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05.11.07

More Pseudo-grassroots Support for OOXML, Novell Passively Accepts It (Updated)

Posted in America, Europe, IBM, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 2:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As we have mentioned before, Novell pleases its new partner by introducing support for its non-standard technolgies, including Open Office XML Office Open XML (OOXML). This helps expensive de facto standards compete with free industry standards.

There is more evidence which suggests that Microsoft advocates its lockin technology (Groklaw called this “monpoly enabler”) in a very bizarre way. “Pseudo-grassroots support”, as Mike Taylor of Sirius UK calls it, is a case where public support is established in a fake (or paid-for) fashion. For example, consider one incident from 2001 where Microsoft created letters supporting itself, sent from dead people. Here is the gist of it:

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times accused Microsoft of astroturfing when hundreds of similar letters were sent to newspapers voicing disagreement with the United States Department of Justice and its antitrust suit against Microsoft. The letters, prepared by Americans for Technology Leadership, had in some cases been mailed from deceased citizens or nonexistent addresses.

Therein, Microsoft used its proxy. It is a notorious lobbying arm that it funds. Recently, that same proxy was used to brutally attack GPLv3. But let us not be distracted by this. Instead, let us stay on point and see how OOXML is affected.

I have seen the grassroots strategy mentioned in antitrust exhibits, which had been pulled back from the 1990′s. Microsoft’s OEM manager had it mentioned in a formal document that was assembled for the Comes vs Microsoft class-action trial. It mentioned grassroots as a factor of interest (the others being supplier lockin, among less apparent malice).

Later came the paid forums members who discredited OS/2 on behalf on Microsoft. While some claim that the same PR charade goes on today (particularly in the consoles war), there’s little or no concrete proof. Surely, however, Microsoft has been caught making controversial moves to promote its own agenda, including co-called ‘monopoly enablers’ and the lockin which is called OOXML. Here are two of the latest developments, which were only published 2 days ago. The first is about a community (READ: fan) site extolling the virtues of OOXML.

Microsoft keeps the Open XML fires burning

Do users really care enough about file formats to participate voluntarily in a community site dedicated to promoting them? I guess we’ll find out, as the OpenXMLCommunity.Org site moves ahead…

But wait! Don’t hold your breath while reality (or PR) strikes again.

Microsoft says support for Open XML is growing

Jones wrote that the so-called Office compatibility pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 is the second most popular download on Microsoft’s Web site, behind only Internet Explorer 7 for the Service Pack 2 release of Windows XP.

The existing compatibility pack supports Windows only…

Yesterday came this one:

Microsoft attacks IBM over ODF

Darren Strange, senior product manager for Microsoft Office 2007, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday: “The difference in view is that [IBM] are espousing ‘one standard fits all’, which is hard for us…”

Apparently, Microsoft does not understand the value of unified industry standards, which can be implemented for free by anyone.

When Microsoft is unable to win, things are getting nasty, as the following examples hopefully show. The following incident received a lot of attention because it represents a degree of political manipulation, if not bullying.

State by state, Microsoft responds to creeping threat

Characteristically, as lawmakers like Homan have learned, Microsoft’s hardly taking a passive position.

[...]

‘Microsoft sees what’s coming. Things like Word and Excel sort of like a drug now getting ready to go generic.’

Here is what preceded the attempt to create some organic, pseudo-grassroots support in the United Kingdom:

Microsoft calls on UK public to raise the Office standard

Microsoft is calling on the Great British public to join its campaign to get the XML Office format adopted as an international standard.

[...]

It is not clear if the UK is an opponent. However, a representative of fellow member the Bureau of Indian Standards recently reportedly complained to the IndiaTime.com over Microsoft’s decision to dump 6,000 pages of documentation on them.

Later on, calls were made for support. That is where all these ‘Microsoft partners’ come into play.

Here is the company allowing its own employees to vote in at the ISO.

Packing The Court At The ISO?

…P member countries (‘participating member’ countries) sending representatives, and I am interested to note the majority of their representatives are, as individuals, also Microsoft employees.

[...]

How can they not see that OOXML (ECMA 376) is unwanted by anyone outside of Microsoft? How about it Brian Jones? Are you really so desperate that you have to resort to that?

Let us head over to Massachusetts and see what the previous CIO had to say.

As CIO of Massachusetts from February to November last year, Louis Gutierrez had to endure most of the brunt of Microsoft Corp.’s political wrath over a state policy calling for the adoption of the Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF — a rival to the software vendor’s Office Open XML file format.

How about the CIO who was pressured until departure?

[Peter] Quinn: Almost to a person, to anybody involved or who knows about the ODF issue, they attributed the story to Microsoft, right, wrong or otherwise. Senator Pacheco may be a bully but I do not believe he is disingenious and would stoop to such a tactic. Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin’s office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their playbook and words, in my opinion.

To Microsoft, getting rid of these two CIOs was good news. Reign was taken by a pro-Microsoft chap. There is a pattern here. Having eliminated Corel for Linux, Microsoft may have plans for Novell as well. Novell is already helping the destruction — whether knowingly or not — of OpenDocument format. It imperils open standards. It incorporates poor (and yet expensive) support for OOXML into its version of OpenOffice.

Update: Rob Weir of IBM rebuts and dismisses Microsoft’s latest attack on OpenDocument. See the following:

…So with all this evident love for Microsoft Office 2007, why is it that 6-months later there are only 63 OOXML spreadsheet documents on the web, something like 0.3% of the number of ODF spreadsheet documents? How can there be 300 companies supporting OOXML and only have 69 OOXML presentations on the web?…

So I’m a somewhat at a loss to appreciate the significance of Novell or Corel adding OOXML support to their editors. With only 63 OOXML spreadsheets out there, wouldn’t it be cheaper just to hire someone to retype the documents in the destination application? The average user is more likely to find a Buffalo Nickel in their lunch change than to find an OOXML document outside of captivity.

Only yesterday, it seemed like Microsoft had another one of its regular shills discredit open standards, suggesting that open standards necessarily require open source.

Back in 2002, open source Open Source zealots tried to convince California legislators to pass the “Digital Software Security Act,” which would have forced state agencies to use open source software exclusively.

Notice the word “zealots”. They try to create stereotypes. It make bigots.

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5 Comments

  1. b3timmons said,

    May 11, 2007 at 5:44 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks for the heads-up.

    For more signs of fakeness behind Microvell, check out the following, along with interesting details in the LWN comments:
    http://lwn.net/Articles/233837/

    For more on Microsoft shilling and astroturfing, see:
    http://www.inlumineconsulting.com:8080/website/msft.shilling.html

  2. akf said,

    May 11, 2007 at 6:25 am

    Gravatar

    OOXML is not “Open Office XML” but “Office Open XML”.
    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OOXML

    Open Office has its own XML and it has nothing to do with that. ;-)

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 11, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Gravatar

    Oops. Of course. Thanks for the correction, akf (text modified).

  4. W^L+ said,

    May 11, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Gravatar

    I call it Office Not-so-open XML (ONXML), because that truly describes it.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 11, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Gravatar

    The thing which is often missed is that while it might be open (for viewing), it is not a FREE standard (or ‘standard’). Moreover, it’s overly complex, incomplete, and part of it are bugs which were never mended.

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