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08.28.07

OOXML Watch: Since Only Microsoft Partners Speak Out, The World Has Begun Voting Against Itself

Posted in America, ISO, Open XML at 11:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Self nuke, ISO-style”

“Remember how hard Andy worked on Massachusetts, only to see it bullied, battered, and defeated by an aggressive monopoly abuser”

Isn’t it truly amazing that the world’s collective voice is being hijacked by a minority group that is very well paid and very self serving? That is exactly what you’ll find any time you turn your attention to technical committees (and panel chairmen in particular) that discuss OOXML around the world.

The decision on standards — everyone’s standards — is made not by those who are affected by them, but only those who might benefit at the expense of everyone else. From a personal perspective, this is truly disgraceful and some find it too intolerable to watch. I can only imagine the sort of disgust and endless disappointment Andy Updegrove needs to cope with. He has watched the world (represented by the ISO in this case) getting abducted by a single vicious company. It’s ruthless to one’s mind. Remember how hard Andy worked on Massachusetts, only to see it bullied, battered, and defeated by an aggressive monopoly abuser. The citizens of Massachusetts are being punished because of one company’s investors. In any event, here is the latest:

As someone who has spent a great part of my life working to support open standards over the past 20 years, I have to say that this is the most egregious, and far-reaching, example of playing the system to the advantage of a single company that I have ever seen. Breathtaking, in fact. That’s assuming, of course, that I am right in supposing that all of these newbie countries vote “yes.”

Watch the comments. ISO is virtually being killed by a single company. Microsoft should be ashamed, not flattered. It’s a sign of a criminal mind, not strength. The good news is that OOXML won’t be approved for a long time to come, despite plenty of information which is being spread by you-know-who.

It’s clear that whatever the vote, OOXML will not be a JTC1 standard for a long, long time, no matter what people say next week. It’s also clear that unless the process is quickly terminated with OOXML being rejected as unsuitable with comments unresolvable, it will churn on and on and on, no matter what you feel about it or the OOXML spec.

Reuters, which has always been biased in Microsoft’s favour, has been kind enough to give ‘the other side’ a change to speak.

A Microsoft document format that may be adopted as an international standard this weekend is a ploy to lock in customers, who could lose control over their own data in a worst-case scenario, critics say.

Remember the so-called propaganda what Microsoft unleashed two days ago? According to Matt Asay, this says a lot about ethics.

A thought hit me this morning while I was reading through Microsoft’s latest garbage-fodder (also known as “research”) on OOXML and Sharepoint. Here is the world’s largest software company taking potshots at open source, which maybe affects 0.001% of its revenues today. If that.

Now look at Oracle, SAP, IBM, etc. You won’t find a single other company making a concerted effort to fight open source.

On that questionably uplifting note, let us just end this post. Heh. And Jim Zemlin, head of the Linux Foundation, wants us to welcome and respect Microsoft.

Novell’s “Underperform” and SCO’s Cash Injections That Brought Its Demise

Posted in Finance, Novell, SCO at 11:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell has just nailed and announced a big contract in Germany, but as usual, we’ll post that on Saturday. In the mean time, let’s look at Novell’s financial situation. It does not look as encouraging as Novell needs you to believe. We wrote about it yesterday, but here is the very latest.

In a research note this morning, Credit Suisse’s Jason Maynard repeated his Underperform rating [on NOVL], asserting that he is “not expecting to see material improvements in the business.”

[...]

He notes that the company has over $1 billion in net cash, but says that “Novell is more likely to use that balance to make acquisitions rather than buying back stock.”

One company that has been buying back stock very aggressively is Microsoft. This has gone on for over a year and it helps the company keep up appearance. Novell, on the other hand, bought a company last week, so its expanding in terms of scale. This was its plan, as Ron Hovsepian’s outlook made evident.

There is another new bit on SCO, which comes from the MSNBC-affiliated Motley Fool.

SCO essentially attempted a costly, time-consuming “Hail Mary” to score a big payday. It might have better spent that time building products and getting customers. What’s more, it picked fights with big-name tech players who know how to wage a court battle.

“Big payday,” eh? Where have we seen that more recently? 348? 228? 235?

The article closes with the following paragraph:

As of now, SCO’s shares are trading at $0.51 apiece, and the company sports a market cap of a measly $11.5 million. It’s definitely a sobering example. Foolish inventors looking at companies with similar strategies should realize that they’re more like lotteries than businesses.

Let’s wish Novell some better luck.

