A Standards Policy in
Progress"> But Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, in Washington, said that the Massachusetts open format policy could still be improved. "The one real limitation to the policy is the rigid definition of open standard used in the ETRM. The policy limits the commonwealths choices to open standards, when the goals could be achieved with merely open formats," he said."Yet, these small firms and open-source technologies may better meet the needs of the commonwealth and individual agencies. In addition, by committing only to broad open standards approved by international committees, the needs of smaller user groups can be overlooked. As the ETRM acknowledges, there are currently no office applications with native ODF support that provide accessibility for persons who use assistive technology devices," Zuck said. In August 2006, Massachusetts reaffirmed its commitment to begin using the ODF by Jan. 1, 2007. Click here to read more. While the new administration clearly realizes "the problems inherent in this kind of policy," ACT was hopeful that the policy would continue to evolve over the coming months toward a "truly goals-based policy that gives the commonwealths CIOs the flexibility they need," Zuck said. The acceptance of Open XML alongside ODF by Massachusetts appears to bring to an end the controversy that has swirled since the commonwealth first announced publicly that it planned to adopt the ODF. Peter Quinn, CIO of the IT Division, who championed that move, resigned in January 2006 due to personal attacks based in part on his support for ODF. His replacement, Louis Gutierrez, then resigned in October 2006, which was widely seen as a blow to open standards. According to Gutierrez, he stepped down due to skirmishes with an uncooperative legislative branch that refused to fund IT investment. However, Massachusetts support for Open XML was not a surprise to Andrew Updegrove, a partner with Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove and editor of the ConsortiumInfo.org standards blog. "Most attention has focused this year on the unsuccessful attempts that have been made to pass open format legislation in five states. But, behind the scenes, Microsoft has continued to apply unrelenting pressure on the ITD [Massachusetts IT Division.] And, arguably, Open XML now meets the test originally employed by the ITD in 2005 to accept ODF and PDF but not Open XML," Updegrove said in a recent blog post. Updegrove argued that, in a larger sense, deciding the issue of whether to include Open XML or not involves weighing subjective details such as whether standards body Ecma International is as "open" as OASIS, and whether Open XML, with just a single implementation, Office, should be granted the same status as ODF, which currently has about 30 adopters. Both Open XML and ODF have hit roadblocks. Read more here. "Should governments, and especially their unelected IT divisions, implement social policy through procurement? These are difficult distinctions for civil servants like CTOs to make and defend," Updegrove said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
While small firms are willing to open up their formats and technologies, they often do not have the political clout to move their formats through an open standards body the way IBM, Sun and Microsoft have done, he said, noting that even open-source formats like the Ogg Vorbis media format would be locked out.