November 28, 2005 8:01 AM PST

Mass. warms to Microsoft Office standard

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The governor's office of Massachusetts said Microsoft's effort to standardize Office document formats could meet the commonwealth's procurement guidelines.

The state is "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office Open XML document formats will meet the standard for an "open format" set by Massachusetts, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Gov. Mitt Romney.

In a closely watched case, Massachusetts in September issued a set of technical standards designed to convert the state's internal systems to nonproprietary formats.

As part of the process, the state IT Division's reference architecture defined Microsoft Office products as proprietary, rather than an "open format."

Instead, Massachusetts decided that desktop productivity applications used by executive branch agencies would have to adhere to OpenDocument, a standard Microsoft does not support. The state also considers Adobe's PDF format "open."

Last Monday, Microsoft announced a plan to standardize Office document formats, called Office Open XML, in a separate process from the OpenDocument standard.

Microsoft intends to submit the XML-based document formats in Office 12 to standards bodies Ecma International and ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. The company hopes that a committee can complete the standards process in about a year, which is when Office 12 is due for release.

Two days after Microsoft's announcement, the Romney administration issued a statement in response to Microsoft's move.

"The commonwealth is very pleased with Microsoft's progress in creating an open document format. If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats," the statement said.

The statement is attributed to the state's administration and finance secretary, Tom Trimarco, whose office sets standards for the state's executive branch agencies.

Accepting Microsoft's Office Open XML formats would allow Microsoft to compete in the state's IT procurement process and blunt growing momentum around OpenDocument, in which Microsoft's competitors are investing.

OpenDocument, or ODF, is a relatively new standard and has had few high-profile government or corporate customers choose to adopt it.

Microsoft and some industry lobbying groups have been hostile to Massachusetts' decision to standardize on OpenDocument, saying it limits the state's choices. The move has been controversial within the state as well.

The state's secretary of the commonwealth, William Galvin, whose office is responsible for archives and records, has expressed concern over the decision. The state legislature has reviewed the decision as well and has sought to create a special review board to approve technical standards.

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Standardizing on Microsoft.
If Microsoft truly opens their Office document format then I would be fine with it becoming the defacto standard for office application, but what Microsoft is really doing is throwing a kink in the OpenDocument standard. The sad part is Microsoft probably won't relenquish control of their format and the next version of the format won't be backwards compatable either. Not to mention Microsoft probably won't release all of the format until each office version is out.

When it comes to Microsoft the only way I would accept their office format as a standard is if they have no control over it, but will continue to follow it in their own application.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They need to drop their patents on the format
They need to drop their patents on the Office XML format, otherwise they are just blowing smoke.

(Can you believe that you can patent a file format???? Maybe I'll patent my kids' drawings and their structure so that nobody can do the same drawings...)
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Mitt is not acting in the benefit of MA businesses
Mitt promised lower taxes and economic improvement. He obviously didn't mean it if he's going to ignore such "low hanging fruit" as this. There has to be an ulterior motive.

If Mitt was in his right mind, he would no doubt see the forthcoming flurry of innovation and creativity that would arise in the wake of Microsoft's loss of their monopoly. Most of this "flurry" would originate right here in MA. There are dozens of large and small software companies waiting for a fair chance to compete against the Redmond behemoth.

Furthermore, imagine what could be done with the sudden drop in tax revenue needed to pay Microsoft for their over bloated office suite. Current credible estimates are showing that switching to OpenOffice or Star Office will save up to 90% -- including retraining (which costs more for Office 12 than for the other office suites).

What a shame...
Posted by JHann (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BS about MS
The statement that MA will save 90%, including training, if open source is adopted is totally absurd. You will know when savings are available when large employers throw out MS in favor of something else. If anyone in MA was truly interested in tax savings they would boot out the socialistic dems currently in office and elect the Texas legislature to represent them.
Posted by tbsteph (62 comments )
Link Flag
It's about the people's ability to interact with government data holders
The vast majority of Massachusetts citizens, students, schools, and businesses who have to share or obtain data with State and local government have to do it with the software that came with their PC's, the Microsoft Office Suite MS Works. This is about making it possible for the masses to connect with their government and get what they need from it in today's technical environment, not about some parochial fight between Open-format cultists or Microsoft haters and their perceived nemesis. Introducing the software originally proposed would have brought all real estate, licensing, taxation, and any other ordinary citizen-state data transactions to a screeching halt.
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's about not being at the mercy of one corporation.
People can already exchange Office documents, but the cost to do so is $300 to $400 per license. Microsoft has monopoly control, so they can charge whatever they want. If there was true competition, MS Office would probably cost about half as much.

