Mass. finalizes plans to phase out Office

The state of Massachusetts has finalized a proposed move to an open format for office documents, a plan that involves phasing out versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite deployed in the state's executive branch agencies.

The state of Massachusetts has finalized a proposed move to an open format for office documents , a plan that involves phasing out versions of Microsoft's Office productivity suite deployed in the state's executive branch agencies.

Massachusetts released a final version of its Enterprise Technical Reference Model on the state's Web site Wednesday. According to the site, the new version, effective that day, "incorporates a new discipline for data formats within the information domain." As part of this new discipline, the state going forward will support the newly ratified Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, as the standard for its office documents.

Developed within the standards body OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), OpenDocument is an XML-based file format that covers the features required by text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents.

Microsoft Office and other productivity suites such as Lotus Notes and WordPerfect that Massachusetts government agencies currently use support proprietary document formats. Suites that support OpenDocument include OpenOffice, StarOffice, KOffice and IBM Workplace.

Massachusetts expects its agencies to develop phased migration plans away from productivity suites that do not support OpenDocument with a target implementation date of Jan. 1, 2007.

While a number of government agencies across the world have expressed plans to drop Microsoft and other proprietary products in favor of open-source and open-standard technologies, Massachusetts is the first major public-sector institution to do so in the U.S.

To capitalize on any momentum the state's decision may have on further migration away from proprietary office formats, Microsoft competitor Sun next week is expected to release an update to its StarOffice productivity suite, and unveil new customers for the product, according to a company spokeswoman.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.