The state of Massachusetts will require that by 2007 all documents produced by the state's executive branch must be stored in a new universal format. The policy change, which will require modifications to software running on thousands of the state's computers, is also a challenge to the power of Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software company.
Microsoft Office, one of the company's most profitable products, is the standard software used in government offices. But Office uses its own specialized format for storing financial spreadsheets and text documents. This format often cannot be understood or modified by other computer programs. In addition, documents created today may not be readable by computers in 20 years, because Microsoft may change its document formats.
News source: The Boston Globe