Why Massachusetts' Peter Quinn quit

Why Massachusetts' Peter Quinn quit

Summary: Groklaw has an interview with Peter Quinn, the former CIO of Mass., who led the effort to adopt ODF and cut Microsoft Office.

TOPICS: Microsoft

In this interview with Peter Quinn, the former CIO of Mass., who led the effort to adopt ODF and cut Microsoft Office, Groklaw asks what forced him out and what Microsoft had to do with it. Here's the top of the interview:


PJ: What was the last straw that made you quit?

Quinn: The word that the IT Bond Bill would not be reported out as part of the total bond package (so Highway and Building Construction funds would be available but not IT funding). And the word was it was all about me.

Now the folks that have say here do not know me from a hole in the wall and the funds were for projects that were totally unrelated to ITD. I clearly had set the priorities for the Bond but this funding is for projects like a new Taxpayers System, new Registry of Motor Vehicles system, etc., all projects desperately needed by the citizens of the Commonwealth. Eric Kriss and I always had a goal of making IT "a"political and now it was rapidily becoming a political football of the highest magnitude.

I took this job in the hopes of making meaningful and institutionalized IT reform. All the previous efforts were about to be for naught as political payback. IT would and will grind to a halt if IT longterm funding is not released and if the Legislation that guts the Office of the CIO is passed. This was not a prospect that I wanted to facilitate by my presence.

If I am gone, I am sure much of the gamesmanship will subside. There are many very good people doing very good work that would be marginalized (my opinion) by my continued tenure. And to be brutally frank, the instigators of much of this legislation are represented by the true bottom feeders in the Legislature, in my view. To have to bow and genuflect to their likes is not something I could ever do. I do hope rationale voices will prevail (and I believe that will be the case).

PJ: Do you know who inspired the Globe to do the investigation? Was it Pacheco?

Quinn: Almost to a person, to anybody involved or who knows about the ODF issue, they attributed the story to Microsoft, right, wrong or otherwise. Senator Pacheco may be a bully but I do not believe he is disingenuous and would stoop to such a tactic. Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin's office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their playbook and words, in my opinion.

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Mr. Quinn is a hypocrite

    Says he didn't want a political department, then tackles the most political issue with the most lobbiest money in the world fighting over it.

    What kind of idiot wants to make an "A-political" IT Department and then tackle Microsoft? Only someone that doesn't have a clue or someone that really intends to play serious hardball politics.
  • You've got to be kidding.

    Mr. Quixote uh? Quinn. Let me get this straight. Your are hired by a political entity (the state), in a VERY political state, your funding is totally controlled by political entities (the Legislature), your contracting process is controlled by governmental regulations, and you want an a-political ITD. I thought I was idealistic.
  • Thus Microsoft maintains their monopoly

    The nay-sayers here ignore the fact that Microsoft's influence in
    all of this wasn't out of line. That politicians with their pockets
    lines with lobbyist money are the real hypocrites. Serve the
    people? Right.

    Pick something besides Microsoft and you pay with your career,
    citizens waste money on software that costs too much and does
    too little compared to the competition.

    Bottom line, even in a state known for being liberal, the old-
    money patricians are only interested in how government can be
    manipulated to make them richer.

    The man quit because if he didn't people would be hurt more
    than if he leaves. Would more of the world were as interested in
    public service.
    • fast edits

      I mean to say if he says, not leaves. :-P
    • Give me a break

      Microsoft was in the right here. This boondoggle would have cost the state millions of dollars and not saved a penny due to thousands of custom applications (that require Microsoft technologies that aren't available in the open-source movement) that would have to be rewritten.

      The 'competition' is crap and doesn't provide the functionality of the Microsoft programs it would have been replacing.

      Quinn quit because after it became apparent who (the anti-Microsoft forces) were helping him - he would have likely been fired and/or indicted.

      Better to have a short stint as the state CIO on the resume than try to explain away a corruption charge.
    • Again, give me a break...

      Come on now. They guy had serious ethical problems...accepting freebies from the group he's promoting? What did he think he was a politician!?!

      Get your facts straight - switching to open source products would have cost the state a bundle and not save it money.

      The politicos made the correct move and get rid of this open source idiot.
  • Good riddance...

    Good riddance...

    The plan by Mr. Quinn to force a switch to an ?open? format to save the state money was bull sh** from day one.

    If you buy the skewed reports from some quarters that it might save the state some licensing costs that is one thing.

    But what Mr. Quinn and others who promoted the idea of a painless switch forgot was that there are literally thousands of custom applications written using Microsoft scripting and ActiveX technologies that would have to be re-written because the current (and beta) ?open-source? options don?t support those technologies.

    What may have saved some licensing costs would have forced the state to pay for a huge program to rid itself of all the custom Microsoft based applications and replace them with open-source equivalents. It probably would have been similar in scope to the VERY expensive Y2K remediation efforts of not too many years ago.

    In case you are wondering I?m no Microsoft patsy. The company I work for supplies the state with a variety of those custom Microsoft based applications and we would have made a killing charging for new ?open-source? versions.

    I am a taxpayer in MA and if this had been allowed to come to pass MY taxes would have been forced to go up to pay for the boondoggle and folks would have put his head on a stick before this was all over due to the costs involved.

    Microsoft does play hardball and if they had a hand in Mr. Quinn?s departure ? good for them and good for the Commonwealth. The state does not have an obligation to ?help? the open-source movement ? it has an obligation to provide services and keep taxes at a reasonable level.

