Massachusetts to use Microsoft Office in ODF plan

Massachusetts will begin using OpenDocument as the default document format later this year as planned, but it will be sticking with Microsoft Office in the near term, the state’s top technology executive said…

…Last year, Massachusetts caught international attention for its decision to standardize by January 2007 on ODF, a document format standard not supported in Microsoft Office.

The move was criticized by disability-rights groups, which complained that going to ODF-compliant products, such as the open-source OpenOffice suite, would not adequately address their needs. In general, Microsoft Office has better assistive technologies, such as screen enlargers…

… In his letter to disability-rights groups, Gutierrez said emerging Microsoft Office plug-ins will enable Massachusetts to stick to its standardization policy while meeting accessibility needs. Plug-ins act as converters, enabling people to open and save documents in the OpenDocument format from Microsoft Office….

I am glad Massachusetts takes this approach. It proves they value MS Office and it broad set of capabilities such as the support for people with dissabilities.

Furthermore it recognises Microsoft commitment to also support ODF via a pulgin in the various Office versions

… Gutierrez told Massachusetts officials that keeping Microsoft Office on state desktops enables the state to “thread the needle” by adhering to a document standard created and supported by multiple software providers without being opposed to, “anti,” any one vendor.

Because Microsoft Office and the forthcoming Office 2007 do not support OpenDocument natively, many expected the state to move to a different productivity suite.

Keeping Office, however, makes the ODF implementation more economical and less disruptive to end users, Gutierrez wrote to state officials. Microsoft started its own OpenDocument format plug-in effort earlier this year by sponsoring an open-source project.

“Technology that did not exist at the time of the policy formulation–namely various plug-in or translator components that can be added to Microsoft Office to allow it to read/write to OpenDocument format (ODF)–is at the heart of our near-term approach,” Gutierrez said…

Ofcourse sticking with Office also makes a lot of sense economically and Massachusetts values Microsoft’s efforts to support ODF. There’s certainly expectation in what they communicated and this is a good opportunity for Microsoft to prove its commitment to ODF and value over alternative Office Suite solutions ….

Source : Cnet