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Mass. Names New CIO, Hardens OpenDocuments Policy

The Bay State has named Louis Gutierrez to fill the position of CIO in the Information Technology Division and, at the same time, reiterated its support for a previously announced plan to implement the OpenDocument format in state agencies in January.

The Massachusetts state government has named Louis Gutierrez to fill the position of chief information officer at the state's Information Technology Division (IDT) and, at the same time, reiterated its support for the state's plan to implement the OpenDocument format (ODF) in state agencies in January 2007.

A battle between supporters of Microsoft's XML format and ODF led by IBM and Sun Microsystems convulsed the state's IT operation for months, as both sides courted Massachusetts politicians.

In naming Gutierrez, currently chief technology strategist at UMass Medical School, the administration of Governor Mitt Romney appointed a CIO with a demonstrated commitment to open standards.

"Gutierrez will be responsible for overseeing the final stages of implementation of the state's new Open Document format proposal, to go into effect in January 2007," the state's announcement said, signaling that Massachusetts remains committed to ODF. Over the past several months, the administration and politicians of both major political parties have batted the ODF-Microsoft debate back-and-forth.

Andy Updegrove, a Massachusetts-based attorney supporting open standards causes, said in an email: "The Romney administration is clearly using this appointment to signal that its support for ODF implementation is unwavering."

However, Microsoft is unlikely to go away quietly in the night. It has submitted its office software to the Ecma standards organization and when its submission is approved, as expected, it will likely appeal to Massachusetts authorities for permission to have its software formats approved also. While the Massachusetts state business is small potatoes for Microsoft, the adoption of ODF could set a precedent and spread elsewhere.

Gutierrez has a history of promoting open standards. Before working at UMass Medical, he was CIO at the state's largest unit, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. With an annual budget of $12 billion, Gutierrez supervised the development and implementation of the state's Virtual Gateway, an online portal that melded IT services from 16 state agencies.

"The Virtual Gateway is an example of how state government computing can be transformed through the application of open standards that interoperate with many kinds of technology and vendors," said Gutierrez in a statement.

Romney has announced he won't seek reelection and is widely expected to become a candidate for the Presidency in 2008. He will not be governor when the ODF policy is scheduled to be implemented.

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