In a Center for Digital Government Web conference this afternoon, Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn said that the commonwealth and Microsoft have reached agreement on making public records created with Microsoft Office 2003 readable by any reader, including open-source or GPL-based software.

The heart of the agreement concerns opening access to Office 2003's patented XML extensions. "That was a great concern to us," said Quinn. "We were going to create things that would only be accessed by a specific vendor's reader. We've actually worked through that ... Microsoft was very amenable to the conversation, we're very excited about where we hope this is going to take us all as we go forward, yet at the same time it preserved their intellectual property and rights."

Even though Massachusetts has been a leader in government use of open-source software, Quinn said that protecting intellectual property is important to the commonwealth's software industry. "This is [about] making sure that information is accessible to everybody," said Quinn.

Sources close to the Massachusetts negotiations indicate that the changes will apply to the worldwide license in perpetuity, and that Microsoft will announce the agreement at its event for public-sector CIOs that starts tomorrow.

Also participating in today's Web conference was Sam Greenblatt a senior vice president in Computer Associates' Linux Technology Group, and Paul Taylor, the Center for Digital Government's chief technology strategist.

Wayne Hanson  |  Editor