I picked up an interesting announcement that may cause a few ripples, but one which all ICT teachers will recognise. In a nutshell, the issue centres on how schools can ensure that home computers can not only read files created at school, but also amend or modify them. The classic office suite found in many schools is based on Microsoft Office in one of its versions. Most home computers have traditionally been bundled with another Microsoft product called Works, which doesn't talk well with their Office products.
Many regions and countries have tackled this head on by insisting that the open document format is the standard. It is also cheap, as the office suites that use it are traditionally free or based on open source. They traditionally use open source. Non Microsoft products such as Open Office and Star Office, both of which are free can read Microsoft files, but Microsoft doesn't support the Open Doc format, let alone the spreadsheet and database files. The question is being asked at a high level now through a national review initiated by Becta, the government agency. The review will cut to the core of the issue, and unless there is complete transferability of file formats, or better still a standard format, their recommendation could potentially affect Microsoft's education market.
Announced at more or less the same time, there is to also be a value for money review of Microsoft licensing to education and schools in particular. In particular it will explore how 'locked in' education is to Microsoft software.
Compatibility is a real issue, and value for money an increasingly hot topic. There is most definitely a premium to be paid for Microsoft, and the real issue is, 'does paying for Microsoft software add value?'. There is a genuine debate to be had here, and it is good to see that issues are being addressed. I do hope however that the report is written in a more balanced way than the report on open source . There are genuine reasons why Microsoft are leaders, with system integration and technical support major considerations. The new Microsoft Office Live may answer some of the home school issues as well. Open Source is on the rise though.