Fight Microsoft Monopoly – Use Google

Matt Yglesias converted a major OMB spreadsheet from Microsoft Excel format into Google Docs as a service to his users.

It’s a small thing, but I do think it’s true that one thing the government could be doing to reduce monopoly power that doesn’t involve the heavy hand of lawsuits would be to push back against Microsoft’s proprietary standards. You could put data like this up on the web as OpenOffice documents, for example.

A nice gesture and, having briefly been Excel-less after a hard drive wipe and being unable to open several documents, one I’m particularly sensitive to at the moment.  On the other hand, I’m not sure that switching from one oligopoly’s products to another oligopoly’s products does much to Fight the Power.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that, while Matt used GoogleDocs, he’s suggesting that the Government use OpenOffice, which is nonproprietary.  For some reason, I’ve always conflated OpenOffice and the Google variant.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ramki says:

    Yeah, Matt did convert it to Google Docs, which is the easiest way to share files online.

    His recommendation for the government is to use OpenOffice – which is different from either of these “oligopolies,” because it is based on an open standard. In other words, the format is open for any one to write a reader for it, effectively preventing ANY oligopoly from emerging for that format.

  2. odograph says:

    It was a major error and change for the government to go “product based” rather than “standards based.”

    With a file standard, government departments and individuals could exchange data while using their personal choices for viewing and editing.

    (MS definitely muddies the waters on this, with open formats that aren’t really.)

  3. jabberwock says:

    OpenOffice is the way to go!

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    Hey, Excel is the only MS product that is REALLY fine!

  5. Boyd says:

    Microsoft recently released SP2 for the Office suite, which includes automatic, native support for ODF, the OpenOffice document format.

    Just in case anyone hadn’t heard.