Last week Massachusetts released proposed policies to standardize state documents on the Open Document standard used by open source programs like Open Office. The policy, which is open for public comment until Sept. 9, would essentially forbid the use of Microsoft Office applications that don't support that format. Microsoft has already said the next version of Office won't support that format, and Friday Microsoft executives lashed out at the state, Computer Reseller News reports.
Alan Yates, GM of Microsoft's Information Worker Business Strategy, called Open Document an inferior file format, incompatible with older versions of Office, and said Office 12 would support XML but not Open Document. "This proposal acknowledges that Open Document does not address pictures, audio, video, charts, maps, voice, voice-over-IP, and other kinds of data our customers are increasingly putting in documents and archiving."
He addded, "As we look to the future, and all of these data types become increasingly intertwined, locked-in formats like OpenDocument are not well suited to address these varying data types - as the proposed policy itself acknowledges. It's this need for choice and flexibility that led Microsoft to design Office in a way that supports any XML schemas that a customer chooses, a capability lacking in less functional formats."
Here's the situation from the state's point of view, according to Eric Kriss, Secretary of Administration & Finance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Open Document is the best format to ensure openness of data. The state is concerned that Microsoft's XML schemas are proprietary and that patent issues could create problems.
- Regardless of the technical merits of Microsoft's new formats, the state is not interested in proprietary formats. "What we've backed away from at this point is the use of a proprietary standard and we want standards that are published and free of legal encumbrances, and we don’t want two standards," Kriss said. "We want OpenDocument, not Microsoft's XML standards. If Microsoft can make Office save and manipulate the OpenDocument XML standard, it would make their product more competitive for our use."
- While the move to free software could mean substantial cost savings, the issue is not money but openness.
- The migration is not burdensome to taxpayers and is something the state's IT departments know how to do.