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07.19.07

Microsoft Uses Position of Power to Impose OOXML on National Assets

Posted in ECMA, Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It is truly astonishing to find that many government bodies actually have their key positions occupied by Microsoft employees. I am intimately familiar with quite a few examples and I will name only two.

The first one is very recent. It comes from New York where Microsoft muscled the legislature and lobbied to pass a so-called ‘Microsoft amendment’ that is discriminative towards Open Source.

Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless – and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.

An older example involved changing of an important report by a Microsoft employee.

That agreement was nearly imperiled last weekend, though. Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, sent an e-mail message to fellow commissioners Friday evening saying that she “vigorously” objected to a paragraph in which the panel embraced and encouraged the development of open source software and open content projects in higher education.

So much for independent assessment for the benefit of the citizens, eh? Welfare and greed are mutually exclusive and even contradictory.

Here comes the latest finding, which is concerned with Microsoft’s OOXML — the very effective venom that Linux ‘partners’ are forced to digest. Another discussion with Mark Kent led to another example where public money is being used to promote Microsoft’s agenda by locking vital data to this monopoly. The BBC is not the only Linux-hostile establishment over here.

Watch this discussion in an article about archiving data using suitable formats

Open-source advocates claim that the Microsoft-championed format is not as open as it should be and doesn’t compare well to rival formats such as the community-developed OpenDocument Format (ODF).

“If it were, Microsoft wouldn’t need to make Novell and Xandros and Linspire sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) and then write translators for them,” Pamela Jones, an open-source expert and editor of the Groklaw blog, wrote recently.

But the National Archives said that it is not wedded to any particular data format and that all technology options are being considered at this time.

Mark did a little legwork and found out a little bit more about National Archives, which seemingly chose to sidle with Microsoft and even gleefully talked about OOXML in a recent BBC article.

Mark wrote:

Look at this, from the *joint* National Archives and /Microsoft/ press
release:

Adam Farquhar, Head of eArchitecture at the British Library and
co-chair of the Office OpenXML standards committee said:
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
|
|
So this guy, paid for by *our* taxes, is working for Microsoft
to promote their proprietary formats. Now look at this:

“Microsoft has shown considerable initiative working with The National
Archives, The British Library and others to increase our ability to
ensure access to today’s digital information tomorrow. This announcement
represents an important step and shows the sort of value that effective
collaboration between public and private organisations can bring to the
challenge of preserving our nation’s heritage.”

Which you can sum up as:

“we’re putting national heritage, at tax-payer’s expense, into
the hands of the world’s greatest monopolist, to ensure access
to data in the future”.

So we, the taxpayer, have to *pay* to have *our* data locked into a
proprietary format which will never be readable on standard platforms,
supplied by a company which cannot even manage to add a proper ODF
format to its office suite, and pushed by a guy, Adam Farquhar, who *we*
pay for, who chairs an OOXML “standards” committee.

This is just beyond anything you could imagine. Can we get this guy
moved to a more suitable job – in Microsoft, say?

So there you go. Apparently, lock-in is about ‘politics’, not rational choices. Microsoft has always loved escaping discussions about technical merits and turning them into a political debate. It is easier. It’s diversion.

We could probably just learn from continental Europe. It understands better than most that open standards are essential. OOXML is not open, even though the acronym contains the word “open” within it. OOXML goes against the existing unified standard. On the other hand:

EU backs standard for mobile TV

[...]

David McQueen, principle analyst with research firm Informa, is not surprised that the EU has come down in favour of DVB-H.

“It is the most open standard and there are more players in the market. Finland has networks already and in France there is a satellite hybrid solution,” he said.

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4 Comments

  1. Zaine Ridling said,

    July 20, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Gravatar

    Read the national body comments and see what a real turkey MS-OOXML really is. It’s truly stunning that neither Microsoft, Ecma, or any other “expert” caught so many mistakes:

    http://www.xmlopen.org/ooxml-wiki/index.php/DIS_29500_Comments

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 20, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    Gravatar

    No matter how many deficiencies are spotted, there will remain some perils, Rob once said that Microsoft would have a seemingly-credible counter argument. Any flaw would be drowned in the amount of un-criticised bits (or yet-to-be criticised bits). Any time something is scrutinised, Microsoft would call it “nitpicking”.

    You see, size changes perspective. Scale confuses and discourages the reviewer.

    Look what they did in Europe last month:


    Microsoft says ‘archaeology’ changes the way it develops products

    Critics say company isn’t documenting interaction methods fast enough

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | Microsoft Corp. will deliver the final installment of hundreds of
    | pounds of documentation of its products to U.S. regulators next
    | month, a result of seemingly never-ending disputes over the
    | company’s business practices.
    |
    | That load will exceed the roughly 30,000 printed pages, or 130
    | pounds of documentation, already prepared by Microsoft for
    | European regulators.
    |
    | [...]
    |
    | Not buying it
    |
    | Microsoft’s rivals argue the company is doing too little, too late.
    | Vinje, of ECIS, said he doesn’t believe Microsoft has faced the severe
    | challenges the company alleges in documenting its protocols.
    `—-

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/microsoft-says-archaeology-changes-way/story.aspx?guid=%7BF16A9817%2DFCCF%2D46A7%2DBF1B%2D6B6F38154049%7D&siteid=yhoof
    http://tinyurl.com/34klv3

    Also see the following:


    A cathedral of formats or a castle of cards?

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | By writing 6000 pages, something else strikes many, including myself:
    | no human can implement that. In fact, nobody aside Microsoft will be
    | able to rightly implement it because Microsoft is the only one can
    | deal with the previously existing formats. For these 6000 pages are
    | thousands of man/years of confusion, users’ lock-in, con-formating
    | of data, IP and jealously kept trade secrets. And you would expect
    | that anybody might come up with something that works? Apple, by
    | the way, will not. Because Microsoft Office for Mac will not be
    | able to use Open XML for some years, as I have learned. So good
    | for the great open file format of Microsoft. 6000 pages cannot
    | be a standard. It is FUD. It is a scandal, and a digital wart
    | in the industry. 6000 pages cannot be reputed conformant by
    | anybody else than their author. And their author is Microsoft.
    `—-

    http://www.libervis.com/blogs/5/charles/a_cathedral_of_formats_or_a_castle_of_cards

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | [Microsoft:] “For example, we should take the lead in establishing a common
    | approach to UI and to interoperability (of which OLE is only a part). Our
    | efforts to date are focussed too much on our own apps, and only incidental-
    | ly on the rest of the industry. We want to own these standards, so we sho-
    | uld not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to
    | the industry and set a standard that works now and is for
    | everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.”
    `—-

    http://www.os2site.com/sw/info/comes/px09509.zip

  3. Mark Kent said,

    July 29, 2007 at 6:37 am

    Gravatar

    Re-reading the press releases and information from the National Archives, it’s still amazing me beyond belief that we could have the same person pushing a proprietary “standard” as working on safeguarding national archives.

    What on earth happened to concepts of open and fair government?

    How will we be able to have “freedom of information” when we have to pay Microsoft in order to access the information which is supposed to be free?

    Mark K.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 29, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Gravatar

    it’s still amazing me beyond belief that we could have the same person pushing a proprietary “standard” as working on safeguarding national archives.

    Can the hen trust a fox?

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