Mass. Gives Open XML the Official Green Light

Commenters focus on the inclusion of Open XML as an acceptable document format for office use.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts has officially thrown its weight behind Microsofts Office Open XML format along with the OASIS Open Document Format.

In July, the commonwealth added Microsofts format, also known as Ecma-376 or Open XML, to the list of approved standards in a draft of the Massachusetts ETRM (Enterprise Technical Reference Model), an architectural framework used to identify the standards, specifications and technologies that support Massachusetts computing environment.

Massachusetts reviews and updates the manual every six months.

The final version of the fourth update to the ETRM was released Aug. 1.

"We believe that the impact of any legitimate concerns raised about either standard is outweighed substantially by the benefits of moving toward open, XML-based document format standards. Therefore, we will be moving forward to include both ODF and Open XML as acceptable document formats," Henry Dormitzer, undersecretary of administration and finance, and Bethann Pepoli, acting CIO, said in a statement issued Aug.1, in Boston.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about why Massachusetts embraced Microsofts Open XML document format.

Comments were accepted on that draft of the ETRM v4.0 until July 20. Some 460 individuals and organizations submitted comments on the public review draft, most of which focused on the inclusion of Ecma-376 Office Open XML as an acceptable document format for office applications along with ODF.

The complete list of comments can be viewed here.

"The Commonwealth continues on its path toward open, XML-based document formats without reflecting a vendor or commercial bias in ETRM v4.0. Many of the comments we received identify concerns regarding the Open XML specification. We believe that these concerns, as with those regarding ODF, are appropriately handled through the standards-setting process, and we expect both standards to evolve and improve," the statement said.

Massachusetts was also the first state to adopt a policy encouraging open, XML-based document formats, the statement said, noting that the commonwealth had set the stage for a new and innovative way to ensure that state government operated efficiently and effectively for its citizens.

"The ETRM articulates a vision of a service-oriented architecture where information can be shared, reused and repurposed based on XML technologies. Document formats play a part in this vision by serving as containers for the information rather than being the end goal. The availability of open, standardized XML document formats without vendor bias will move us further along in realizing this vision. The ETRM will continue its evolution, and we will continue to monitor developments as standards are revised and new standards are ratified," the statement said.

Tom Robertson, general manager of interoperability and standards at Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., welcomed the move, saying that the decision to add Ecma Office Open XML File Formats to the list of approved open standards was a positive development for government IT users in Massachusetts.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read about why Microsoft accused IBM of limiting choice for interoperability and standards, click here.

"They now have the freedom to choose whichever format best serves their needs. The commonwealths decision also reflects the fact that formats will evolve over time and that approved standards lists should also evolve," Robertson said.

Next Page: A standards policy in progress.