Another Interoperability Licensing Deal with a Linux Company Microsoft Trades and Depends on

Posted in Deals, Fuji Xerox, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Protocol, Samsung, Scalix, Xandros at 10:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From ‘software police’ to ‘licence police’

An interesting little press release did not grab the attention of journalist because it appears like “just another licensing deal”. However, given what we’ve found in the cross-licensing deals with Fuji Xerox and with Samsung (departing from hardware devices, one might even include Scalix here) , one has to stop and wonder. One of the new licensees is Aruba, which builds products using Linux. The press release says nothing about Linux however.

“The innovative solutions we built using Windows client-to-server protocols were made possible by our ready access to technology and documentation as an MCPP licensee, as well as our close alliance with Microsoft,” said Michael Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing at Aruba Networks.

Remember what Shane said about MCPP, also in the context of Novell and Xandros.

What makes Aruba particularly special in this context is that it is one among the few companies whose Linux products Microsoft depends on.

What the press statement didn’t mention is that Aruba mobility controllers run the Linux operating system which Microsoft has aggressively targeted as being inferior to Windows as part of its “Get the Facts” marketing campaign.

[...]

Pandey’s appraisal of Aruba’s technology is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s “Get the Facts” rhetoric which places Windows as a more secure, and higher-performing choice over Linux.

Is there something going on here which goes beyond what meets the eye? Any screws being tightened?

GPLv3 — From Strength to Strength

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GPL, Microsoft, Tivoization, Virtualisation at 10:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft and the GPLv3

“Legal action might ensue”

Several months ago, Microsoft disavowed any involvement with the GNU GPL, arguting that it would have no contact with GPLv3. Recently, a suspicion arose that Microsoft used its close partner Citrix as a proxy in a XenSource acquisition in order to:

  1. Avoid direct contact with the GPL.
  2. Escape the wrath of possible antitrust watchdogs.

The Free Software Foundation has been looking at this situation for a while and last night it showed it was willing to strike back. Legal action might ensue, as was anticipated by some.

I’m just a paralegal, but I read that as saying they [FSF] will litigate, if necessary.

Matt Asay’s coverage of this development (a pointer to Groklaw) tells the gist of the story in the title “Free Software Foundation to Microsoft: You are not above the law.”

In the coming months, we are likely to see some interesting developments, some of which litigious.

SugarCRM and the GPLv3

In other news, the GNU GPLv3 appears to be growing up very fast and it might even reach Wall Street thanks to SugarCRM being its ‘carrier’. According to this new report, the company’s CEO is eying an IPO in the long term.

Roberts anticipates that the company, which now has 125 employees, can grow to $100 million in yearly revenue in the next couple of years.

Remember, however, that SugarCRM is a dual-license piece of software with history of abusing the term “open source”. This earned it notoriety in the Free software circles. Here is the company’s latest milestone and marketing pitch:

Another difference is that SCE 5.0 will be licensed under version 3 of the GNU general public license (GPLv3) instead of the vendor’s own Sugar Public License, a derivation of the Mozilla Public License, as had previously been the case.

Not so long ago, SugarCRM summoned the courage to slam the very same body to which it had given a bad name.

Full of free software pride, SugarCRM CEO John Roberts has revitalized his attack against the Open Source Initiative (OSI) characterizing the organization as weak and confused.

After being the open source community’s whipping boy, SugarCRM now enjoys a position of power. Last month, the software maker agreed to place a fresh version of its flagship product under the General Public License v3 (GPLv3) crafted by the Free Software Foundation. This established SugarCRM as the most prominent backer of GPLv3 to date.

Here is their key announcement. It is worth repeating.

SugarCRM is to adopt Version 3 of the GNU general public license (GPLv3) for the next release of its open source CRM software after coming under pressure from its user community to move away from its own Sugar Public License.

Tivoization and the GPLv3

A curious new paper highlights what could indeed be a loophole in the GPLv3. It permits Tivoization through the use of hypervisors (yes, yet another unaccounted-for disruptive technology, just like SaaS).

This guest whitepaper explains how a hypervisor can be used to leverage GPL software while isolating it from proprietary code, in order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the GPL.

Bear in mind that DRM in Tivoized devices is not just loathed, but it is also ineffective. Consider this fairly recent development:

Megazone over at TiVo Lovers is reporting that someone’s cracTiVoked the DRM on TiVoToGo, letting you export recorded programs from a TiVo for viewing on any device.

