A while ago, I was attempting to formulate and visualise the sorts of strategies that Microsoft might be chalking on its boards. I produced a mindmap a couple of weeks ago and MattD dissected the Microsoft/Novell deal. The mindmap goes beyond ODF/OOXML aspects and shows how Microsoft uses deals (proxies) to eventually get its way.
A discussion that I had in Linux Journal brought up some new facts and a train of thought. I then decided to focus on OOXML/ODF in isolation. Here are some of methods which Microsoft has so far used in order to battle ODF and promote its own enablement of vendor lock-in.
- Recruitment of members/voters/bloggers (some of which are anonymous)
- Linux companies: Turbolinux, Novell, Xandors, Linspire (binding contract involves OOXML)
- Corel deal
- Apple cross-licensing deal; using iWorks as ‘proof’ that OOXML is possible (never mind if support is read-only and very poor)
- Ballmer and Gates phone US politicians to flip votes and stack/group opposers
- Gates visits China, invites ministers to his home, and offers discounts/favours
- Hungarian minister calls for a new vote on OOXML(this time with Microsoft partners)
- New countries emerge out of oblivion and decide to vote on OOXML (easy “Yes” voters to persuade or even ‘buy’)
- Possibly (solid proof still required): charity in India and investments in Vietnam
- Lies and deception, e.g. telling people ‘election date’ is a month or so later. This way, they don’t turn up or never truly decide based on technical understanding.
- Ecma-related disinformation, CompTIA FUD (among other lobbying arms such as the ISC)
- Studies and paid-for ‘research’ (IDC)
- Making deliberate accusations and lies while those who can defend or rebut are on vacation
- Press releases that are incomplete and/or deceptive (e.g. bending the meaning of “choice” and “open”)
- Lies (or exaggeration) about third-party products (e.g. AbiWord) supporting OOXML, assuming that Microsoft Office is OOXML and vice versa
- Shutting out rival companies (Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Sweden, and more)
- Letters calling for support disseminated among (and by) Microsoft partners
- Phonecalls and E-mails sent to Microsoft partners for more lobbying muscle
- Microsoft creating Web sites and grossroots petitions (e.g. in the UK), then asking partners to show pseudo support by signing and participating
- Lobbying/bullying (e.g. “Men in Black” incident in Florida)
- Use of FUD in Congress, e.g. talks about budget failures that are not even related to ODF (diversion of discussed topic and a political debate replacing a technical one)
- CIO shuffles, e.g. in Massachusetts
- Use of connections in media, e.g. publicity stunts in the BBC (now influenced heavily by Microsoft, whose departing executives now work for the BBC)
- Use of connections in governments, e.g. UK National Archives, whose head chose OOXML for storage and preservation. This head happens to have two hats and one of them is a senior Microsoft position. He puts national archives (i.e. crucial public data) in the hands of Microsoft and their lock-ins.
- Spamming ANSI
All of these issues have already been covered in the site. Binding the appropriate hyperlinks to them would take quite some time, but if you require a pointer, fire away and we’ll provise it.
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“Never forget where you came from”
There’s not much love for the FSF, especially when the direction one takes is deviation from freedom while at the same time building upon freedom. O’Reilly and Web 2.0 may be one example of this. Google is another. Novell is taking SuSE down a similar route and even its community (OpenSUSE) shows little or no respect to required defenses against looming threat.
One thing that a friend of mine has noticed about the SUSE forums is they never lose the opportunity to trash the FSF. Here they go again…
“One of the funniest things I recall about copyrights and licensing is when Sun put their copyright in the shell script /bin/true. It used to be just an empty file.because by default an empty shell script will return true.”
“I just looked at /bin/true, and it’s worse now. It’s a binary compiled from C code with help option and can display version and copyright information, thanks to the FSF. ”
As my friend says, “I don’t suppose they will produce a citation as to where the FSF forced Sun to compile /bin/true and include copyright information.”
