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OT: Massachusetts Verdict: MS Office Formats Out

The future is forming up....


The state of Massachusetts Friday made it official: It will use only 
nonproprietary document formats in state-affiliated offices effective Jan. 1, 
2007. Although state CIO Peter Quinn has said repeatedly that this issue does 
not represent "the state versus Microsoft Corp. —or any one company," 
adoption of the long-debated plan may result in all versions of Microsoft's 
Office productivity suite being phased out of use throughout the state's 
executive branch agencies. 

Massachusetts posted the final version of its Enterprise Technical Reference 
Model on its Web site. 
As part of this new policy, the state will support the newly ratified Open 
Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, and PDFs (portable 
document format) as the standards for its office documents. 

Quinn told DesktopLinux.com earlier this month that he challenged Microsoft 
and other companies who sell software that uses proprietary document formats 
to consider enabling open-format options as soon as possible. Quinn said that 
"government is creating history at a rapidly increasing rate, and all 
documents we save must be accessible to everybody, without having to use 
'closed' software to open them now and in the future." 

Quinn said the state runs a "vast majority" of its office and system computers 
on Windows and that "only a very small percentage of them run Linux and other 
open source software at this time. This is in tune with the general market in 
the U.S. But we like to 'eat our own cooking,' in that we are using 
OpenOffice.org and Linux more and more as time goes along, because it 
produces open format documents." 

In contrast, Microsoft's Office creates Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other 
documents that are accessible only by Microsoft products, making them 
ineligible for use, the state said. 
"Microsoft has remade the desktop world," Quinn said. "But if you've watched 
history, there's a slag heap of proprietary companies who have fallen by the 
wayside because they were stuck in their ways. Just look at the minicomputer 
business, for example. The world is about open standards and open source. I 
can't understand why anybody would want to continue making closed-format 
documents anymore." 

Microsoft's answer to that is simple. MS Office, which is upgraded about every 
three years and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, brought in more 
than $11 billion last year, or about 28 percent of Microsoft's total revenue, 
according to the company's recently filed annual report. 

"We've had an active, ongoing conversation with Microsoft since January about 
this, and they've been open to hearing our position," Quinn said. "But I 
don't know one way or the other how they're ultimately going to react to 
this. Also, this isn't just about Microsoft. We're focusing on the formats 
here, not necessarily the software." 

Unless Microsoft starts supporting OO.org, Quinn said, the state will 
gradually phase out Microsoft Office in favor of OO.org. 
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