There remains a great ambition to end such anti-consumer methodologies, so GPLv4, which Richard Stallman has already mentioned, springs to mind (probably prematurely).

In the ongoing battle between Linux kernel developers and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) over the future of the GNU Public License (GPL), somehow DVR-maker Tivo has become either the whipping boy or the poster child, depending on whose side you are on. FSF founder Richard Stallman even coined a term for what he sees as misuse of the GPL: “tivoization”.

GPU, GPL, and the Future

One valued member of the Free software movement seems rather irritated when he describes some notable failures.

Getting people’s attention is even more important than trying to develop a free BIOS or a free flash player. The industry offers technology and people accept/reject it, this is how things work and this is why having people on our side is the way to go (instead of begging the industry for mercy). There would be no need to develop a free alternative to the Google Earth client in a Free Software-aware society, for example.

OOXML ‘Corruption Train’ Arriving at Sweden (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML at 7:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We saw this in Germany, Colombia, and Portugal (among other nations). Panels are assembled to include just Microsoft partners. The fox watches the hen house.

When a friend of mine arrived, it was clear that it all was stuffing going on from Microsoft side. All Microsoft partners in Sweden was at that meeting. People against OOXML got an offer to leave the meeting without paying the fee (not becoming a member). Everyone left, including IBM that thought it all was a farse.

It’s not the first country that Microsoft “buys” (to use the words of this witness). It has also ‘bought’ Novell, Xandros, and Linspire. In the past, a comment from Sweden warned us that this was bound to happen.

Moments ago we found the following story in the news:

Microsoft to Boost Charity in India

India decided it would vote “No”, so keep a close eye on what they do in September. It could be yet another case of politicians and decision makers being influenced.

Update: more information from Sweden is available thanks to a link from Ola.

OOXML: Security Flaw Found, Microsoft Lies About It Again, African Revolt Against It, and ISO in Great Danger

Posted in Africa, Deception, ECMA, Formats, FUD, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 1:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It is not looking good for OOXML. Even if it passes the September 2nd test, the wrecks it will leave behind it will be highly damaging not only to Microsoft, but also to those that surround Microsoft.

OOXML Means… Deception

Microsoft systematically lies about OOXML. It does it deliberately. To use a few recent examples, consider this batch [1, 2, 3, 5]. There are many more examples to be found, but they are not quite as ‘fresh’. If you thought Microsoft ran out of lies, then get a load of this.

Of course, Microsoft already knows all this, and no doubt that is why they are working so hard to urge NB’s to vote “Approval, with comments” with promises that their comments will be addressed at the BRM, a BRM that might not even occur. In fact, if everyone listened to Microsoft and followed their advice then that would almost guarantee that no BRM would be held and no NB’s comments would be adopted.

This is another disgraceful case of deception. Microsoft hopes to have its victims razzled and dazzled until it’s too later to change the mind.

OOXML Means… Not Secure

In the past, for a variety of reasons, OOXML was said to be unsafe. It’s unsafe because of poor digital preservation. It is unsafe because life is in jeopardy. It is unsafe because of untrusted binary macros. It is unsafe because it depends on the existence and direction of one single company. The list could go on and on, but there’s a theme here. OOXML is not a safe route for storing one’s (potentially vital) documents, history, and work.

If you thought you had seen it all, be aware that an XML-related flaw has just been discovered in Excel 2007.

Bradley Mountford, a digital forensics expert, today discovered a security vulnerability in Microsoft Office Excel 2007 regarding login information of external data sources.

Need anyone be woken up by a louder warning signal? Inelegant formats are bound to become susceptible to abuse. Without reuse, there is plenty of room for mistakes. OOXML is not just buggy, but it is also risky.

OOXML Means… Imperialism

Recall our very recent post about OOXML in the African continent. Reciting some key information:

In response they [Microsoft] have apparently been sending PR teams around to national Standards boards all over the world(Ghana for a fact) to lobby for votes for OOXML under the guise of talking about ‘Open XML Standards’.

Bear in mind that Ghona is actively pursuing Free software, but it’s also an easy target for the notorious “exchange of favours/money”.

The minister also said that “Ghana’s legislators, of which I am a member, use Linux to support the computing facilities at Parliament House”.

Here is where the news comes in. It follows the articles (some of which were cited in our previous Africa-tagged post) about Microsoft’s abuse through lock-in. Right now, the African civil society is actually courageous enough to warn Microsoft. To paraphrase Pamela Jones (in a different context), Africa is not as ignorant as Microsoft needs it to be.

