free LibreOffice business software suite) for document collaboration, in tandem with the familiar PDF file format for viewing files. Some salient points from the UK government's press release include:

  • "Citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software [such as Microsoft Office] to open or work with government documents"
  • "Government will begin using open formats that will ensure that people can use the applications that best meet their needs when they are viewing or working on documents together."
  • "The move supports the government’s policy to create a level playing field for suppliers... with its digital by default agenda on track to make cumulative savings of £1.2 billion"

Note that of the two file formats the British government has now formally mandated, neither of them represent the file formats used natively by Microsoft Office. This tacit acknowledgement of finally breaking the costly, wasteful vendor lock-in imposed by Microsoft (lock-in which affects businesses of all sizes) has been picked up on by numerous industry news outlets, such as here and here.

The UK government's landmark move joins the other organisations successfully adopting open source and open standards. And as we have stated before, the benefits can also be enjoyed by your business. We'll be proud to help you on your journey.

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