Here is what he calls the “FUD Detector”:
01. Invent a non-existent problem
02. Blame the FSF
If anybody reads these forums or participates in the OpenSUSE project, consider this a request for a citation. Where does it say that the FSF forced SUN to do anything?
Again, as my friend puts it, “It seems to be whatever the subject, someone comes up with ‘yea if only for the FSF doing so-and-so’. This [is a] quote in a thread titled ‘Gplv3 Arrives, But Nobody Seems To Care’.”
As another example from the forum, consider this:
“Funny, but when I first read the FSF rant this morning about the iPhone,” [says elsewhere]
No love for the Free Software Foundation, after all it has given for free? This is the expected response from Novell shareholders, but not from active contributors, so it’s rather disappointing.
In other news, SugarCRM brings to light what is probably the largest GPLv3-licensed program so far.
Version 5.0 will be licensed under GPLv3, where previously the company used its own Sugar Public License, which was a derivation of the Mozilla Public License.
From the press release:
SugarCRM Inc. has said that Sugar Community Edition 5.0 beta is ready for download and testing by the Sugar community. Sugar Community Edition 5.0 is being released under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3), a free software license published by the Free Software Foundation.
The thread in the OpenSUSE forum was titled “Gplv3 Arrives, But Nobody Seems To Care”, but some beg to differ. GPLv3 is growing very fast (and too fast for some company’s comfort).
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Votejacking escapes nobody’s eye in this digital age and the 21st century
There are several more countries whose voting process ought to be documented. Here is a relatively complete summary of information that is shared over the Internet at these moments.
Microsoft Said to Have Hijacked Vote Also in Norway, Denmark, Hungary
According to DesktopLinux, Denmark ‘pulled a Sweden’ and Norway may have ‘pulled a Sweden’ also.
Similar Microsoft vote-stuffing activities have also been reported in Denmark and Norway.
Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Sweden (Sam has more current information), and apparently nations in South America (Colombia, for example) were all sufferers of ballot-stuffing activity, courtesy of Microsoft partners. Perhaps (just perhaps) the same tricks are being pulled virtually everywhere, but this does not necessarily get reported and then scooped to be brought to people’s attention.
Also from DesktopLinux:
Some countries, such as Brazil, China, India and Canada, have already announced that they have voted against Open XML. The final result on whether Open XML will make the grade as an ISO standard will be announced on Sept. 2.
It is worth re-emphasizing again that Microsoft significantly elevated its charity in India just 2-3 days ago. It happened days after India said “No”. One must wonder if this is related to their vote on OOXML — a vote which isn’t written in stone until September. Don’t forget Vietnam.
Reports from Hungary have just been brought to people’s attention via Digg (original article in Hungarian, in case someone is interested). The same old story appears to be coming to Hungary now (politicians got involved).
Hungarian Standards Institution to reconsider its vote on OOXML
Mr János Kóka, Minister of Economy and Transport, has sent a mail to György Pónyai, General Director of Hungarian Standards Institution (HSI), about its the Hungarian vote on OOXML issue. In this mail the minister informed the director, that the IBM Magyarországi Kft (the Hungarian subsidiary of IBM) signed concerns about the way how the Hungarian
“Since then, new members have been inaugurated to the committee of the HSI, where the only requirement of membership is a fee of 100-200 euros. Many of the new members seem to have tight relationships with Microsoft.”
So, there’s going to be a new vote, but it’s going to be like Sweden all again…
It’s all politics again. Write this down, or make a mental note.
New Zealand Strikes Back at Microsoft (and Wins)
Over in the Australian continent, we have already heard about manipulation [1, 2, 3]. Australia was defeated (by the lobbying), so to speak, but New Zealand was fortunate enough to have vocal opposition.
Microsoft got caught using another type of deception in press with a spin on the word “choice”. We saw this pro-choice pitch quite recently when Microsoft was referring to ODF while at the same time refusing to implement support for this international standard. “Cross-platform”, “contradiction”, “release candidate”, and “open” are other words/terms whose meaning Microsoft constantly bends (even dilutes or corrupts). Georg Greve had something to say about Microsoft’s offer of “choice”:
Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe said that Microsoft is pursuing a “classic vendor lock-in strategy”.
