Massachusetts Appoints ODF-Friendly CIO

The state has appointed a new CIO and made it clear that his job will be to forge ahead with implementing the controversial OpenDocument format.

Massachusetts has appointed a new CIO and made it clear that his job will be to forge ahead with implementing the controversial OpenDocument format, set to go into effect in January 2007.

The new CIO, Louis Gutierrez, will step into the shoes vacated by Peter Quinn, who stepped down Jan. 9.

Quinn, the man who championed the adoption of ODF in Massachusetts, had been buffeted by the concomitant controversy and attacks that turned personal.

In particular, the Boston Globe ran an article about Quinns purportedly unauthorized travel to conferences.

A subsequent review by the governors budget chief fully exonerated Quinn from any wrongdoing, but the damage was already done.

A request made to the Globes ombudsman two months ago to investigate the articles origin has not yet been answered, according to Andrew Updegrove, a partner at the Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove LLP and the editor of

The current policy of the Commonwealths IT Division mandates that documents created by state executive branch agencies must be saved in the OpenDocument format by January of next year, with the goal being to implement a standard developed in a standards body that would free the state from the control of one company over its proprietary code.

Massachusetts first moved to standardize on ODF on Sept. 1, when the proposal was first approved.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Massachusetts move to ODF.

Microsoft, which stands to lose substantial revenue from sales of its Office suite if governments widely adopt open source, hurried to protest the move.

Within two weeks, it had copied Gov. Mitt Romney on a 15-page comment that objected to the premise that ODF would better enable agencies to communicate with each other as well as to share data.

Politicians jumped into the fray, politicizing what many say is a technology discussion best determined by the experts—the IT Division.

Complicating the matter has been the fear that the disabled community would be less accommodated in the world of open standards than they have been by Microsofts assistive technologies.

That fear has been balanced by those who believe that open-source programs would offer not only sufficient technology to meet the needs of the disabled, but will do so quicker and turn out technology that will top Microsofts.

"It seems clear to me that having an open-source environment would allow for far more variety and innovation, including by the disabled themselves," Updegrove said. "There are a lot of disabled, highly skilled programmers."

Updegrove is also legal counsel to OASIS but was speaking from his own perspective, not on behalf of OASIS.

Gutierrezs appointment will be effective Feb. 6, according to an announcement coming from the CIOs immediate supervisor, State Secretary of Administration and Finance Thomas Trimarco. The acting CIO, Bethann Pepoli, will become deputy CIO.

Next Page: A shift in posture.