If you thought you have already seen fierce standards battles (this new one involves wireless interconnectivity), then get a load of this. When a lot of money is involved — as in the case of Microsoft Office — there will be a lot of manipulation. Fortunately, some of it gets caught by the radar and reported with cloaks of anonymity, so people can be named and shamed.
The dodgy activity that we have been speaking about for quite some time (most recently it was Finland) has finally provoked and invoked the wrath and involvement of the FSFE.
‘Funny Business’ in Switzerland
This was mentioned before, but it is worth repeating:
The present spin doctors of Microsoft and ECMA managed to convince Mr. Thomann to reject every serious technical and general concern we had regarding OOMXL by pointing to compatibility reasons. At the end we had a majority _against_ Microsoft but which (giving the unfair rules) results in a Swiss vote _for_ Microsoft. Mr. Thomann was fretting and fuming at the end of the meeting how it can be that successful international companies (we had representatives from IBM, Google, …) vote against the best interest of their customers and theirself!
Yes, this is how the democratic system at SNV / ISO works. After the meeting I could not eat as much as I wanted to puke…
As a result of this, the FSFE and SIUG have filed a letter of complaint and they threaten legal action. Here is how PJ explains the situation that we see in so many countries.
It all reminds me of when I was a kid, and we’d sometimes settle things in the playground with a coin toss. There was occasionally a smart aleck who’d yell out as the coin was thrown up into the air, “Heads I win, Tails you lose.” This ISO process seems like that, in that people are voting against MS-OOXML in numbers and raising serious questions, but somehow they get ignored or bypassed.
‘Funny Business’ in Holland
It is beginning to seem as though not a single country will escape Microsoft’s money machines and lobbying force. Here is a report from the Netherlands.
This surprising result was the outcome of a lenghty discussion on whether or not it was fair to those members that had submitted several more controversial comments earlier that – without consensus on the compromise that had been worked on for months – these comments would not be included. This included some fundamental comments such as the mandatory use of ISO date codes, exclusive usage of the Gregorian calender (according to ISO 681), problems with intellectual property rights, etc). In addition some felt that during the process they had agreed on many comments to be ameliorated (‘censored’) in order to come to that same compromise. Without that compromise they would like to submit the original versions. The committee subsequently failed to get consensus on sending all comments. Therefore it will now not share any of its findings with ISO.
‘Funny Business’ in China
On several occasions in the past, OOXML was slammed for its lack of suitability for China’s needs. To repeat a little:
We [in China] are calling on the government to veto the OOXML format at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).” The OOXML format is a file specification released by Microsoft in December last year for its Microsoft Office 2007 suite. It is currently in a fast track standardization process with the ISO and will be subject to voting next month. Unlike the current ISO digital document standard ODF (Open Document Format) and China’s national standard UDF (Unified Office Document Format), Microsoft’s OOXML format can only be run on a Windows platform.
It is also criticized for containing many proprietary technologies that can only be fully supported by Microsoft’s Office products.
Here is another article on an open document standard for China.
Another standard that Microsoft does not support, is the RFC 3987 specification, which defines UTF-8 capable Internet addresses. Consequently, OOXML does not support the use of Chinese characters within a Web address.
Microsoft also did a bad job in creating a document forma for the whole world, which is an important requirement for an ISO standard. Considerations for users in Israel and many Muslim countries were excluded in the specification of OOXML. For any locale, the function ‘Networkdays()’ will always return Saturday and Sunday as the weekend. However, this is wrong for Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. ODF handles this correctly.
There are many more examples why OOXML isn’t a suitable candidate for an ISO standard yet. From my point of view, Microsoft should stop, as soon as possible, bringing more redundancy into office document formats.
It would be much better if Microsoft takes the good ideas and technologies from OOXML, and tries to join an effort to unify ODF, UOF and OOXML. For those interested, the blog of IBM’s Robert Weir, is a good source to get informed about the issues of OOXML.
I hope China will not support OOXML in its ISO voting, but force Microsoft to consider talks for one harmonized office document standard for the whole world.
Here is where the punch comes. It is a new report comes from Andy, who is not pleased with Microsoft’s recent activities in China. These activities surround OOXML and ODF as well.
Microsoft has seemed to be flying high in the Peoples Republic of China lately. Bill Gates spent several days in Beijing earlier this year in meetings with high-level officials, after hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao the spring before at Gate’s own home. And legitimate copies of Microsoft products appear to be at last gaining ground in comparison to pirated copies, albeit at the price of discounting them to almost unimaginable levels (students can now reportedly obtain a Windows/Office bundle for the incredible price of $3). Many credited Microsoft’s pragmatic decision to accept Chinese realities and not insist on having everything its own way.
Microsoft activities in China are no secret and they are nothing new. Have a look.
McCain comes out against Net Neutrality; Says would hire Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
In another move that was sure to infuriate many geeks, the 70 year old presidential hopeful also said that he would ask Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to serve on his cabinet to deal with technology issues if elected. He did not however say what position Ballmer might be hired in, but did joke that he might consider him for a diplomatic position, such as ambassador to China.
Talk about conflict of interests.
This one speaks volumes as well.
I believe that most people do not grasp the immense entity of Microsoft. This is an organization and a man who commands the attention and bidding of world leaders. On a recent trip to America, the President of China spent his first evening in the United States, not with our President, but Bill Gates. He was the guest of the Gates mansion that first evening and the guest of honor for a dinner attended by over one hundred people. Why? To ask him to crack down on Software piracy and to insure that his computer manufacturers put Microsoft Windows on thier newly made machines instead of shipping them with no OS. He didn’t see the President of the United States for over 36 hours…he spent that time with Bill Gates at his home and at the Redmond Campus.
It is likely that more such stories will be revealed when Bill Gates ‘retires’ (for lobbying). Microsoft goes for the non-technical nation’s leaders with their money and influence. They try to flip votes on matters such as Linux, ODF, and copyrights.
More from India
A few times in the past we mentioned India in the context of OOXML deception. In the following article, balance is introduces as IBM explains yet another major deficiency of OOXML.
On the other hand, IBM counters HCL on the argument. “Microsoft’s Open XML does not support Firefox and Opera (web browsers) despite firefox having a 34% market share. It only supports Internet Explorer. Also, OOXML does not support documents dated before 1900 but India has land records dating back to 1600 A.D. since the era of King Todar Mal. (The problems is that OOXML does not recognise dates prior to 1900 AD). Also, there is no provision for backward compatibility as it does not provide access to binary codes,” says Ashish Gautam, country leader at IBM for open standards.