African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) may be spoiling for war with the global software giant, Microsoft Corporation, over its bid to have its DIS 29500 ‘Office Open Extensible Markup Language (OOXML)’ endorsed by the International Standard Organisation (ISO).

Miscellany: OOXML Means… The End of Standards

It wasn’t long ago that the OOXML petition site posted and posed the 5 famous questions about OOXML.

Here are some 5 simple questions you should get an answer from your Standardisation Body, from ECMA, or from Microsoft…

These questions make it evident that OOXML becoming a standard would be absurd, to say the very least. The Web is filled with new comments about OOXML’s progress and here is one that caught my eye:

MS threatens legitimacy of ISO

Microsoft whines they are following the rules. Well, it’s also within the rules to fire a competent and cooperative single mother of 4 children and replace her with your drinking buddy. Some rules.

ISO will commit suicide if OOXML becomes a standard as it is now. But maybe that’s what Microsoft wants.

Closing a loop here, in reference to the issue of OOXML and safety, have another look at what Rob Wier said last week. It’s the conclusion in an essay whose title was “Is it [OOXML] safe?” (highlight in the quoted text is ours):

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?

Microsoft Fuels OpenDocument Disinformation with Funded Analyst Propaganda

Posted in Deception, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 12:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As the vote on OOXML approaches, Microsoft takes the curtains off some more controversial weapons. Behind everyone’s backs, Microsoft has been paying and conducting so-called ‘independent’ studies, commissioned (i.e. bought) by Microsoft itself. The other weapon Microsoft uses right now is cunning deception. More about this in the next post.

A Little History First

This technique has roots in Microsoft’s past. Watch this antitrust exhibit [PDF]. To quote a favourite comment which one of our readers, gpl1, has brought to our attention:

“There’s an interesting article in the April 2007 issue of Harper’s magazine about panels, audits, and experts. It is called CTRL-ALT-DECEIT and is from evidence in Comes v. Microsoft, a class action suit in Iowa. Here’s a paragraph from a document admitted into evidence, called “Generalized Evangelism Timeline,” about guerrilla or evangelical marketing:

Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology is a key evangelism function. “Independent” analysts’ reports should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent consultants should write articles, give conference presentations, moderate stacked panels on our behalf, and set themselves up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour. “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and granted research money).

They advise cultivating “experts” early and recommending that they not publish anything pro-Microsoft, so that they can be viewed as “independent” later on, when they’re needed. This type of evangelical or guerilla marketing is apparently quite common in the high-tech fields, and seems to be used liberally by open source developers.

The document admitted into evidence also says, “The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator,” and explains how to find “pliable” moderators–those who will sell out.

It is all a big money game. Most activists in any field know of countless “hearings,” in which hundreds of citizens would testify before a panel, only to be ignored in favor of two or three industry “experts.” When a panel is chosen, the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion. As with elections, they don’t leave anything to chance.” (a post from a Mark E. Smith about exhibit PX03096 “Evangelism is War” from Comes v. Microsoft).

Can you see the comment on stacking of panels and using bogus studies? This is definitely a ‘smoking gun’ antitrust exhibits. The other day at Groklaw, grouch, who maintains a mirror, was able to confirm for me, based on his wget log, that this document is indeed authentic. It was used in Iowa against Microsoft last year.

Brian Jones Has Bought a New Gun

Two popular Microsoft blogs have just reported that Microsoft unleashed some serious anti-ODF and pro-OOXML “propaganda” (that’s their own word). Here is Mary Jo Foley’s take:

Bottom line: Don’t let the interoperability rhetoric coming out of Redmond fool you. Microsoft’s battle against open-source and “open standards” backers is not over. Nor is Microsoft’s policy of commissioning studies to convince users of the superiority of Microsoft’s solutions.

From Microsoft-Watch:

Today, Microsoft made available an IDC study about so-called open desktop file formats. It’s yet another Microsoft propaganda effort, as a crucial format standards vote approaches.

But Wait! Who is IDC?

IDC has a long history of being loyal to Microsoft. Simply put, IDC analysts do business with the monopoly. They don’t conduct studies as much as they sell studies. That’s just what they do for a living. They prove or defend a prescribed hypthesis no matter what. At the end they deliver some required figures, which can be massaged, spun, and delivered to journalists.

We’ll present some examples of IDC’s recent ‘path of destruction’.

A couple of months ago, IDC spread some classic FUD when Dell began stocking Linux PCs (whose sales figures have by far exceeded expectations). Here is what IDC had to say when Dell did not deliver Linux PCs to businesses.

