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November 28, 2005

Massachusetts gives Microsoft Office nod, probes CIO

Massachusetts has given approving noises to Microsoft Corp's announcement that it will make its Office document formats more open, while also confirming that it is probing the state's CIO over his visits to software conferences.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Boston Globe reported that the office of Governor Mitt Romney is taking a look at CIO Peter Quinn’s travel expenses, and whether he followed proper procedure when requesting permission to visit conferences.

And it emerged over the Thanksgiving holiday that Massachusetts has given the tentative nod to Microsoft’s new strategy to submit its Office Open XML specifications to Ecma International, a standards body, for ratification.

If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats, a statement from the office of Romney read.

Massachusetts said in September that it will standardize on software that supports open document formats, such as the OASIS-backed OpenDocument Format.

The state said it would also support proprietary de facto standards, such as Adobe’s PDF, if they met certain standards of openness and documentation. Microsoft’s schemas were evidently not open enough to meet this standard.

The fallout entailed some letters of concern from Microsoft, and hearings by the state’s Congress. And now, Quinn, in charge of IT decisions in the state, is himself being targeted.

According to the Globe, Quinn may have not filed the necessary paperwork when requesting permission to travel to conferences on the organizers’ dime, as the Globe reported he may have done on four occasions over the last year.

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The newspaper also reported that the state is investigating whether Quinn violated conflict of interest laws.

The sums allegedly involved are paltry, however, amounting to little more than flights and hotel expenses, leading some observers to smell a witch-hunt.

While the Boston Globe reported that the investigation was mounted as a result of questions the paper was asking, some open source software fans have been suggesting, without apparent evidence, that the reporters were tipped off by Microsoft.

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