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Massachusetts chooses OpenDocuments Standards over Microsoft Open XML format

As David A. Wheeler discusses in this excellent essay entitled Why OpenDocument Won (and Microsoft Office Open XML Didn’t), the State of Massachusetts recently decided to back the OpenDocument initiative as the standard format for office applications, text documents, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents like drawings and presentations. All Massachusetts state agencies are expected to migrate by January 1, 2007 to the OpenDocument standard. This standard will be used instead of Microsoft’s new Office XML format (aka Microsoft Office Open XML File format).

This is really significant development as I believe that Massachusetts is the first significant governmental entity to abandon Microsoft's proprietary binary office formats that still are at the base of the Microsoft Office Suite. With its next release of the Office Suite, Microsft is moving to the forthcoming Office Open XML File format, but the Massachusetts decision is a rejection of this still somewhat proprietary Microsoft format. As Massachusetts’ Kriss emphasized, Massachusetts is not moving to open standards for economic reasons, but to protect the right of the public to open and free access to public documents, permanently. “What we’ve backed away from at this point is the use of a proprietary standard and we want standards that are published and free of legal encumbrances, and we don’t want two standards.” Clearly as other governmental entitites consider the Massachusetts announcement, Microsoft will need to adopt and fully support the OpenDocument standard if it is to maintain its large Office franchise.

This announcement also should be a wake-up call to the financial community and its own slow movement to open standards. XML (in its various dialects) clearly is here to stay and commercial niches that rely upon proprietary data formats will be under continued pressure. It is important to understand how such concepts as [qgs:Data Oriented Programming] (DOP), [gs:XML-Aware Networks], [qgs:XML Firewalls], [qgs:XML Encryption], [gs:XML Digital Signatures], [qgs:WS-Security], [qgs:XACML], [w:SAML] are critical technologies to protecting and securing multi-vendor, multi-application data environments. Such technologies are critical to financial service firms that seek to remain on the leading edge of the movement to real-time enterprise risk management.