Dell’s refusal to sell Ubuntu machines to small businesses makes sense, because those customers typically want PCs that let them get to work righ away. “It makes sense because the assumption is they want everything to work right out of the box,” Richard Shim, analyst for IDC, said. “With something like Ubuntu, it’s going to require some tinkering.”

IDC ended up with an egg right in the face. Dell delivers to SMBs now. The Linux business is going well and expands to other countries. Moreover, other OEMs have followed Dell’s examples since then.

Here is another nasty example:

IDC pronounces Linux unimportant to European economy [in Microsoft-commissioned study]

A recent IDC white paper on the economic impact of Microsoft’s super soaraway new Vista operating system seems to be lacking one crucial ingredient — other operating systems.

IDC’s deep entanglements with Microsoft have not escaped the attention of The Register, either (and Gartner, by the way, is even worse; much worse).

NY Times bans Microsoft analysts from Microsoft stories

Part of the problem stems from the reticence of companies such as IDC and Gartner to reveal their clients. That should make everyone nervous, but it doesn’t. So called objective technology publications keep publishing material bought by vendors without telling you this.

Linux is not the only IDC/Microsoft victim. Not so long ago, just before the fairly successful iPhone was unleashed upon the market, IDC muddied the water.

Has IDC got the wrong number for iPhone?

IDC has poured cold water on Apple’s iPhone just days after a previous survey led M:Metrics to talk up the new entry to the cellphone stakes. But are the new numbers sound?

[...]

The most obvious difference is in the sample size. M:Metrics had 11,060 respondents, IDC just 456. The sample space was also different, with M:Metrics apparently sampling from mobile phone subscribers, while IDC looked at online mobile phone shoppers.

Here is yet another ‘smoking gun’ Iowa court exhibit [PDF] for you.

[Microsoft manager:] I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on TCO on webservers. I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on availability [windows was down more than linux]. And I don’t like the fact that the reports says nothing new is coming with windows .net server.

[...]

“I don’t like it to be public on the doc that we sponsored it because I don’t think the outcome is as favorable as we had hoped. I just don’t like competitors using it as ammo against us. It is easier if it doesn’t mention that we sponsored it.”

It seems apparent that IDC has a certain phobia. It knows where the money is and that’s where its integrity lies. IDC lies. It sidles with wealthy companies. Despite Windows Vista being a failure, IDC had nothing but praises to offer. It was ushering of its arrival, for cash.

While reviewers debate the merits of Windows Vista and analysts puzzle the over the pace of adoption, IDC and Microsoft are in little doubt over its impact for the economies of America’s 50 states.

To date, IDC has estimated Windows Vista will create 37,000 new jobs and generate $15.5bn in related products and services across just four US states.

Here is another.

Vista launch to add 100,000 Europe IT jobs: study

The study, conducted by research firm IDC and commissioned by Microsoft, said Windows Vista will be installed on over 30 million personal computers in Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom within the first year of shipment.

Wow. As we all know, 7 months later, Windows Vista probably ended up costing the economy a lot of money because people downgrade to XP “in droves”, according to South Africa’s press (sounds like the “Broken Windows” economic concept). Some have moved to Linux or to Apple Macs.

IDC was actually involved in studies about document formats in the past. It goes back to 2006.

This study is a fact-based analysis of the emerging open document standards, Open XML and ODF.

Moving on from discussions about IDC in isolation, here is another item to bear in mind.

It’s often difficult to figure out the motivation behind a particular study – until one finds out who has commissioned and paid for it. The so-called tech consulting companies would love it if the consumer believes that they have conducted an “independent” study. The worrying thing is that not many people blow their cover.

And another.

We have a game we play around the office here with Microsoft press releases. The game is called Find the words that make the headline true. It’s not always easy.

[...]

Our point: Microsoft has a long history of using press releases to promote their product momentum in shall we say interesting ways, using words like “fastest growing” (meaning, the number we started with was really really small) to redefining words such as “sold.” It’s not good marketing practice. Why? Because once consumers and press people figure out you are playing lawyer, they stop believing you and your brand. And that’s more likely to do you harm than good.

It now remains to be seen who will debunk that latest new ‘study’ from IDC. Not many days are left before the vote and many of those who can rebut are on vacation, We saw this last week. How convenient a timing.

The next post will discuss the latest stories about Microsoft deception, many of which have flowed in overnight. It’s never time for a holiday when the survival of a cash cow is in one’s hand.

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