For a week I've been hearing rumors that Microsoft was working behind the scenes to scotch Massachusetts' plans to standardize on OpenFormat. Those rumors have now been confirmed.
For more than a week now I’ve been hearing rumors that Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to foster opposition within the Massachusetts government against an effort to reverse the Information Technology Division’s decision to mandate OpenDocument for saving State material. The fact that Microsoft has not been publicly more active fueled my suspicions as well (see: Is there a Monkey Wrench in the OpenDocument Works?
Well, now we know that those rumors are true, or at least that two powerful Massachusetts Democrats have aligned themselves against OpenDocument, and that a hearing will be held in just a few days time (on October 31).
Who are the two politicians? TechWebNews reports as follows:
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. pave the way for adoption by other government entities….[Marc] 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.
Hiawatha Bray, a technology columnist at the Boston Globe has been doing some digging as well (he is the reporter I alluded to in my October 21 post), and reported in part in an article called Galvin Attacks Software Proposal as follows:
Alan Cote, the state’s supervisor of records, said last week that Galvin has discussed the issue with Thomas Trimarco, the state’s secretary of administration and finance. Galvin ”has expressed to him our grave concerns about this, and that we will not be participating in that,” Cote said by e-mail. ”We will be counseling all our agencies, as well as the executive branch agencies, that that is not the policy of the Commonwealth.”
IBM’s VP of Standards and Open Source Bob Sutor had this to say (in part) at his blog late yesterday (IBM, of course, is a major supporter of ODF):
Regarding the hearing to take place in Massachusetts, many of us have known for over a month that this would take place. So this isn’t some new radical development, it’s just that we now know the schedule. I see this as one branch of a government doing a sanity check on what another branch is up to, and not atypical of what happens in politics all the time, especially when the branches are controlled by different parties.
Wherever the truth may lie among all of the various spins that people are placing on the hearing, what does one make of the above in the context of Microsoft’s continuing drift towards saying it may in fact adopt OpenDocument? My take would be that Microsoft is trying to look even handed publicly, while doing their damnedest behind the scenes to try and reverse the Massachusetts decision.
Will this finger in the dike plan work? It looks like we won’t have to wait long to find out. Stay tuned.