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Office 2007 Delay Sets Stage For Massachusetts Open Document Battle

The delay gives Microsoft time to challenge the Open Document Format in Massachusetts. By January, Microsoft is expected to have received approval from the ECMA standards body for Office 2007.

Microsoft's delay to January of its mainstream Office 2007 version sets the stage for a perfect storm battle with the Open Document Format (ODF) in Massachusetts. The latter format is scheduled for mandatory use for document handling by the state's government.

The delay gives the software colossus time to challenge ODF in Massachusetts. By January, Microsoft is expected to have received approval from the ECMA standards body for Office 2007.

Andrew Updegrove, an attorney who operates the pro-ODF consortiumInfo blog, said Friday that both Microsoft and ODF suppliers are working feverishly to "hit the Massachusetts window." He added that billions of dollars in annual revenues are at stake and that the Massachusetts situation is a test case for the office software market.

The author of the Massachusetts case, former state CIO director Peter Quinn, has become something of a celebrity speaking at IT-oriented meetings in the U.S. and Europe in recent weeks, promoting the ODF standard. He left his position late last year, complaining of the pressure that had been leveled at him over office software standards.

Open source office software "is going to be particularly big in third-world countries," said Updegrove, where he noted that the low price and no-price of ODF office software versions are particularly attractive. "Many first-time users of office software will want to start with open source. It can be free and you can't get any cheaper than that."

He said many open-source office software versions are ODF-compliant.

Microsoft, which complained that its office software competitors jumped the standards gun by approving ODF software, is seeking its own standards approval from ECMA. The European-based standards organization has looked favorably on the Microsoft submission, although it needs time to approve the 1000-page submission from Microsoft.

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