We have witnessed a lot of wrongdoing in recent days. Committees do not appear to have done their job properly, but the good news is that outside intervention might be on its way.
Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, is facing deeper scrutiny from European regulators on whether it is abusing its dominance in word processing and spreadsheets, three people with direct knowledge of the case said.
Only yesterday, calls were made to support open standards in Europe. For those who have not followed the recent events, ComputerWorld has a digest. Bob Sutor wrote about the recent developments as well, with emphasis on Europe.
Remember the stories from Portugal? Well, a lot more information is finally available. Groklaw has just posted large lumps of text and questioned the voting process.
Is this how standards are normally approved? If so, can we fix it? If Ecma-376 gets “approved” by shoving it through and not allowing interested parties to speak or vote, that just isn’t an open standard to me. Is it to you? Yoo hoo, Massachusetts. Are you watching?
Andy Updegrove weighed in with a provocative title on an “OOXML End Game”.
The progress of a technical specification from development to adoption has a certain, often-lamented glacial quality to it, due to the consensus process involved. But while that process may be slow, it is not inexorable, and that which starts does not always finish.
In other related news, here is a story about a city government which is being migrated to OpenOffice.org.
Dave Richards is an IT administrator for a city government. The city has been using OpenOffice.org for about six years. Dave’s a Linux guru, and helps run an elegant, efficient Linux network with a nice big server and lots of fairly old dumb terminals running OpenOffice.org at a very acceptable speed.
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A friend of mine, Mark Kent, took a different angle and explained what Microsoft is trying to achieve. With permission, I’ll quote this in full.
“In case anyone hasn’t realised, this [Linux deals and retaliation] has become Microsoft’s anti-GPLv3 campaign, ably assisted by various open-source luminaries, naturally.
Microsoft’s intent is that customer pressure will somehow force Linspire, Novell and others to avoid GPLv3, who will then somehow push back on the GPLv3 projects through forking or pressure to get them back onto GPLv2.
It won’t work, because they’re trying to push a pyramid from the point, but it’s an interesting attempt.”
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A Linux company that joined Microsoft and its FUD crusade has just acquired another. Scalix is, as far as I can recall, a proprietary solution built on top of GNU/Linux. It has had some big business contracts recently (notably Specsavers). The bad news is that it has just been acquired by Xandros.
Xandros CEO Andy Typaldos told DesktopLinux.com that his Ottawa-based Linux desktop and server company has acquired privately owned open-source e-mail and calendaring provider Scalix under terms that were undisclosed.
Will this mean that Microsoft can collect ‘tax’ from even more products that they do not own?
Update: Perhaps we posted this news earlier than we should have. Why? Because it gets worse. Xandros seems to have gotten itself another little partnership which involves some very popular GPL-licensed software. It is software that comes ‘in contact’ with Windows.
Recall some old debates about CrossOver Office, virtualisation, and Wine. Microsoft plays the patent game against all of these because such software is sometimes considered a “Windows killer”. It obviates the need for Microsoft and gives access to some very powerful applications that otherwise require Microsoft dependencies, not just compatibility layers, APIs, or a hypervisor.
We could truly learn from UNIX here. Remember Xenix? Microsoft tried to ensure that each competitor which rivaled its own offering had some form of debt. This way, Microsoft extracts from anything bought, no matter who the seller is. Recall the antitrust videos (hint: making profit from a competitor’s revenue).
According to a new article from Reuters, Microsoft will soon face the important decision in Europe. It will happen in September this year. As far as that ruling goes, Novell did a lot of harm and did Microsoft a favour.
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It’s not just Britain and it isn’t just Portugal, either. Watch the following observation which comes from Italy. Voting on OOXML seems like a rather iffy business, not just in the United States. The story, however, ends nicely.
Actually it is quite impressing seeing how the voting panel [for OOXML] was formed. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that among those favouring the adoption of the standard without reservation a large majority is made of business partners of the proposing entity [Microsoft], a law firm retained by the latter, the official certified business partners association of the proposing entity. “Money can’t buy me love” Beatles used to sing: perhaps neither a standard.
Fortunately, this attempt was not successful. I wish to quote a comment that I spotted in Digg when a BoycottNovell story reached the front page:
OOXML is not an open standard. It is an XML representation of Microsoft’s proprietary data structures used in their line of office software. It is only designed to match the feature set of MS Office and nothing else. It ignores the pre-existing ISO standards for dates/times, mathematical formula as well as using poor XML design practices.
If Microsoft truly intended to use an open format for their office software they would have joined the committee for the ODF standard and proposed the features they needed to be added to the specification. Instead, they are trying to trick people looking for open standards that their OOXML is an open format. Even if the specification is open for use, and that it would be under the control of an independent organization (required for ISO standardization), you can bet that Microsoft will deviate from the standard as soon as possible once they hold the majority of market share, convincing users that the other software is ‘broken’.
ODF isn’t perfect, but it is much closer to what is needed. It uses common standards that are already supported and provides a vendor neutral specification for generating generic, compatible, documents.
Actually, I’ll quote another comment because it is short and precise:
Per the usual, Microsoft is engaging in shady dealing and collusion in order to forward its own agenda. Not that this sort of corruption is unique to Microsoft by any means, but it is typical of large corporations who have reached the point where they lack the agility to compete on a technical level and therefore must do so on the playing-field of bought influence and barriers to entry.
Update: you might find the following item from the Inquirer amusing: Microsoft twists and turns over ODF – Microsoft claims ODF is a monopoly. Pot calls kettle black.
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