“The absolute nightmare scenario is that Microsoft says, ‘Update your licences, or we’ll turn off your access.’ Access to governmental data will completely depend on the existence of Microsoft,” he told Reuters.
Other arguments against accepting OOXML were aired earlier this month when the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) rejected Microsoft’s submission — a crucial step for OOXML’s acceptance in the US, in particular by government departments.
“OOXML is Windows-only, so where is the choice?”
It’s rather amazing how Microsoft managed to describe OOXML as pro-choice. OOXML is Microsoft Office 2007 (which is the only one to implement a version/derivative of OOXML that is close enough to OOXML, per its documentation). As Rob Weir showed, even different versions of Office are already intra-incompatible. Despite the move to OOXML, Office 2007-formatted/produced documents cannot be properly read by Office 2003 (MathML was used as an example and journals therefore rejected the use Office 2007′s output).
Additionally, OOXML is Windows-only, so where is the choice? OOXML is not complete specification (w.r.t. to existing implementation), but Microsoft keeps hiding that fact.
So, gain, where is the choice? The choice is maybe the choice to elevate the price of Office, because Microsoft can. Because it controls the ‘standard’. It sets the rules.
Eventually, and fortunately enough, New Zealand rejected OOXML, which would not suitable as a standard.
“After considerable discussion and input from key New Zealand stakeholders, a large number of whom opposed publication of the document as an international Standard in its current form, the Standards Council have concluded that the best vote for New Zealand is ‘no’,” says Grant Thomas, chief operating officer at Standards New Zealand.
More Analysis and Thoughts
Rob Weir has his share of random thoughts. He also posts various links to stories about OOXML and standards.
Wait… this just in. In a survey of most dumb-ass Microsoft-sponsored surveys, first place goes to CompTIA’s “Microsoft, Creator of Civilization, Inventor of Fire & Universal Benefactor of Mankind” and second place goes to IDC’s “4% Looks More Important in a Bar Chart if the Maximum is set to 5%.”
This is a reference to all those ‘studies’ (hired analysts) and lobbying arms that Microsoft has been using in its fight against open source and open standards.
Some folks who were never involved with or concerned about OOF/OOXML are finally catching up. It is important that not only “document format enthusiasts” get emotionally involved with something that will affect them in the future. They help spread the word.
It appears that Microsoft is just buying the OOXML ISO certification!
Linux Journal has kept silent on this topic, until now.
None of this will surprise long-term observers of Microsoft: it’s simply the way it plays.
Watch the comment about Novell’s role (interoperability lab). Very interesting.
To repeat the observation that I made about an hour ago, there’s not much to add (which hasn’t been said somewhere before), but I’ve watched this like a hawk for over a year and here are my observations in short.
- Microsoft has used deals and partnerships (Apple and Corel included) to essentially buy support for a proprietary format.
- Microsoft formalised a proprietary format and resorted to what is arguably fraud, corruption and extortion (yes, they do favours to politicians and contrariwise — retaliate) to get ISO’s blessing.
If you ever needed evidence that Microsoft executives are — to put bluntly — “crooks”, there you have it. If you have not seen it, then surely you have not explored the OOXML fiasco deeply enough.
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There’s a lot of discouraging news coming in the next post, which still requires organising (citations get collected first, then expanded and grouped). Here are some of the more optimistic new stories, which you may or may not wish to have a quick look at.
France has just said “No” (with comments) to OOXML. The story behind this decision, however, is the most noteworthy. It says a lot about what was attempted in France (it backfired). Rather than departures from the meetings in protest (a la Sweden), serious confrontations began.
Apparently, the French discussion on OOXML broke into something resembling a bar-fight.
Matters soon got out of hand: the shouting seems to have climaxed with the Microsoft representative insulting the management of AFNOR, members of the Defense Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and two members from the Industrial Ministry exclaiming that they were servants of a banana republic!