One goal of the open format is to instill competition back into the market.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
This article appears to be misleading...
... in that it states in part that "The state is "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office Open XML document formats will meet the standard for an "open format" set by Massachusetts, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Gov. Mitt Romney.

In a closely watched case, Massachusetts in September issued a set of technical standards designed to convert the state's internal systems to nonproprietary formats.

As part of the process, the state IT Division's reference architecture defined Microsoft Office products as proprietary, rather than an "open format"...

Since the goal of the OpenOffice.org community according to the The Valoris report "is to 'create the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://wiki.ffii.org/OpenDocIda04" target="_newWindow">http://wiki.ffii.org/OpenDocIda04</a>

Then this article should have been written in the context of what was said by South African President Thabo Mbeki with particular reference to "inter-operative platforms and free and open source software" technologies to which Microsoft's "standardization" goals are yet to be in conformance.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?id=714" target="_newWindow">http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?id=714</a>

What has the Commonwealth's procurement guidelines go to do with the decisions of the rest of the world's population?
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you are both wrong to some extent
The problem in Mass is mindset. I do give props for them at
least considering an alternative format. This is what should be
done for most things, but in states like Mass and other very
highly political states, this rarely happens. So much time is spent
on the politics, rather than looking at the best interest that it is
doomed before even getting off the ground, no matter who is
the end technology beneficiary. We obviously have to polar
opposites in thinking in this, but the question will be who wants
to spend the most to win over the politicians, rather than which
may in the long-term benefit the most people, commercial and
residential. There are those pushing open standards and those
pushing Microsoft's just the same. To say that MS is the only one
pushing financially is not fair. The problem is that we have
become a society that requires the buying out of others to get
things done. Innovation very, very rarely plays any part in
politics. I think that Mass tried to do this, but will probably fail
because the powers that can be bought will eventually have
more resources, like normally is the case. About the only case
that shows at least a semi-level playing field is the web. Thank
goodness for html and its siblings.

The biggest problem why we are in this situation is that people
have given up. They give up on their elected officials. It seems as
if a year after someone new comes to Washington, they become
just as buyable as a 20-year veteran congressperson. Very few
officials stay true, no matter the side of the aisle. As long as that
is the case, we will never have truly unbiased and unbought
politicians.
Posted by jasonemanuelson1 (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS:1 everybody else:0
Microsoft's illegal monopoly is attempting to kill any &#38; all competition against their cash cow OFFICE.

THE INTERNET IS A PUBLIC UTILITY PUT IN PLACE BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE.

Use Adibe Acrobat PDF standard for government forms, FREE download browser plugin &#38; reader for Windows/Mac/Unix.

Even MS Office will save files as a PDF.

Freedom within the marketplace is one of the foundations of the American Economy &#38; way of life.

Gov't. forms should be WEB based, not proprietary monopoly based such as MS Office.
This is just a ploy to dilute the Open Standards movement &#38; kill competition by Citizen Gates &#38; Big Brother Ballimer.

Stop bowing to the MS Monopoly Master.
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Adobe
PDF Sucks.
Posted by SystemsJunky (409 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft complies
It sounds more like the other way around. Microsoft warms up to the standards.
Posted by tron12 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Microsoft warms up to the standards"...
I am very much in agreement with the above mentioned subject line and post since the "OpenDocument Standards" party was already started and folks from Redmond "arrived late" although they were very much part and parcel of the preparation activities; again, one only has look back at history to realize that the "warm-up" party was held on the IBM's OS/2 Platform a long time ago; see link on OpenDoc -- "The same goes for spreadsheet parts, or graphics parts, spellchecking parts and so on":

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.os2ezine.com/v1n13/opendoc.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.os2ezine.com/v1n13/opendoc.htm</a>

What I believe those at Microsoft are try to do at this time as far as their standardization move is concerned is to make their presence known -- lest they are not forgotten during the Open Document Standards journey that the world is embarking upon!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds about right..
...Microsoft is no fool when it comes to making money. They see something that others are adopting and think about how they can spin it in there own way, which helps the market. You never know OpenXML might have something that ODF should adopt and vice vera. Its a narrow view to say that MS should just adopt ODF and not consider something else. Isn't the point open-source to consider something else other than the narrow view?
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
MA vs TX?
First of all, I think it's great that MA wants to open the market to free market enterprise instead of endorsing a single corporate entity at the government level. Free market is about capitalism, so I don't know where the "socialist" comment comes from. In the end, I think if other state and federal governments required ONLY open and unencumbered file formats, and allowed any company to implement them royalty and patent-free, we'd see some real savings down the road. Each billion dollars that goes to Microsoft's shareholders implies inefficiency and lack of competition in the marketplace that is paid from your paycheck. Locking people into arbitrary file formats creates artificial barriers to competition, and no centralized system can compete with an open and free market.

