Ending kickbacks and bringing what governments and users actually require and ask for
Sam Hiser has broken the news without giving too many details away.
It may be news to some — not to the ODF Community, certainly — that we at the OpenDocument Foundation have been displeased with the direction of ODF development this year. We find that ODF is not the open format with the open process we thought it was or originally intended it to be.
There are more details to come, so stay tuned and be aware that this whole game of money and power, such as Microsoft’s ‘bought’ OOXML support from Linspire, Xandros, and Novell should hopefully be ending. What’s needed is a universal format that serves that people and is maintained for/by the people, without the selfish commercial interests of companies. ODF mustn’t devolve into the same type of exclusionary club that is OOXML (Microsoft Office only), which only has a few selected members. Rob Weir has already begun talking about ODF 1.2, for example, but it is neither yet approved nor supported by many office suites.
OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.2 will be taking a step into the word of structured metadata with an RDF/XML metadata framework.
Remember that control mustn’t be given to the Big Vendors at the expense of a truly operable and interoperable solution that governments strive to have.
Andy Updegrove posted his own update on the ODF/OOXML situation last week.
The action in multiple countries leading up to the closing of the ISO/IEC JTC1 vote on OOXML has all but erased the memory of a similar multi-state contest involving ODF and OOXML that played out earlier this year. That playoff, you may now recall, involved the “open format” bills that had been introduced in multiple legislatures in the US, including in California, Connecticut, Oregon, New York and Texas. All of those efforts failed to accomplish their original objectives. As I noted in a summary of the rout I posted on June 10, each was defeated outright, except for the ones introduced in New York and Minnesota, where greatly weakened bills passed that called for the “study” of the open format issue.
There are interesting times ahead, but it’s clear that neither OOXML nor a mysterious attempt at unification which lacks transparency is seen as acceptable. It was bad enough to see undisclosed sums of money changing hands along with some changing agendas. No proper explanations were given at the time.
Update: there has just been another massive setback for OOXML. Andy has the details.
Update #2: it now appears as though limited ODF support will be coming to parts of Apple’s new operating system, Leopard. That is new, and it’s encouraging.
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A batch of recent stories about the latest patent mess
“It is clear that in the fight against GNU/Linux, Gates is willing to use whatever ammunition is available.”There is something to be said about the effect of company leaders on the company’s general behavior. The media, which is often sponsored by or associated with Microsoft in one form or another, likes to praise Bill Gates for charitable investments, but behind such ‘charities’ there are many stories to be told and there is one very vicious character. As Cringely said a few months back, “The company is built in the image of Bill Gates and Bill is a guy who gets caught-up in the game of business and doesn’t typically see its personal cost.” Just consider this terrifying patent trolling E-mail from Gates
[PDF]. It is clear that in the fight against GNU/Linux, Gates is willing to use whatever ammunition is available. If lobbying is needed to make such ammunition legal, then so be it. Arsenals can be changed when the law is controlled and evolved.
In the following new article, more is being said about Gates’ obsession with patents as means of building walls around a software monarchy.
“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio,” said Phelps, who ran IBM’s IP business before joining Microsoft four years ago.
Microsoft has struck six deals with open source companies, the biggest a recent deal with Novell, and more such deals are yet to come. In the past 18 months, Microsoft has spent a whopping $1.4 billion acquiring intellectual property of various sorts, Phelps said.
“The great ideas in technology will increasingly come from outside corporate labs,” he said. “To me it doesn’t make a difference if you got your portfolio through R&D or through buying it,” he added.
Mind the fact that this was not always he case. Rather, it is a case of hypocrisy. Consider the following two items:
Microsoft sang a very different tune in 1991. In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Mr. Gates worried that “some large company will patent some obvious thing” and use the patent to “take as much of our profits as they want.”
…Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism…
…Mr. Gates’ secret is out now–he too was a “communist;” he, too, recognized that software patents were harmful-until Microsoft became one of these giants…
It is hopefully made clear that even Microsoft acknowledges that it commits the very same sins that it once used to protest against.
Steve Lake has written an essay that proposes two ways of eliminating this patent mess.
There are two solutions to this. The first is to work hard, and starting with Microsoft, seek out every patent that pertains or could pertain to Linux and Open Source, and simply find the needed prior art and invalidate the patent. The problem with this idea is that it’s time consuming and money intensive. The community has better things to do with its time and money right now, so this idea really isn’t viable, except when all other options are exhausted and fully explored.
The second, and far simpler approach is to change patent law. There are enough people in the Linux and Open Source communities with a good solid legal background that could take up this fight, and groups like the Software Freedom Law Center, the Free Software Foundation and others could also join in and help draft the legislation that would fix the patent system and set things right.
Dana Blakenhorn has posted an item that further criticises the state of the patent system.
Good software is complicated, and patent law has no way to deal with this complexity.
Patent law is designed to protect unique inventions, better mousetraps. You can’t patent the idea of trapping mice, and you have to disclose how you trap the mice so other mousetrap makers can seek new ways to trap the mice.
OSNews spoke specifically about the recent case of Acacia against Linux vendors and why the situation is rather ludicrous.
You know, those things that say you cannot stack four pixels on top of one another unless you pay money to the guy who invented four-pixel-stacks (or the guy who bought the guy who invented four-pixel-stacks).
LXer has made the observation that, as time goes by, Microsoft is apparently less and less confident about the value of its software patents. That is despite the fact that Microsoft keeps filing for more of them. Have a quick look.
16 May, 1991: “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” – Bill Gates, Challenges and Strategy Memo
Aug, 2004: OSDL releases a study saying Linux may infringe 283 patents; Ballmer leaves away the word “may”
May, 2007: Brad Smith claims Linux potentially infringes 235 patents
Business Week had a quick mention of this issue as well and it bothered to outlines the differences between the European and the American perceptions of patents.
