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Software industry reclaims open standards debate

Computer Weekly - Software heavyweights filled the first meeting of the UK's extended public consultation on open standards last Friday, closing down telecoms patent advocates whose arguments had threatened to derail government policy.

Deputy government CIO Liam Maxwell had the night before extended the consultation for a month after discovering Microsoft, lead opponent of the UK's open standards policy, had been paying an independent Cabinet Office facilitator to help formulate its case. Government supporters had till then shown a lacklustre response to the consultation, while the policy, and open standards, had looked lost for the UK.

By Friday lunchtime the tables had turned.

Linda Humphries, Cabinet Office official, told a meeting of around 30 mostly software experts that the fields from which the government's opponents had been drawing their evidence was out of bounds for the consultation.

"The consultation is focusing on open standards in specifications for software interoperability, data and document formats," she said, with Maxwell looking on.

"It doesn't go into hardware, telecoms or software IP. There are some people concerned we are trying to run away with [their] IP. That's not the point at all. What we are talking about is standards," she said.

The meeting nevertheless dwelt for a significant time on just those things as the software industry staked its territory in what seemed like a pivotal moment for both it and the coalition government's ICT strategy.