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Microsoft Lines Up Politician Support In Mass. Format Battle

The fight pits two prominent Democrats, who now oppose the OpenDocument approach favored by state IT staffers, against the Republican governor. Hearings will be scheduled.
Microsoft has picked up support from two powerful Massachusetts politicians for its stance on “open format” documents. The politicians are opposing an effort by the state’s administration, which last month approved a plan to require that state documents be formatted in OpenDocument format.

Secretary of State William Galvin, who administers the state’s records office, now says he opposes the OpenDocument approach to retaining Massachusetts records and official documents. At the same time, state Sen. Marc Pacheco, a longtime opponent of the OpenDocument approach, said he would hold hearings on the matter.

In addition to pitting Microsoft against OpenDocument policy, the controversy pits Galvin and Pacheco, both Democrats, against the Republican Administration of Governor Mitt Romney. Generally, the two Democrats argue that the OpenDocument approach will unfairly block Microsoft from much of the state’s electronic documents business while proponents of OpenDocument maintain the OpenDocument approach will open up popular file formants used for text, spreadsheets and the like for competition. Advocates believe the Massachusetts OpenDocument approach could pave the way for adoption by other government entities.

Pacheco, who is chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee, holds the first public hearing on the issue next week. He has already voiced concern that OpenDocument appears to be inferior to Microsoft Office in offering features to help users with eyesight difficulties.