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Mac users face hurdles at .gov site

Mac users, beware: If you're hungry for a slice of the $400 billion worth of federal research funds awarded each year to state and local governments, the academic world, and non-profits, you may encounter obstacles.

That's because, the site ultimately intended to be the U.S. government's one-stop shop for submitting electronic applications to its more than 900 individual grant programs, isn't friendly to non-Windows platforms, the Washington Post is reporting.

In December, the site began offering Mac users the option of using the terminal server Citrix to complete their applications, according to the site's Mac Support guide.

But a full Mac solution won't be available until November, the site said. The Post indicated even that date may be too rosy an estimate, citing conversations with IBM, which bought PureEdge Solutions, the Canadian company that provides the e-form solution, last summer.

The snafu is not the first time a Microsoft product has appeared to enjoy advantages in the U.S. government's digital operations. Web standards activists have criticized some of its online systems, such as a planned copyright preregistration system, for guaranteeing full compatibility only with the Internet Explorer browser.

The grants portal is part of the government's broader push to digitize many of its operations under the E-Government Act of 2002. An internal report late last year measured "mixed results" in the progress of many agencies attempting to go increasingly paperless. According to the Post, all federal agencies must have their grant applications fully online by 2007.