Mass. Gov Backs OpenDocument Policy But Distances Himself From Decision

Speaking about globalization before technology executives gathered at Forrester Research's summit in Boston, Romney was asked about a controversial, local policy decision that could have international ramifications: the state's adoption of the OpenDocument format announced in early September.

The OpenDocument format is backed by Microsoft rivals Sun Microsystems, IBM and others who favor open standards, many of them in the open-source community. OpenDocument competed against Microsoft's ML format used in Word and Excel for Massachusetts' approval.

Romney praised it as a good policy that is essential to ensuring citizens have free access to government documents in the future, but he distanced himself from the policy's genesis. He gave credit for the idea to Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn and the Secretary of Administration and Finance.

"My CIO said the problem is we have a proprietary software storing all documents and down the road people might have to pay," said Romney, a former Bain venture capitalist and Utah resident who moved to Massachusetts and successfully ran for governor.

Sponsored post

"Our state decided on OpenDocument in the future, but we're giving it time to be implemented ... it didn't come from me, but from our technology people who came to me. Clearly Microsoft, IBM and Sun can format their technology [with OpenDocument]," the governor said. "Mine is a visionary job, but more often [the technology staff] come up with the idea."

But Microsoft has no intention of supporting OpenDocument. The Redmond, Wash., software giant publicly denounced OpenDocument as an inferior format and lobbied the state vigorously over the past year to adopt its own XML-based ML document storage format for Word and Excel.

The company, for instance, hammered out a proposal last February with the state that enabled its ML format to be considered for approval under the "open standards" policy--a relaxation in its Office patent requirement--but ultimately lost out to OpenDocument.

Instead, Microsoft said in late October that it would support Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF), the second of the state's two accepted formats, in its next-generation Office 12 in order to be compliant and acceptable for state purchasing contracts.

The loss was considered a major defeat for Microsoft, whose Office is considered the de facto standard for word processing and spreadsheets and is used on more than 95 percent of PCs around the world, including in Massachusetts.

Observers say the establishment of the policy in Massachusetts is a model other states can use to adopt similar policies.

The OpenDocument format is currently implemented in's open-source OpenOffice suite and in Sun's Staroffice but has miniscule market share.