Second, the case also liberalizes EU competition law in several important areas. Prior to Microsoft, compulsory licensing of intellectual property rights was seen by the European Court as a very narrow remedy in the EU, to be strictly and rarely applied.
Image from Wikimedia
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The Var Guy has just expressed his thoughts and made a reasonable argument about Novell’s missing edge.
Solid moves. But Novell’s biggest challenge — in small business and in the enterprise — is promoting third-party application integration. Bundling popular open source applications like Zimbra with the small business suite would go a long way toward changing that perception.
In the following press release, Novell’s legacy is said to have been replaced by good old Debian.
In 2006 ESR Technology lowered its annual IT costs by 78% after migrating from Netware to Debian Linux. With the help of Sirius Corporation, the Open Source services group, ESR Technology aims to repeat the success of this first project during their expansion into Dubai.
As usual, SUSE gets no love from ITWire. It’s not because the distribution is deficient, but because the management at Novell made its direction somewhat repellent. Novell’s direction is no longer in alignment with Linux’s direction. They are going the .NET route, with patents and so-called binary bridges. They still live (yet no longer thrive) in a proprietary era.
Linux users don’t accept criticism of their chosen distribution easily – that’s probably why a number of reactions to my last piece about openSUSE tended to be somewhat short of making a point.
He seems like another victim of the ‘Novell patrol’. No criticism of SUSE survives without some rude feedback.
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On several occasions in the past, Linus Torvalds spoke about the Microsoft/Novell deal, but rarely has he criticised the deal unlike, for example, Mark Shuttleworth, who is clearly vocal and sometimes even angry. An interesting Article from LinuxWorld seems to be taking Linus to task. It argues that Linus should set aside a purely-technical agenda and use his influence to assist Linux, which would otherwise be subverted.
Last week, for example, Steve Ballmer confirmed many users’ fears by saying the company wants compensation from anyone who isn’t using Novell’s Suse or a distribution provided by one of its other partners. That’s a lot more direct than couching its alliance with Novell as an exercise in interoperability. It means that if you don’t use Linux in a way that Microsoft approves, you face potential litigation. Someone needs to provide a response to that. Who better than the operating system’s creator?
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Looking back into the past and the present remedies
With Novell’s case against Microsoft back in the headlines, the following new article emerges. It brings back memories that Novell’s current management either lost or never paid attention to. The article is titled “Wrestling with the monopoly”, but Novell’s wrestling is akin to a pig crawling in mud looking for love rather than actually wrestling with anybody.
It possessed a large and loyal user base in both the commercial and personal consumer markets but, by 1994, its share of the word processor market had begun to crumble in the face of a remorseless marketing campaign by Microsoft, aided and abetted by Microsoft’s dominance of the PC operating system market. The company was sold to Novell that year for $1.4 billion, but Novell passed it on to Corel 18 months later for just $20 million in cash and $100 million in stock.
We covered these stories and showed some antitrust exhibits on several occasions in the past, so they should be fairly trivial to find in the archives. In the article, “Technical sabotage” should replace the phrase “remorseless marketing campaign” because a lot of ugly stuff has been witnessed. It’s part of a pattern. Who could ever forget DR-DOS?
Fortunately, as another new article stresses, the ruling in Europe is bound to bring changes, whether its impact propagates onto decisions in other courts around the globe or not.
While the United States has somewhat similar anti-trust provisions, the application of these is more business friendly than in Europe. U.S. anti-trust aims to help consumers, whereas EU law helps competitors. Microsoft was able to settle its anti-trust case with the Bush administration, but it failed to do so with the EU. The regulatory climate in Europe is harsher than in North America.
It will be interesting to find how Novell’s deal is affected by this ruling — or rather — how the ecosystem that includes Novell’s rivals will benefit from leniency and freer interoperability.
Update: quite a major development has just occurred.
Microsoft drops SKorea anti-trust appeal
US software giant Microsoft has dropped its appeal against an anti-trust ruling in South Korea after losing a similar case in Europe, court officials said Tuesday.
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“…Microsoft got its way and received what it once considered “unamerican”, “a cancer”…”After the previous rejection, Microsoft got its way and received what it once considered “unamerican”, “a cancer”, and something which is inherently insecure. Yes, the Open Source Initiative fell victim to another invasion tactic that would enable Microsoft to hurt GNU/Linux. It wasn’t long ago that Ballmer talked about his plot to hijack open source away from Linux. That was last week. OSI shoots itself in the foot again despite Eric Raymond’s observations of fraud in the fight for OOXML.
What’s wrong with Microsoft being part of the “Open Source” movement? Remember that many of the projects to be considered are tied to Sharepoint or SQL Server or whatever proprietary stack is necessary for these arbitrary blocks of code to run. We covered this issue many times before. The “open source” terminology has just become less relevant than ever before. Sad day.
For now though it’s all eyes on Microsoft to see what the company will do next, and in many ways this will be more interesting than whether or not the OSI approved the licenses. For reasons that were never fully explained, Microsoft wanted open source licenses.
Now that it’s got them, will it use them to release significant code to the community?
Remember what Microsoft did to Mono a couple of weeks ago. Microsoft’s open source moves are no reason for celebration, especially when one looks ahead and sees highly-anticipated voids.
Novell ’s Mono chief demonstrated an early incarnation of “Moonlight” before .NET developers Tuesday but he warned that a full implementation of Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E), aka Silverlight, is unlikely — at least under his watch.
Remember the arguments about Novell allowing Linux to become a subordinate second-class citizen and a follower? That’s exactly it. That’s the sign. One among many.
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