The state of Massachusetts Friday made it official: It will use only nonproprietary document formats in state-affiliated offices effective Jan. 1, 2007. Although state CIO Peter Quinn has said repeatedly that this issue does not represent "the state versus Microsoft Corp. —or any one company," adoption of the long-debated plan may result in all versions of Microsofts Office productivity suite being phased out of use throughout the states executive branch agencies.
Massachusetts posted the final version of its Enterprise Technical Reference Model on its Web site.
As part of this new policy, the state will support the newly ratified Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, and PDFs (portable document format) as the standards for its office documents.
Quinn told DesktopLinux.com earlier this month that he challenged Microsoft and other companies who sell software that uses proprietary document formats to consider enabling open-format options as soon as possible. Quinn said that "government is creating history at a rapidly increasing rate, and all documents we save must be accessible to everybody, without having to use closed software to open them now and in the future."
Quinn said the state runs a "vast majority" of its office and system computers on Windows and that "only a very small percentage of them run Linux and other open source software at this time. This is in tune with the general market in the U.S. But we like to eat our own cooking, in that we are using OpenOffice.org and Linux more and more as time goes along, because it produces open format documents."
In contrast, Microsofts Office creates Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other documents that are accessible only by Microsoft products, making them ineligible for use, the state said.
"Microsoft has remade the desktop world," Quinn said. "But if youve watched history, theres a slag heap of proprietary companies who have fallen by the wayside because they were stuck in their ways. Just look at the minicomputer business, for example. The world is about open standards and open source. I cant understand why anybody would want to continue making closed-format documents anymore."
Microsofts answer to that is simple. MS Office, which is upgraded about every three years and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, brought in more than $11 billion last year, or about 28 percent of Microsofts total revenue, according to the companys recently filed annual report.
"Weve had an active, ongoing conversation with Microsoft since January about this, and theyve been open to hearing our position," Quinn said. "But I dont know one way or the other how theyre ultimately going to react to this. Also, this isnt just about Microsoft. Were focusing on the formats here, not necessarily the software."
Unless Microsoft starts supporting OO.org, Quinn said, the state will gradually phase out Microsoft Office in favor of OO.org.