The document formats debate has a lot to do with Microsoft’s deals, including the deal with Novell. One particular issue that escapes people’s attention is the impact of piracy on the choice of file formats. It is one among several other factors worth considering here, including:
Default file type. Microsoft urges all Office 2007 users to save files in their own ‘new and improved’ formats.
Limiting selection of file types. Microsoft does not support OpenDocument in any way, other than saying that it’s “pro choice”.
Forcing the use of a particular file type. A free trial version of Office 2007 conveniently left the “save as…” option (for non-OOXML formats) greyed out.
Boasting existing userbase. One of Microsoft’s ‘selling points’ is the number of documents that are already encoded using Microsoft’s code.
Grassroots, political manipulation, and ballot stuffing. Those who have followed this Web site for a while know exactly how it all works.
Buying support. The deals with Novell, Linspire, and Xandros have these companies obliged to show and offer their support for Linux-hostile formats.
We could probably come up with a few more points, but just to get the idea across, this ought to be sufficient.
Over the weekend, MarketWatch published an article from the somewhat notorious John Dvorak. The article mentions the document formats debate and explains how turning a blind eye to piracy not only helps in suppression of Linux adoption; it also helps Microsoft spread its own format while ignoring the ISO standard. De facto standards rely on how widespread they become. It’s a case of “spreading the disease” (format). Piracy plays a role here and Microsoft would happily look the other way while certain parts of the world pirate Office 2007.
The article also explains why Microsoft needs to be split into separate smaller companies. This is probably the more courageous statement and it is less relevant to this site, assuming we have already fallen off the edge of our Novell scope.
I have always believed that the best thing for Microsoft to do is break itself up into three or maybe four separate companies, and go from there. It has distinct mini-corporations within the structure already.
In case you wonder why the author is not quite so reliable, have a look at his own explanation (however lame this admission of trolling might seem).
Occasionally I come across Opensuse reviews where non-technical aspects of the product affect the overall impression. Linspire and Xandros now suffer from the same problem. It’s an image problem. Novell signed a deal with its aggressive, long-time rival. It also made mockery of Free software in the process.
Shane and I have said dozens of times before that at BoycottNovell.com we try to appreciate the developers’ work (Opensuse). We only blame the executives for taking the money and allowing their developers to get a bad name. I was among those in the opensuse community at the time. I felt betrayed.
To repeat old facts, the developers were not part of the this decision, with the exception of a few prominent ones such as Miguel de Icaza, who is a VP. It was all done secretly. Jeremy Allison knew about it and he protested against the sneaky, 90th-minute inclusion of patent elements [update: see clarifications/corrections]. These elements were not part of the original deal, which had been negotiated for months.
As for Nat Friedman and de Icaza, their story remains a mystery. It is believed that they are among the drivers in this deal. As you may already know, de Icaza has strong ties with Port 25 and the ‘Microsoft culture’ (he even had a job interview there). It is my opinion that he does not necessarily represent Opensuse developers as a whole, although he just might. Not all of them care for Mono (.NET), which is a patents-encumbered development technology and a controversial framework to many Linux distributors other than Novell. The validity of these patents is a different matter altogether, but only yesterday, Slashdot reminded us why it’s hard to fight for sanity.
The press did not exactly buy Microsoft’s latest arguments. In fact, it only quoted or repeated those arguments (sometimes verbatim), which were later criticised and put to shame, even by Microsoft Watchers. Here are some examples:
And so is Microsoft. In grandiose fashion, the software behemoth has declared that it is not a party to the GPLv3 and that none of its actions “are to be misintepreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license.” I can hear the laughter ringing out.
Customers that buy Linux through Microsoft’s Novell alliance program will receive products and services only for open source software covered by GPLv2.
Novell’s response is therefore a tad mystifying. Businesses and governments should really know better and never do business with Novell, especially if Linux coupons are bought in a very questionable way from Novell’s sworn rival, Microsoft. Always remember what Microsoft’s Jim Allchin said.
“We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger… If you’re going to kill someone, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. You just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger.”
Now, one may wish to argue that Microsoft is only looking to be rightfully compensated by those using clever Microsoft inventions. I, for one, think that position is naïve. I firmly believe that Microsoft’s intellectual business division is executing a well-thought out plan – monetize where possible (Novell), implicitly threaten where monetization is not possible and sow enough uncertainty to slow down those who don’t acquiesce, directly or indirectly, to Microsoft’s licensing pressure.
This needs to have become common knowledge. It’s truly as simple as this.