Sun has urged the state of Massachusetts to rethink its opinion that Microsoft's Open XML meets the acceptable parameters for an open format

In a letter signed by the director of corporate standards for Sun, Carl Cargill, the company asked the state to keep in mind the reasons for its previous commitment to the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) specification.

The office of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney proposed making OpenDocument the standard format for documents generated by state government agencies.

"The Commonwealth's process began as an effort to ensure that the documents created by its agencies would be owned by those offices and by its citizens for all eternity - without the need to negotiate or pay for continued access to them again in the future each time a new version of proprietary software is released," Cargill wrote. "This process began with a desire to create a level playing field so that innovation in the market would flourish, enabling better delivery of government services."

The letter is in response to a statement released by Massachusetts finance secretary Tom Trimarco on Wednesday, two days after Microsoft announced it would submit its proprietary Open XML format to two international standards bodies.

The company said it would submit it to the International Standards Organization (ISO) and European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) for possible adoption as standards.

It also promised to hand over its Open XML document formats for Word, Excel and PowerPoint to be adopted as open standards in time for the launch of the next version of its Office software suite. In his statement last week, Trimarco said the state is "optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats" if Microsoft followed through with the plan.

That leaves the door open for Massachusetts to continue to use Microsoft Office rather than have to move away from it since Office does not support OpenDocument.

In his letter, Cargill said it would be a "mistake" for Massachusetts to support Open XML based on "a single vendor's promise to submit a new product to a standards body at some point in the future".

Instead, Cargill argued, the state should move forward with its support of OpenDocument as the standard format for state documents, because not only has it already been approved by a standards body, but it also allows any vendor to build upon the standard, something an ISO or ECMA standard would not allow, he wrote.

"Only after a specification has been approved by a broadly supported standards body - one that demonstrates acceptable levels of openness by being available to all competing products - should the Commonwealth consider including that open standard as one of its own," Cargill concluded.