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Microsoft Works On Open Formats With Massachusetts State Officials

The head of the state of Massachusetts' Office of Administration and Finance said recently that he is formulating a policy around "Open Formats," and Microsoft moved to explain the situation this week.

Microsoft reported that it has been working with Massachusetts, as the state extends and develops a new policy for acquiring software. The head of the state's Office of Administration and Finance (AOF) said recently that he is formulating a policy around "Open Formats," and Microsoft moved to explain the situation this week.

"We were pleased to work with the Commonwealth on its new policy, and that policy recognizes several open document formats, including Microsoft WordprocessingML," the software firm said in a statement responding to questions from "What the Commonwealth is saying is that the XML in Office makes our products an acceptable choice for achieving data exchange in public-sector IT-systems."

The AOF's chief, secretary Eric Kriss, had galvanized software vendors in the state in 2003, when he wrote a memo promoting an "Open Standards, Open Source" policy. Vendors of proprietary software, including Microsoft, were alarmed that the policy would lock them out of new state contracts. Vendors of open-source software were hopeful that a big, new market would open to them. In the memo, Kriss had cited the Linux operating system as an example of open-source software.

Kriss is now talking about "Open Formats" software, and he maintains it is simply an extension of a previous "open standards" policy.

Microsoft said there is nothing fundamentally new to the open-formats policy it is developing with the state, noting that it has a similar endorsement in the EU. "Open-source efforts are an extension of the existing strategy that will help governments use Office to solve the issues they deal with every day," Microsoft said.

The firm added: "We are pleased with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' recognition that Microsoft WordprocessingML, built on the W3C's XML industry standards, is an 'open document format' and a good technology for achieving data exchange in public-sector IT-systems.

"We agree with the Commonwealth that governments' continued use of open document formats like Microsoft's WordprocessingML will help ensure the public has greater access to information and services across various applications and systems."

After the Kriss "Open Standards, Open Source" memo was made public, State Senator Marc Pacheco, chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee, complained that any effort by the state to favor open-source software over proprietary software could be illegal.

Open-source advocates initially hoped the state was formulating a software policy that would embrace non-Microsoft software. Some foreign government agencies, such as the German city of Munich and the Norwegian city of Bergen, are favoring open-source software, for instance. Such a development now seems unlikely in Massachusetts.

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