Well done, France. The nation’s parliament is moving to GNU/Linux and some of the members have already received Linux laptops. It appears as though Italy, whose parliament is also moving to Linux (wrong distribution though), didn’t have its vote bought by Microsoft, either. It was only last month that a report from Italy suggested so.
Over in Russia, ODF seems to be gaining traction.
The Russian Government has taken a step towards endorsing ODF through an e-government program that would mandate use of software that conforms to “widely used standards” in all government contracts.
According to the Russian Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications “within the project to form an e-government concept in the Russian Federation, support of ISO/IEC 26300: 2006 is planned.”
The move has been welcomed by the Open Document Format Alliance, which said in a statement that Russia is “sending a message worldwide that software should be affordable, innovative and accessible, now and for the foreseeable future.”
Laura takes a close look at some recent developments and decides that there is trouble ahead for Microsoft.
Meantime, the managing director for the ODF Alliance notes that Microsoft’s work may backfire. As he told Computerworld:
Some of the comments that have been received from the countries… shine a light on OOXML defects. Governments will think long and hard after viewing some of these comments before using the format.
Even Stephen Walli, who used to work for Microsoft, opines that Microsoft will inevitably need to support ODF.
The sad part is that even if the ISO vote actually goes in Microsoft’s favour, it still won’t matter. It buys them a few years of market ignorance at best. This entire two year event is one for the standards text books on how not to respond to a business threatening standard. In the end, Microsoft will need to implement ODF natively. They don’t know it yet, nor do they understand why, but it is just a matter of time.
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A classic example. Think about OOXML and the Linux deals while reading this.
In mainstream media, headlines rarely tell the story. They state what companies want to be told because press releases and E-mails to journalists are picky and selective). Microsoft has recently taken control of Xen and tightened the screws on an agenda which it had already skewed last year when the partnership with XenSource began. A proxy, Citrix in this case, was used by Microsoft in order to escape antitrust wrath and direct contact with the GNU GPL.
The following new bit says it all.
The former Microsoft Latest News about Microsoft general manager is now vice president of XenSource, a Palo Alto, Calif., virtualization company with a growing outpost in Redmond, Wash.
It did not take long for a Free software trailblazer to be abducted by the company it threatened the most. Red Hat and Novell were just few among the Linux companies that needed Xen.
Citrix is close to and dependent on Microsoft. Last week we also discovered that it also has a poor sense of dignity.
Shareholders Sue Over Alleged Backdating by Citrix Systems Execs
A year after John C. Burris was hired as senior vice president of Citrix Systems, the company’s compensation committee granted him options for 42,000 shares of company stock valued at $15.69 a share, according to court documents.
But what has really happened recently? We covered this story at least twice before we probably have not stressed the takeaway strongly enough. For their future value (learning from the past), keep the following bunch of articles in mind. We may need to refer back to them.
Will Microsoft Buy the New Citrix?
VMware, holding some 85 percent of the market, with its VI3 technologies offers a fully integrated stack and represents a third generation of virtualization technology, while Viridian and Xen-based products, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, XenEnterprise and Virtual Iron, remain second-generation products, the report stated.
What the XenSource deal says about open source
This is what Citrix is paying for. That and a close relationship with Microsoft that looks likely to get closer. “We will be building dynamic virtualization services and management tools on top of Viridian,” Levine added. “We will build the same set of products we’ve built on top of Xen for Viridian. We’ve already hired a team to go do that up in Redmond.”
While Citrix maintained it will continue support for the Xen project, this deal is not about a proprietary vendor getting open source religion. It’s about grabbing an emerging player in a rapidly expanding sector of the market.
Virtualization Market Reshapes
“We prefer more freeware and open source,” said Christopher Boone, CEO of AppCentral Technologies, in San Francisco. “We had considered XenSource in the past, but we have a partnership with Microsoft and use their [free virtualization technology]…I think we will see a lot of consolidation in this space. EMC’s acquisition of VMware and now the IPO and its performance [are] indicative of the market’s appetite for this kind of technology.”
