Massachusetts plans to switch all workers off Microsoft Office starting in 2007

“The state of Massachusetts has laid out a plan to switch all its workers away from Microsoft’s Word, Excel and other desktop software applications, delivering what would be one of the most significant setbacks to the software company’s battle against open source software in its home market,” Richard Waters reports for The Financial Times. “The state said on Wednesday that all electronic documents ‘created and saved’ by state employees would have to be based on open formats, with the switch to start at the beginning of 2007.”

“Documents created using Microsoft’s Office software are produced in formats that are controlled by the Microsoft, making them inelligible. In a paper laying out its future technology strategy on Wednesday, the state also specified only two document types that could be used in the future – OpenDocument, which is used in open source applications like Open Office, and PDF, a widely used standard for electronic documents,” Waters reports. “‘I think it would be pretty risky for the state of Massachusetts to go in a direction like this without a clear look at the costs first,’ said Alan Yates, general manager of the Office division at Microsoft.”

“The decision by one of the most populous states in the country could influence others which have yet to weigh the issue, said Sam Hiser, an open source consultant and author… The Office suite of software, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, produces roughly 40 per cent of Microsoft’s revenues and earnings,” Waters reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Starting in 2007?! Microsoft is so entrenched, it’s sad.

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20 Comments

  1. “The state said on Wednesday that all electronic documents “created and saved” by state employees would have to be based on open formats, with the switch to start at the beginning of 2007.”

    Question: Isn’t this much to do about nothing? I thought I read / heard somewhere that the next version of office could be set up to produce documents based upon open standards.

    Peace.

  2. Let the defections begin. These people are sick of taking it up the rear with no vaseline. I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the money appropriated just for service contracts to Microsoft, but it is astronomical. I guess their eyes are finally opening – slowly but surely.

  3. This is superb. What Microsoft should do to counter this is use the OpenDocument format. I don’t know who control is, but hopefully an organisation like W3C. Portable open standard documents are the way forward. If Office used the format, then it would compete on a level playing field. It would have to be the application, the UI to the document, that dictated the market leading software rather than a monopoly.

  4. “I think it would be pretty risky for the state of Massachusetts to go in a direction like this without a clear look at the costs first,’ said Alan Yates, general manager of the Office division at Microsoft.”

    Translation:

    OH GOD! Please don’t let this spread to other states! If they don’t reconsider, we will have to do something… Massachusetts is a big state… things, break. Know what I mean squire?

  5. Wow. You’d better believe Microsoft is pulling out all the marketing and sales stops to get Massachusetts to change their mind. “Look! We got discounts! Huge-ass discounts! Freebies, too! Just PLEASE DON’T LEAVE!”

  6. I think that this is the cleverest wedge I’ve ever seen to start the stampede away from Microsoft. They’re not saying no to M$ they’re saying yes to open document formats.

    You don’t have to face the ‘bull (multiple levels of meaning in that one) in the china shop’.

    MW: present- Look at the ‘present’ of cash they’re giving the taxpayers in Mass!

    Bravo!

  7. For many many years I’ve wondered why people need $500 Office software packages. I’ve been project manager for several multi-million dollar electronic installations using good old Claris Works (that includes budget management, the Cad one-line drawings, change-order illustrations and as-builts). AutoCad was clunky and slow and Excel was bloated. I finally made the move to OS-X 10.3 and upgraded to Appleworks for free (came with a new Mac). Dozens of times I’ve been asked “What did you use to create this?” and I just smile and say “a Mac”.

  8. The same thing is happening across Europe – unlike commercial companies that can simply say they’re reacting to market demand, state institutions often have legal obligations not to lock themselves in to specific suppliers / enforce specific OS and browser requirements on end users.

    What advocates of ‘free’ (as in cost, not compatibility) software need to realise however, is that $150, $400 or $800 is peanuts compared to the costs of employing people. If something costs $800 but saves someone in my team a days work, it’s paid for itself. Which is pretty much the argument we use to justify why more costly Macs are worth it over PCs.

    Open standards (ie OpenDocument) and removing vendor tie in are a far more compelling reason for migration than cost alone. (MS are also moving Office12 to a rival ‘open’ standard – what with OpenOffice having achieved Office compatibility they have ackowledged the game is no longer about format lock-in but producing software people want to use).

  9. Massachusetts plans to switch all workers off Microsoft Office starting in 2007

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Refusing to use M$ Office software really hurts them, because most copies of Windows is pirated or given at/below cost to maintain their stranglehold.

    That’s why it’s more expensive to buy a Dell with Linux installed than Windows, crazy isn’t it?

    A lot of buisnesses are still on Windows 2000, it’s cheaper to maintain 2000 by paying a IT staf than it is to pay M$ for XP and having snitchware installed.

  10. Lurker_PC wrote:

    “I thought I read / heard somewhere that the next version of office could be set up to produce documents based upon open standards.”

    A couple possibilities here:

    1. MA doesn’t want to pay for another round of upgrades, for functionality Office should already have (of all the colossal feature bloat, funny how MS left this out).

    2. MA doesn’t want to wait indefinitely for more MS vaporware to hit the streets.

    MW: Off, as in put the OFF in Office!

  11. >Hywel wrote: If Office used the format, then it would compete on a level playing field. It would have to be the application, the UI to the document, that dictated the market leading software rather than a monopoly.

    This sort of logic, once you embrace it, can be applied to so many other aspects of the digital experience.

    It sounds similar to Apple monopolizing via DRM. MS jumped on the Office application market and dominates. Apple jumped on the digital music market and dominates. If only an open-source-based org like W3C controlled the DRM scheme so that the playing field is leveled and isn’t controlled by a monopolist.

    I can’t complain much about MS Office. It’s worked very well for me. That being said, once you buy Office you don’t need to upgrade it for years and years. Office ’97 works just as well as OfficeXP.

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