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08.22.07

ODF/OOXML Watch: Bill Gates Lobbies Behind the Scenes Again, Jason Matusow Deceives (Updated)

Posted in America, Asia, Deception, Europe, Interoperability, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, SUN at 9:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From “developers, developers, developers” (produce software) to “advertisers, advertisers, advertisers” (market poor products) to “lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists” (start cheating)

Yesterday we mentioned the use of large heaps of money in pursuit for standards domination. We also took a look at some of the latest ‘funny business’ around the world. There is a lot more coming at the moment, so let’s break it down into subheadings.

Deception, Deception, Deception

There have been many cases of deception coming from Microsoft recently. In fact, there have been so many that we won’t even bother linking to them (it can all be found in the Open XML archives). We recently mentioned one case of deception from Jason Matusow. He appears to be doing this again, confidentially while those who can rebut are on vacation.

Well, it’s hard to take a vacation, isn’t it? Not only is it styled as “going quiet,” but it offers an opportunity for others to present only part of the story. While much of what Jason writes is accurate, it’s curious what he leaves out – including the fact that not one ballot, but two, have been circulated to the INCITS Executive Board for simultaneous voting.

But wait! It gets worse. Bill Gates is making phonecalls. INCITS has not escaped the wrath of a ruthless billionaire [PDF].

The ‘Retiring’ Man is Secretly Very Busy

For someone who plans his retirement, Mr. Gates seems to be awfully busy. He has been getting around the technical committees, essentially trying to persuade and bend the opinions of those at the very top. It is hardly surprising. Last week we received a report on China.

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.

If you think it was only China, then have a look at this brand-new discovery.

Bill Gates has reportedly been making phone calls to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Commerce to push the American National Standards Institute to ignore the votes of its advisory committees and vote “yes” on ISO standardizing Microsoft’s Open Office XML (OOXML) format, the one in competition with the OpenDocument Format (ODF) pushed by IBM and Sun.

Gates reportedly picked up the phone when the last INCITS ballot failed by one vote to support Microsoft.

Well, well, well. What can one add?

OOXML in Germany

An article in Heise spoke about lobbying from Microsoft as well. Not enough details were available to tell the nature of the lobbying, but judging by what we have seen so far, it is natural to assume that Germany did not make its decision in peace. In fact, Germany became a victim of vendor lockin (in an XML ‘gown’), which it will vote “Yes” on (with comments).

It seems that Germany has fallen in the Microsoft trap to address comments with a Yes vote.

The Plug-in (and Standard) Microsoft Refused to Support

It is hard to forget certain events which seem to be a case of history repeating itself. We are referring to the ODF plug-in from Sun Microsystems. Remember that Microsoft refused to support the international standard and it will be pleased to know that not even Sun was able to properly bridge a gap where Microsoft should have never left a void in the first.

Users regularly cite lack of compatibility with Microsoft Office files as a reason for not using OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org does include Microsoft Office export filters, as well as a number of settings for increased compatibility, but these features provide only good, not complete, compatibility.

The item goes on to discussing the fact that Office has had its ODF functionality and support essentially eliminated.

Look back at what we wrote on Monday about Microsoft’s disregard for international standards. Microsoft hates them, ignores them, and stifles their adoption. It was well demonstrated when Steve Ballmer proudly stated “we are the standard“.

Update: the statement from Germany has finally been translated. Pay attention to the comments as well. There is a lot of suspicious activity going on and Finland will apparently abstain.

Playing a Standards War Using the Language of Money

Posted in Deals, Deception, Finance, Formats, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard, Xandros at 2:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Many times before we saw injustice. We have also seen Microsoft using its deep pockets to combat truly open formats. To exemplify the effect that formats have on consumers, we used a timely set of stories on Blu-ray and HD DVD.

Reception (of Money)

The same loathed tricks appear to be pulled once again. These are being pulled in order to gain an edge over Sony and the PlayStation 3, among other rival products and competing labels. Not quality of a format is considered. Instead, it’s about how much money is at stake and how much can be used as form of ‘bribery’.

But money talks: Paramount and DreamWorks Animation together will receive about $150 million in financial incentives for their commitment to HD DVD, according to two Viacom executives with knowledge of the deal but who asked not to be identified.

The incentives will come in a combination of cash and promotional guarantees. Toshiba, for instance, will use the release of “Shrek the Third” as part of an HD DVD marketing campaign.

Paramount and DreamWorks Animation declined to comment. Microsoft, the most prominent technology company supporting HD DVDs, said it could not rule out payment but said it wrote no checks. “We provided no financial incentives to Paramount or DreamWorks whatsoever,” said Amir Majidimehr, the head of Microsoft’s consumer media technology group.

Microsoft “could not rule out payment”. Doubts can be raised.

Bearing in mind that money can come through proxies (think about Baystar), one cannot rule out anything, so suspicion remains. Either way, if true, this might not not the first time that Microsoft’s use of partners in this particular standards war gets a mention. When it comes to OOXML, the resemblance in strategies is uncanny.

As we mentioned many times before, Novell, Xandros, and Linspire were paid by Microsoft o become OOXML participants (even fans).

Deception (Consumer Suffers)

The onslaught of lies and deception continues. Microsoft claims implemented support for OOXML by third parties. It says nothing whatsoever about how poor the support is (only Microsoft can implement OOXML). From Rob Weir’s blog:

Everyone is in the same boat with this: KOffice, Corel, Google, IBM, anyone who has applications that work with Microsoft documents. We’re all faced with the prospect of significant expenses to rewrite our file format support with no net benefit to our customers. This is the toll we all must pay to Microsoft just for the ability to fight for the scraps their monopoly may leave behind. If Microsoft jerks their format around, we all must run and chase after it, reallocating resources away from feature work, becoming in the process less competitive in the marketplace, while Microsoft forges ahead with new features. They can easily repeat this game every few years, just to keep competitors busy. This is what a death spiral looks like.

Giving absolute control of a standard document format to a monopolist that is notorious for abusing their control of file formats in the past is insanity. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.

This long blog item provides many visual examples which show what Microsoft considers proof of fair competition.

Money and deceit. Themes of our time.

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