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As Expected, MA Reverses and Joins Up with Microsoft

You didn't really think that the state of Massachusetts was really going to drop Microsoft Office did you? In one of the most bald-faced attempts ever at getting Microsoft to change its products slightly to accommodate specific needs, Massachusetts recently launched a high profile campaign to adopt more open document formats for official records.

The move would have seen the state supposedly drop Microsoft Office, which doesn't support open document types. But then Microsoft committed to what Massachusetts wanted all along: It announced that the new Open XML document format used in its upcoming Office 12 productivity suite would be submitted to a standards body. Problem solved.

Late last week, the state announced that Microsoft's standards body submission had satisfied its demands. "\[Massachusetts\] is very pleased with Microsoft's progress in creating an open document format," Massachusetts Administration and Finance Secretary Tom Trimarco wrote in a statement issued last week. "If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats." Trimarco succeeded open source champion Eric Kriss, who spearheaded the Massachusetts drive towards open source solutions.

In other evidence of a startling change of direction in Massachusetts, the governor's office is also investigating state CIO Peter Quinn's travel expenses. Apparently, Quinn has spent too much time at software conferences without permission. There are also conflict of interest questions, according to a "Boston Globe" report.

Now, you can almost feel the wind dropping from the sales of the open source movement, which had rallied around Massachusetts' supposed call for open standards and the competing OpenDocument format. That format is used by open source products such as 2.0 and will be adopted by an increasing number of non-Microsoft software products.

But Massachusetts isn't the first governmental organization to use the threat of open source solutions to get Microsoft to lower licensing costs or change product features. In fact, doing so is arguably the single best way for governments to get what you want from the software giant. And this is a hard, cold fact that has open source advocates reeling. Again.

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