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Massachusetts, Microsoft Could Fight Again

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-09

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The Massachusetts Information Technology Division has issued a request for information for an "OpenDocument Format Plug-in for Microsoft Office Suite," a move likely to infuriate Microsoft.

A battle between Massachusetts technology staffers who want to free the state from proprietary document formats and the world's biggest technology company looks ready to explode into more sharp words and who knows what else.

Massachusetts has posted their request for information to Comm-PASS, a site maintained for the solicitation of proposals and bids from contractors seeking business with the state. Details of the request read as follows:

The Commonwealth seeks information pertaining to the existence or development of a "plug-in component" or other converter options to be used with Microsoft Office that would allow Microsoft Office to easily open, render, and save to ODF files, and also allow translation of documents between Microsoft's binary (.doc, .xls, .ppt) or XML formats and ODF. Respondents responding to this proposal need not be on state contract.

Microsoft has resisted enabling that compatibility in Office itself. They have been battling with Massachusetts for nearly three years over that compatibility.

Those battles have forced the former advocate for the change, Peter Quinn, to resign his position as state CIO. However, Governor Mitt Romney promptly appointed a new CIO and promised to back him at implementing Open Document Format initiatives in the state.

Last September, the sparring took an odd turn when Jim Prendergast, executive director of Americans for Technology Leadership, wrote an opinion piece for Fox News criticizing the ODF movement. Prendergast claimed it would be a burden to taxpayers.

Prendergast's position became undermined when it was revealed that Microsoft funds Americans for Technology Leadership. Fox News quickly added that missing disclaimer to the article when it came to light.

Now another organization has taken up the fight against Massachusetts. The Initiative for Software Choice, with a stated mission of "promoting neutral government procurement, standards and public R&D policies for software," criticized Massachusetts' ODF initiative, but not the plug-in request, in a statement posted to its website:

Regardless, the Massachusetts ODF policy - not ODF, the format - is a biased, open source only preference policy. We believe such preference policies exclude choice, needlessly marginalize successful marketplace options, and curtail merit-based selections for state procurements.

ISC, of course, counts Microsoft as a founder, a revelation that should be of no surprise to anyone following the Microsoft vs Massachusetts kerfuffle.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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