The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has cited legal concerns over Microsoft's software as a factor behind its decision to only use document formats based on open standards.
Eric Kriss, Secretary of Administration & Finance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, told CRN on Friday that Massachusetts had concerns about the openness of Microsoft XML schemas as well as with potential patent issues that could arise in the future.
"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 added.
In the past, the issue of patent infringement has been used by Microsoft as a criticism against open source. Speaking in Microsoft's Asian Government Leaders Forum in Singapore in November 2004, Ballmer reiterated a controversial claim that Linux violates more than 228 patents.
"Someday, for all countries that are entering the WTO [World Trade Organisation], somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property," Ballmer reportedly said.
Microsoft lashed out against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts last week for its proposed plan to support only OpenDocument and PDF file formats for use by state employees in the future.
The state described the plan in a posting made to its Web site last week as part of a public review process which ends on 9 September. Massachusetts agencies have until 1 January, 2007, to install applications that support the OpenDocument file formats and phase out other products.
Alan Yates, Microsoft's general manager of Information Worker business strategy, criticised the Massachusetts proposal, saying it was "confusing". It uses different criteria for openness for office documents, data and Adobe PDF files, he told ZDNet UK's sister site CNET News.com last Thursday.
"We were surprised by the narrowing of the approach to openness," Yates said. "There are many other different options that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has here that many other countries and states are doing."
Yates reiterated the Microsoft does not intend to natively support the OpenDocument format, which he said was very specific to the OpenOffice.org 2.0 open source productivity suite.
Microsoft has since confirmed this view.
A Microsoft executive said last week, after the report was released, that Microsoft will not support OpenDocument in its next version of Office 12 as it believed the format to be inferior and said is not compatible with older versions of Office, according to InformationWeek.
Alan Yates, general manager of Microsoft's Information Worker Business Strategy, told CRN last Friday that Office 12 would not support OpenDocument because "the Office 12 formats pay special attention to compatibility with older document versions, [and] other formats do not concern themselves with this important issue."
CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report