How Microsoft & Massachusetts played hardball over open standards
December 5, 2006 Leave a comment
A great article based on over 300 emails obtained under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (which looks like a state variety of the Federal Freedom of Information Act). The article contains a ton of information and if this is a topic that you're interested in (NOTE: it should be!), then I suggest you read the whole thing. A couple of snippets:
Less than a week after he became CIO of Massachusetts last February, Louis Gutierrez sensed a serious threat to his power — one that was being promoted by a seemingly unlikely source. Within a matter of days, Gutierrez confirmed that Brian Burke, Microsoft Corp.’s government affairs director for the Northeast, had been backing an amendment to an economic stimulus bill that would largely strip the Massachusetts Information Technology Division of its decision-making authority.
For Microsoft, the call to arms had sounded several months earlier, when the state’s IT division surprised the company with a controversial decision to adopt the Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF, as its standard file format. Even worse, from Microsoft’s perspective, the policy stipulated that new desktop applications acquired by state agencies feature built-in support for ODF, a standard developed and promoted by some of its rivals — most prominently, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.
The amendment Burke was promoting had the potential to stop the ODF policy dead in its tracks by giving a government task force and the secretary of state’s office approval rights on IT standards and procurement policies. Gutierrez, who resigned last month over a funding dispute that appeared to be unrelated to the ODF controversy, clearly was rankled by Burke’s involvement with the amendment. Yet he made no attempt to shut the door on Microsoft. On the contrary, he did the opposite.
Does it worry anyone else that a company, Microsoft or not, is lobbying to strip the decision making power from a state IT Division? How this isn't stirring monopoly rumblings is beyond me. Also from the article:
“I am certain that Brian was involved,” Yates wrote to Gutierrez in response to the CIO’s March 3 message about Burke’s role in lobbying for the amendment. But Yates claimed that Burke’s intention was “to have a ‘vehicle’ in the legislature” to address a policy that Microsoft viewed as “unnecessarily exclusionary.” Burke’s aim was “not specifically to transfer agency authority,” Yates wrote.
He also asserted that the Morrissey amendment “was developed and is promoted by others who were/are very inflamed by your predecessors’ handling of many things.” The predecessors Yates referred to were Kriss and Peter Quinn, who was CIO before Gutierrez and had cited the Morrissey amendment as one of the contributing factors when he resigned last January.
During his interview with Computerworld, Yates was adamant that neither Microsoft nor anyone on its payroll had authored the amendment. In response to questions about the company’s lobbying activities, he said, “At the time, our public affairs people were — you can call it lobbying — but they were in fact trying to educate people to the real issues in the mandate for ODF. And we were, yes, arguing against it — absolutely.”
Having a Microsoft representative claim a policy was “unnecessarily exclusionary” after some of the moves that Microsoft have made is ironic at best. It should be clear to everyone that Government documents being in a proprietary format that is controlled by a single corporate entity is not in the best interest of that Government or its citizens. An Open format should be mandatory for all Government documents, and I hope some day it is. If Office supports that format than I have absolutely no problem with it being used, as long as it's not being used because Microsoft has the most lobbying dollars. It's my hope that the USA is finally sick of the corruption that is currently rampant and back door deals that are not in the best interest of the citizens carry such a negative stigma that they stop.
ODF, Open Source, Microsoft, MSFT, Massachusetts, Gutierrez