Future of 'office' software in government

I was asked yesterday for a view on what is likely to happen as a result of a change to government policy on document standards (described in this Guardian article) and the prospects for a switch to open source software. With the caveat that there are others with a better understanding of the specifics of the situation than me I wrote this... "I'd say the important thing is that it is document standards that are being specified not the software. Presuming that Microsoft update their software to make it easy to use the open formats then I imagine that departments won't need to do anything until existing licensing deals expire. I don't know what the licensing situation is but I should think that Microsoft will bend far to ensure that their software continues to be used.

A switch to open source alternatives would consume both the already-stretched IT service resources and the time (and probably more importantly the patience) of users. It would take will to make the change. I guess we will see new types of licensing deals - perhaps with Office software bundled differently with other products - and probably a reduction in cost but I don't envisage a rapid, widespread switch.

This is a broader point but that government should be thinking differently about how it manages both text and the way that people work together to create it - see Document standards and the rankling print presumption. It's quite possible I've become separated from my marbles here, but I do wonder whether we need documents at all."