Does Citrix Have A Chance Against VMware In Virtualization?
“VMware will probably not be able to maintain its extreme domination in the server virtualization market forever,” Kumar writes, “but there is not other realistic competition right now. Microsoft is far behind and everybody else, including XenSource, is a speck on the horizon.”
Worry not however. There’s no need for a “good bye and good riddance”-type reaction. KVM is already here and it’s said to be much more elegant in terms of implementation.
For sysadmin types this means: do what you have to do with Xen for now. But keep the investments small. For developers this means: don’t let yourself be tied to a platform. Use an abstraction layer such as libvirt to bridge over the differences. For architects this means: don’t looking to Xen for answers, base your new designs on KVM.
There are several more open source hypervisor. They will fill the void and inherit the space that Xen might leave empty in the future. It is disappointing to find that Novell still plans to put its Linux under Windows. That’s Novell’s poor strategy, which is akin to servitude.
At these times when we see many suspicious deals and acquisitions, it’s worth bearing in mind that Microsoft is preoccupied with ways of subverting the rivals’ agenda. It’s easier than producing good products, with which it has been struggling recently (Windows Server 2008′s release date was pushed back yesterday).
Microsoft wants to poison Free software (OSI) and Linux, among other competitive threats and emerging trends, such as virtualisation. We must identify and interpret Microsoft’s reaction. We needn’t see another SCO.
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Was GNOME eying the Microsoft API back in 1997?
I sometimes think that certain people are either paid directly or ‘compensated’ (indirect payment) by Microsoft for sidling with a malicious and monopolistic agenda. Two individual examples would be the ZDNet bloggers George Ou and Ed Bought [by Microsoft]. Sometimes, however, a long-term strategy requires exploration.
Despite all of Miguel de Icaza’s enormous contributions to the Linux desktop, we must never forget where he comes from and who he still interacts with. Despite Microsoft long history of abuses, de Icaza defends them rigorously. He even defends OOXML. His vocal take on this matter has being used to fuel arguments made in favour of OOXML. Since he is expected to be on the ‘other side of the fence’, his arguments are perceived as more credible than these which come from Microsoft employees and partners. The same goes for OOXML support by Apple and Linux companies that liaised with Microsoft (for money, of course).
Novell’s direction with Linux seems worrisome. It does not align with the vision of a free operating system that builds upon open standards. Control of its direction is not decentralised, either.
Yesterday, Linux.com published an article that contained another ‘red flag’ statement from de Icaza.
Though de Icaza is no longer directly involved with GNOME development, he says his work on Mono, and that of the rest of his team at Novell, “pretty much revolves around the goals from 10 years ago.” He says he keeps in touch with GNOME developers, but “mostly with those who are using the APIs and tools that we are creating, like the Banshee Media Music Player, the F-Spot manager, and the Bater collaboration tool.”
Can you see this? Building a desktop that revolves around the Microsoft API was a goal since inception (unless we read this incorrectly). Follow at the link and read about his background again. It was exactly 10 years ago that Miguel traveled to Microsoft and attended a job interview. This statement from Linux.com seems like news, which might confirm what some used to call “conspiracy” or “hidden agenda”.
If you do not know why this is dangerous, have a look at our previous writings (GNOME is gradually becoming .NET-dependent) . What is the thinking here? According to a Gartner analyst, a lot of SUSE developers left because of the Microsoft/Novell deal. Some months ago, Novell said that it was hiring many Mono (.NET) developers. It sometimes seems like de Icaza and Microsoft have taken control of SUSE’s direction. The company transforms into something else. We’re concerned that we’re seeing a patent-encumbered clone in the making.
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“The System is Broken, But We Love It That Way”
“When will the linked list (or a trivial extension thereof) lawsuits begin?”
