Massachusetts open source fight becomes partisan

Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, and his appointed CIO, Peter Quinn, are carrying the ball for open formats. So Microsoft has allied itself with their political opponents.

Elephant DonkeyIs the battle over the OpenDocument format in Massachusetts becoming a partisan battle? If it is, Microsoft is allied to the Democrats.

As all open source aficionados know Massachusetts has become the epicenter in the battle for open document formats. If the state mandates use of OpenDocument, starting in January, 2007, and Microsoft continues its refusal to support it, the state government will have to phase out use of Microsoft Office.

Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, and his appointed CIO, Peter Quinn, are carrying the ball for open formats. So Microsoft has allied itself with their political opponents.

And, in the Massachusetts tradition, hardball is being played.

The latest twist is to accuse Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn of corruption because he traveled to open source conferences on the organizers' dime. There is a serious Catch-22 here, because had Quinn not gone to the conferences opponents could have argued he acted without studying the matter.

Microsoft has enlisted both the state's Secretary of State, William Galvin, and a powerful State Senator, Mark Pacheco, in the fight. Galvin is a former state CIO himself, and a long-time Democratic officeholder. Pacheco is a leader of the Democratic majority in the state legislature.

Pacheco's attempt to carry water for Microsoft with a committee hearing was outed by  Linda Hamel, the general counsel for the Massachusetts Information Technology Department (ITD), who told the panel most groups opposing the plan were funded by Microsoft.

Pecheco responded by pointing to the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, which fears the change will limit access to the disabled. He also got the state's supervisor of records, Alan Cote, who called OpenDocument "questionable, untested and unreliable." Cote, it should be noted, is a Galvin appointee.

And now we have the corruption charge. This is going to get very interesting indeed.

For those keeping score at home Romney is a slight favorite for re-election next year over Attorney General Thomas Reilly, who fought a losing court battle against Microsoft in 2004 and then said the U.S. technology economy will not "reach its full potential unless regulators and the courts are willing to deal with Microsoft and its predatory practices."

Can you see Bill Gates writing Reilly a check? Politics makes strange bedfellows. UPDATE: Secretary of State Galvin (the office is also referred to as Secretary of the Commonwealth) is also thought to be a candidate against Romney. So maybe Microsoft will write him a check.

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