Massachusetts: Out of Office

Summary:In a substantial blow to Microsoft, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will soon adopt open document policies that banish Microsoft Office documents from Bay State offices. The new regulations require software that natively supports Open Document for most office documents.

In a substantial blow to Microsoft, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will soon adopt open document policies that banish Microsoft Office documents from Bay State offices, News.com reports. The new regulations, which are still in a public comment period, identifies Open Document, the recently approved format used by Open Office and other open source programs, as the preferred format for government documents. Other formats like PDF are also acceptable.

The state's proposal states the strategic rationale:

"Return on investment in IT assets is greatly improved by the ability to reuse information  and services based on open standards. When information and data is viewed as a  Commonwealth strategic asset and resource, it can improve state government’s ability to  serve its constituents, to improve its stewardship of public records currently and in the  future, and to consistently apply appropriate privacy and security protections to  information no matter where that information is held. Better data interoperability and  management will foster better IT governance, while also improving the quality and  accessibility of information and services." 

 Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn issued a statement on Monday, saying:

After receiving comments from the public regarding our proposed Open Formats standards earlier this year we have had a series of discussions with industry representatives and experts about our future direction. These discussions have centered on open formats particularly as they relate to office documents, their importance for the current and future accessibility of government records, and the relative "openness" of the format options available to us.

The draft document instructs government officials to plan for implementation by Jan. 1, 2007. In the meantime, agencies may continue to use current software.
By 2007, agencies must  use software that features "native conformance with the  OpenDocument standard."

That provision will mean the next version of Office will not qualify for use in Massachusetts, even though it will natively support XML. News.com explains:

In the upcoming version of Microsoft Office12, which is due next year, Microsoft intends to support XML by default. However, the company has not chosen to natively support the OpenDocument format and instead will rely on "filters" to convert XML document formats.

Will other state governments follow suit?  

 

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Topics: Microsoft

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