Many companies, including Novell and Microsoft, have publicly spoken about problems with the patent system. You would think that change ought to soon follow, but behind that sympathetic public relations mask, all you have is greed. Companies do not truly want change, provided they have got themselves a portfolio to boast and extract money with. Here is a new article from the Wall Street Journal.
Opponents of the legislation argue that it would make it easier for foreign competitors to legally copy patented methods and products. The maneuvering dramatizes how fears about global integration are spreading across many issues
Small companies are aware of the dangers that they face. They have barriers to face — barriers that were built by much larger companies. At the same time, wealthy large companies are being victimised by small patent trolls with very trivial inventions that most probably have prior art.
In the case of Linux and Free software, the former scenario (abuse by giants) is in effect a deterrent, but it is made worse by the fact that obscurity is used to incite panic. Microsoft has been doing this for years.
Patent Trolls Abound
You would be flabbergasted to find some of the stuff that gets patented and actually used to pull money out of companies’ pockets. Nowadays, do not dare to automate mail delivery, or else you might be sued for stepping on someone else’s toes.
Crouch pointed out that the message routing patent at issue has been involved in litigation many times. “There are no published opinions associated with these cases and they have all been settled,” he said.
There are many other examples, but this one was in the news. When will the linked list (or a trivial extension thereof) lawsuits begin? Will every software company on the planet be sued? Will such patents ever be binned? The European Commission is already addressing one case of abuse.
This is the first time that the Commission is dealing with a “patent ambush” under EC antitrust law, but the approach reflects well-established general case-law under Article 82 of the Treaty.
Aruba, which we mentioned the other day, has just been stung as well.
Mobile-phone maker Motorola said on Tuesday that two of its subsidiaries had sued Aruba Networks for patent infringement related to wireless local-area network technologies.
Microsoft in “Patent Harassment” Land
It was hardly surprising to find that Broadcom, renowned for their vicious behaviour and abysmal Linux support, have strong ties with Microsoft. Broadcom’s products are very Linux-hostile and they recently attacked Qualcomm, leading to an embargo. From BusinessWeek:
The chipmaker is snaring Qualcomm customers before the patent infringement ruling is final, as wireless players scramble amid supply worries
“Several [manufacturers] have been pushing Broadcom and Microsoft to build this development center,” says John Starkweather, general manager of mobile communications at Microsoft. He adds that, later this year, a major manufacturer will release a Windows Mobile device based on a Broadcom baseband chip.
There was some more information of interest in yesterday’s CNN Money article on a Microsoft entrepreneur.
There’s a healthy dose of skepticism in the programming community that Intentional will accomplish its goal. IBM and Cornell set up similar systems that were shunned by programmers. And MIT’s Edwards is dubious of Intentional’s attempt to patent its system in an age when open-source rules. “It feels archaic, frankly, to have all of this secrecy, the patents and NDAs,” he says of Intentional, which has thus far released few technical details. “The only way you have an influence today is by giving it away.”
Therein lies the proof that Free software is the way to go. There is no place for USPTO affinity whilst algorithms (essentially mathematics) can be owned and arbitrary implementations made taxable.
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Debunking a myth from a post that debunks other myths
Shortly after the Free Software Foundation had unleashed its statement on GPLv3 upon Microsoft, Ed Burnette posted the following item. Certain bits could not escape without comment, e.g.:
So clearly, GPLv3 will have no effect on the MS/Novell agreement, which was completed in 2006. But what about other deals, such as the latest one between Microsoft and Linspire? Some in the free software community were hoping that MS would make more deals after Novell, so that they would be forced to swallow the “poison pill” in GPLv3 making any patent grants universal. Not so fast, says Microsoft.
Ed clearly misunderstands this, or at least overlooked some important factors. Companies cannot enter similar deals — no matter how generous the Microsoft payoff is — because that would kill them (consider Linspire’s example). It’s not about the poison pill, so in that respect, the licence has proven to be effective. No deals have been made since GPLv3 was released. The malicious plan was intercepted before it could spread further, but the OSI remains an easy victim.
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