Massachusetts Sticking with ODF, for Now

Opinion: Massachusetts may be sticking to its ODF guns after all, but Microsoft still has way too much power in software buying decisions.

When, I first heard that Peter Quinn, the soon-to-be former CIO of Massachusetts was resigning because, "Many of these events have been very disruptive and harmful to my personal well-being, my family and many of my closest friends," I assumed that ODF (OpenDocument Format) would soon be following him out the door.

Oh, I know that Eric Fehrnstrom, director of communications for governor Mitt Romney, said, after Quinns resignation that, We are moving steadily towards that deadline and we expect no changes in those rules."

The deadline he is referring to is the Aug 31 date by which Massachusetts executive branch documents must be storable in ODF.

But come on, "director of communications" means PR guy and they always say that things will continue as they have been. Its practically in their job description. If there bad been one on the Titanic, he would have said something like: "Despite a minor interruption in our way, we will be arriving in New York approximately on time."

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about why Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks ODF is the better, more affordable standard.

So, I believed that Microsoft had won a major victory over those who would give employees a choice in their office suites. But then Pamela Jones of Groklaw assured me that she was sure Massachusetts would stand by ODF.

It looks like I was wrong.

According to Andrew "Andy" Updegrove, a partner with the Boston law firm, Gesmer Updegrove LLP, and the editor of, "the official who has direct authority over the implementation of the open format policy, Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Thomas H. Trimarco, met with ITD General Counsel Linda Hamel Wednesday, and unequivocally assured her that Peter Quinns departure will result in no change to the Administrations position on the ODF standard."

This is good news for open standard supporters.

It is not, however, the final word.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked as a "beltway bandit" for technology companies around Washington, D.C. that did work for NASA and the Department of Defense. We never knew when a federal government decision was really final until the last possible second. Im sure things are no different with the Massachusetts government.

After all, Microsofts friends in the senate will still be lobbying against ODF. In addition, Microsoft is still pushing its pseudo "open standard, Open XML." You can count on that being trotted out in its next set of arguments against ODF.

Still, I do think that one of the main points is still correct. While ODF-compliant office suites may make it on to Massachusetts employee desks, Quinn, like Moses leading his people to the promised land, wont be there.

/zimages/5/28571.gifMicrosofts Office standard gets green light. Click here to read more.

This whole sorry business still shows that if youre going to fight against Microsoft and its products, you can expect to get a lot of grief. For many people in many jobs, I fear it will be too much trouble and too much grief.

Its a heck of a note when insisting that people be given a real choice for an office suite can land you in so much hot water, but there it is.

Ziff Davis Internet Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been working and writing about technology and business since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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