A story last week in Information Week shows that governments are increasingly moving towards open formats for Office documents. This time it’s Minnesota, where legislation would dictate open standards for all government documents. That means that vendors doing business with the state would have to switch away from Microsoft Word (and possibly, PDF) in order to comply.
In conducting a theoretical search of the Minnesota state Web site, [a state employee] observed that most of the results “come back as either HTML, PDF, or MS Word. The problem is that the latter two formats are owned by entities that could go out of business, charge significantly, make unannounced changes, sue others for creating similar technologies, act as a monopoly, or abort a product offering altogether. In those instances, there is very little the State could do about it.”
This all follows action in Massachusetts to move to open standards. Microsoft fought hard against the switch, and the state CIO wound up resigning, but Mass. Gov. Romney is still dedicated to basing state documents on open standards.
According to TechWeb, Mass. will require Open Document Format by 2007. Microsoft Office 2007 will support XML but not ODF. Current plans are for a pretty proprietary version of XML but if MS moves it close enough to standard XML, Mass. could still approve it. Government contractors should be watching both these states carefully.