The Latest Standards Battlefield

amcpherson's picture

We have a regular column in Enterprise Open Source Journal. Here’s the latest on the state of Mass and the latest standards battle.


Most of you have heard of the State of Massachusetts decision to publicly endorse the Open Document Format (ODF) for its public records. It’s been a hot topic in IT media, especially those concerned with open source and open standards, and has even become an issue (albeit a small one) in the upcoming governor’s election. Regular readers of this column are also aware that I closely watch the intersection of open source and open standards and think this combination is vitally important for the protection of end users’ computing assets.

In September 2005, the State published its endorsement of ODF and its rejection of Microsoft’s proprietary XML format used in its Office applications. It wasn’t a rash decision: it was a product of over two years of investigation, including extensive discussions with Microsoft itself.  The State certainly didn’t preclude Microsoft from competing for business; it merely said it wanted an open standard to be supported by all future technology purchases.

So what was the State of Massachusetts trying to achieve with this mandate? Let’s go to their official policy statement:


  • “Effective and efficient government service delivery requires system integration and data sharing.
  • Technology investments must be made based on total cost of ownership and best value to the Commonwealth. Component-based software development based on open standards allows for a more cost-effective “build once, use many times