As for Texas vs. Massachussetts, MA is doing pretty well for themselves by any metric, and I don't think they see any need to emulate Texas.
Posted by samkass (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hah!
Hahahahaha!!! Standards junkies... give me a break...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's all about the money
I think there is a different reason for Massachusetts going for only open standard.
It's a bargaining chip against Microsoft.
If Microsoft doesn't have open standards then they will not be considered for contracts. With open standards they have to compete against openOffice and Star Office which will weaken their pricing policy.

This mean Massachusetts can negotiate better pricing.

I don't think this was ever about supporting open document formats only about cold hard cash.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Surprised?
Politicials and coporations rarely (if ever) do or say anything for altruistic reasons. We live in a capitalist nation, so money drives a lot of choices. However, I think that MS had this planned prior to the Mass. incident. The open-source market is group rapidly, and MS would not pass up a chance to cash in on the movement. I agree the politicials are just saying they like the Open XML idea because it gives them leverage to get a deal on an Office package.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
NOT Surprised...
Follow the money...Deep Throat, or in this case, Deep Pockets of Citizen Gates.

The thing "Open" in the state of Mass is the politicians wallets for Mr. Richy Rich Bill's monopoly money...

Now all of a sudden, Mass is "warming up to" Microsith's Open Office XML standards dujoir.

It's always about Power &#38; Greed when it comes to Microsith.
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Link Flag
Sad day
This is a sad day.

Microsoft NEVER deliver on their promises. I have been to many Ms conferences in Europe and the US where they promised the next version of ... will have such and such feature, or will incorporate such and such standard only to discover that on release what they promised wasn't simply there ("it's more costly, or takes more time than we planned") or has been considerably changed to suit the company.

I am NOT a Microsoft basher. I think Outlook 2003 is an excellent product, SMB 2003 is very good value. However I speak from 20 years experience in IT and have witnessed so many broken promises.

What we witnsee is that Microsoft deliver innovation ONLY when have very strong competition. This is why IE hardly evolved for years until Firefox came round. Still yet, Opera has been and is still, the better browser.

It makes me despair of government officials, their real motives, their strengh of character &#38; their leadership abilities.

A sad day indeed!
Posted by (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Standard? ... Open? ... maturity
"...OpenDocument, or ODF, is a relatively new standard..." and what can we say about Office Open XML? Which of both exists fully integrated in the core of its application? Which of both is actually an ISO standard?

"...Microsoft and some industry lobbying groups have been hostile to Massachusetts' decision to standardize on OpenDocument , saying it limits the state's choices...." IBM and Sun and some other industry lobbying groups bring their support to OpenDocument. About wich limits do they speak? Everyone can freely integrate at no fee ODF or part of it in its developments. Is it a limit?

"...If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats..." Suerly it could be acceptable, it depends if you are enough confident to the company which is gaming with the limits of acceptable. And it's where people of MS bring their customers: the "dark side of the moon" where just few lawyers can see what's wrong: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/blog.php?ID=1762" target="_newWindow">http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/blog.php?ID=1762</a>

And please read this and learn how far the Masachusett's story is underway in... sadness:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/8566" target="_newWindow">http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/8566</a>

Thank's to the monopoly battle for this story and it's not finished... and I don't like it
Posted by JML-61 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Although I am not quite sure about this...
... but I sincerely beg to disagree with your statement when you say "OpenDocument, or ODF, is a relatively new standard" and here is why; just take a look at some musicians the next time you happen to see some playing and tell us what is it that they have in front of them (isn't it their "Open Musical Sheets" with the notes clearly printed on them - what are these for); other examples are the various ways in which task are completed is this "particular" case -- "computerized methods" rather than "manual methods" -- accounting methods, spreadsheets... (which adhered to certain procedures and standard practices) and existed before the emerging computerized methods. Here is the link to an article you should read:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/matters/matters-0012.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/matters/matters-0012.html</a>

Have you ever participated in an OpenBook Examination... just think about what I am trying to point out to you! And, why Microsoft should present their proposed "Open Office XML Standards" for scrutiny to such bodies as the International Organization for Standardixation (ISO).
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
"IBM Weighs In ...
... On Mass. Office-Format Battle". This article, taken from InformationWeek reads in part; "Robert Suter, IBM's vice president of standards and open source, urged support for the OpenDocument format in a letter to the states Secretary of Executive Agency Finance and Administration", see link:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?sssdmh=dm4.159616&#38;articleID=174403388" target="_newWindow">http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?sssdmh=dm4.159616&#38;articleID=174403388</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
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