Temporary CIO Steps into Mass. OpenDocument War

Massachusetts has appointed an acting CIO to fill in for Peter Quinn, who's walking away from the job after bringing OpenDocument and a concomitant fire of controversy to the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts has appointed an acting CIO to fill in for Peter Quinn, who is walking away from the job after bringing OpenDocument and a concomitant fire of controversy to the Commonwealth.

The acting CIO, Bethann Pepoli, was formerly the chief operating officer of the states IT division.

Pepoli is a candidate to take the position on full-time, although a spokesperson for Governor Mitt Romneys office stressed that the CIO search is ongoing and that the HR department is keen to avoid showing signs of preference for her over other candidates.

There is no set date for hiring a full-time CIO, the spokesperson said.

Quinn, who cited controversy over OpenDocument as well as personal attacks aimed at him as being the reasons he left the CIO position, will be gone as of Monday.

Just because ODFs champion is leaving doesnt mean that Massachusetts is straying from the ODF path, Quinn reportedly told employees of the states IT division.

Indeed, his former boss, Eric Kriss, told Groklaw that Quinn was simply unsuited to the brusque treatment he received during the course of the open-format controversy.

"[Quinn] indicated to me he was extremely uncomfortable with the personal attention surrounding the open format controversy," Groklaw quoted Kriss as saying. "Peter is an IT professional who is not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics. He found the last few months to be very distasteful."

Kriss said Quinn was particularly shaken up by a Boston Globe article about his purportedly unauthorized travel to conferences. A subsequent review by the governors budget chief fully exonerated Quinn from any wrongdoing, but the damage was evidently done.

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

Microsoft Corp. lost no time in protesting the move. Within two weeks, it had copied Governor 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.

"We have substantial concerns ... with the definition of open formats in the current proposal," wrote Alan Yates, general manager at Microsoft, in the letter. That definition would require adoption of a single format for office documents throughout all state agencies, requiring deployment of a single office application technology, he noted.

"As such, this unprecedented approach not only prevents impacted state agencies of the Commonwealth from using many critical and well-established technologies but also runs afoul of well-established procurement norms without due consideration for the enormous costs and technical challenges that stem from the proposal," Yates wrote.

/zimages/1/28571.gifSteven J. Vaughan-Nicols says whether or not you believe Open XML will be a true open standard, disabled users will still have to buy special equipment or have existing equipment upgraded in order to access tomorrows office docs. Click here to read more.

Microsoft stressed that it had shipped an open format in the current version of Office 2003 and planned to focus even more on the issue with the next iteration, Office 12.

The company then announced in November that it had decided to open up its Office XML format, submitting its Office 12 XML format specifications to Ecma International to become an open standard.

Beyond Microsofts protestations, Massachusetts has since grappled with other issues of the controversial ODF adoption, including concerns raised by disabled constituents that ODF doesnt support accessibility as well as Open XML will.

At any rate, said the spokesperson for Romneys office, the state is still on track for its January 2007 implementation of its published ODF rules.

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