    Mr. Quinn?s proposals did nothing to help the state and he only caused friction in his short tenure. Good riddance he?s gone.

    - Bostonbob
    • Do you know anything about this???

      This whole fight was not over using OSS it was
      about a file format and MS requiring customers
      to have a valid License Key just to open a
      document (which I've heard they have been
      planning for years!). This entire fight is over
      the rights of the state to retain the rights to
      read AND write to their own documents without
      the need for ANY software company's proprietary
      file format. This has nothing to do with the
      Open Source Software movement. There are
      already closed source programs on the market
      that read and write ODF. IBM even has a product
      from what I've heard where you can do your
      document editing right in the web browser which
      might even all real time collabration, who

      The Microsoft Office Suite has nothing on any
      other Office Suite out there. All the state was
      saying is that because of ownership concerns of
      their own proprietary data they felt that the
      ODF standard would be around much longer and
      would be more widely supported by more pieces of
      software than ANYONE'S close file format. That
      not only included MS Office but also other
      suites as well. As much as I've read about this
      I have never seen a statement where Mass. ever
      stated they didn't want to use MS software.
      They just want to read and write ODF.

      I don't know about your version, but my version
      of Word already has converters for Wordperfect
      and the like. What is MS so afraid of by adding
      another supported file format in their software?
      Are they afraid they will now have to compete on
      features, functionality, and stability? That's
      sure the way it sounds to me...
      • Where to begin...

        Well, lets start with there is no key required to open documents. If you have a file in Word .DOC format, Microsoft Word will open the file.

        You can also export Word documents to PDF format so the Commonwealth could have an 'open' format if it wanted it. The state could also export all it's documents to another open format - rich text format.

        But this was never about that. Quinn purposefully setup a 'requirement' that Microsoft could not meet. If you were Microsoft how do you create an export/conversion utility to write to a format that is a subset of what your program does.

        How could Microsoft write an export utility to a format that doesn't support scripting and ActiveX technologies?

        The answer is simple - it couldn't and Quinn and the folks in the open source movement who have been giving him freebies knew it from day one.

        If the open source movement comes up with a database that is as functional as Access and scripting technologies and an ActiveX replacement that provides the same functionality then Quinn and others could legitimately gripe about Microsoft not supporting the 'open' standard.

        But it's not Microsoft's fault that the open source equivalents don't have the functionality of Microsoft's products.

        And Microsoft shouldn't be forced to create a solution so the state can tell Microsoft to f'off.

        Your last line about competing on 'features, functionality and stability' makes me laugh. Clearly you haven't used anything on the Microsoft side in years. It has more features, greater functionality and is more stable than anything on the Open Office side that I've evaluated.
  • Why Massaachusetts' Peter Quinn quit

    One thing about this article, it sure pulled the
    MS paid supporters out from under the rocks :)

    From Maxine:
    If you can't change your mind, are you sure you
    still have one?
  • The Truth

    There is the truth of it finally.

    I too work for the people (but not the Commonwealth) and am hamstrung constantly by agendas that oppose good common sense which would allow us to maintain integrity and transparency to the public of whom we serve (and are proud to).

    Budgets are approved at $20,000. for example for $200,000+ worth of goods and services. How do you make this happen? How do you achieve long term stability, security and preservation if the people's valuable history, etc. can't be used in 10 years without extensive, expensive conversions? How do we respond to the public demand when there are no set procedures, guidelines or processes in place to address these issues? I fully support the ETRM and only wish we could adopt it wholesale.

    Microsoft love them or not, is not the issue. Bottom line issue is the bottom line. Since risk assessment is part of the IT processes along with good stewardship of the past, present and future of the Commonwealth's information, then personal agendas should not be the dictators. Translate that into politicians who go on golf vacations sponsored by Microsoft and others of that ilk; and then they come back to stamp their perceptions, not experience, of products and services on their constituents and the bureaucracy. Very few elected officials understand the true nature of the digitized world and the products and services that make it go around. Hence the need to hire experts. This is the same for roads, sewers, infrastructure as a whole. How many of those politicians who consistently vote against cold patching or total resurfacing have actually built a road? But they hire us the experts and then work cross purpose to us at the beck and call of private interests and not to the interests that they are elected to serve, the public.

    I don't have a problem with Microsoft et al. But I do have a problem when it comes time to ensure systems are heterogeneous and Microsoft is unwilling to be so. Vendors who refuse to recognize the Commonwealth's rights are in effect applying reverse eminent domain; these vendors do all of us a disservice - the public and even their own businesses. We need more of Peter Quinn's ilk in public sector who are not influenced by personal agendas and lobbyists.
    • Your truth, not mine...

      Please, give us a break. The Commonwealth could ensure it's systems are heterogeneous without forcing Microsoft to make Microsoft Office compatible with a product that the state intends to replace it with.

      All it has to do was save all it's files as RTF's and then only use open source files from then on. But that was never what this was all about. Quinn and a few other 'socialists' in the open source movement wanted Microsoft to support their 'open' standard.

      But how could Microsoft support a standard that was a poor subset of what it's Office suite supported? How do you 'export/save as' to a format that doesn't support scripting or ActiveX?

      The answer is simple - you can't. This was all about forcing the state to dump Microsoft since there was NO WAY it could (even if it wanted to) meet the demands of Quinn.

      And if Quinn had his way the thousand of custom applications that the Commonwealth uses every day would have to be rewritten in an 'open' format.

      This would have cost the state a bundle and as a taxpayer - I would have had to pay for it.

      Yeah to the politicos who put an end to Quinn's idiotic quest.