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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.

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  1. Andre said,

    August 23, 2007 at 5:26 am


    They offer a bad deal:
    a) YES vote == current ECMA standard relabeled ISO standard
    b) YES mit comments == current ECMA standard relabeled as ISO standard, and some suggestions
    c) conditional disapproval == current ECMA standard has a change to get improved and technical comments get fixed. Microsoft will need to offer more.
    d) rejection of the standard == no ISO approval, but ECMA standard is here to stay
    No rational player, even when you are a partner of Microsoft or “really want” OOXML’s ISO approval can support options a) and b). No player risks anything except Microsoft. We know that the current ECMA standard is broken, and full of errors. so even when you want OOXML you should disapprove as a matter of negotiation strategy.
    The only explanaition for a YES vote (which is just not rational) is either an “idealistic” agenda to support Microsoft’s monopoly or the existance of other means that compensate your self-interest.
    A Yes or a “Yes with Comments” (which is formally non-existing) is a very bad business decision.

    I feel ashamed of Germany, I really do.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 23, 2007 at 6:53 am


    Watch the comments in Groklaw and see some of our previous writings on this topic. I suspect there’s a lot more to this story. Germany is among the biggest opposers to monopoly abuse (which is embodied in OOXML), so there must be money or exchange of favours involved.

  3. Sam Hiser said,

    August 23, 2007 at 11:01 am


    There are no “natural” supporters of OOXML as an ISO standard.

    Quoting the head of the DIN task force (from Jason’s blog)…

    The standardization process of Open XML as an ISO standard will start now and result in the technological advancement of both standards – Open XML and ODF 1.0. The comments that were expressed by leading experts from the industry, science, public sector and politics together with the recommendation of the DIN committee, guide the way to interoperability. We will sustainably support this process in the Fraunhofer FOKUS eGovernment Laboratory and, as a member of ECMA International, provide our laboratory partner Microsoft assistance and know-how in implementing the recommendations.

    …note that Microsoft is funding Fraunhofer.

    This is a closed loop: Microsoft OOXML will become a standard — whether on Sept 2 or later, it’s a done deal — because Microsoft owns the committees in most countries.

    All supporters of OOXML are Microsoft partners; that means they are being paid or have business ties to the success of the Microsoft STACK (not just Vista|Office).

    Roy, you are right to focus on the money, but we need more transparency on the influence. More EVIDENCE.

    This is terrible!

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 23, 2007 at 8:41 pm


    Apart from the Groklaw comments (some along the lines of “I hope someone took notes in the meeting and will share them anonymously”), there is more to be seen in Andy’s blog (maybe Rob’s as well). Someone began asking if the UN could get involved in antitrust actions.

    Yesterday, Henri Richard left AMD and I suspect it’s because he got tired of fighting a monopoly abuser that broke the law time after time (and always got away with it). I am beginning to be fed up seeing what I see, but the least we can all do is share the story and be the jury in the world that turns a blind eye to misuse and corruption.

    From Rob’s blog (latest):

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | The tragedy of this is that for so many NB’s, with talented technical
    | committees, the discussion of OOXML has failed to be a technical evaluation,
    | but has quickly become a political game, where committees are stuffed,
    | governments are pressured, billionaires call in favors, competitors blocked
    | from participation, voting rules ignored or modified at whim, etc. All we can
    | do is stand by and watch as Microsoft takes over JTC1. The cost to Microsoft
    | will be great, but so much greater is the cost to JTC1. What will it mean for
    | JTC1′s future to be known as a body that does not follow its own rules, does
    | not evaluate proposals on technical merits, but has procedures so weak and
    | poorly written that it allows itself to be taken over by a single company?
    | Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


    A Sun blogger was equally frustrated. More on this in a moment. I have heaps of stuff on OOXML, including stories about Microsoft ‘partners’.

  5. Răzvan Sansu said,

    September 2, 2007 at 9:54 am


    For all interested people, full detail (technical and non-technical) are here:


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