On the first of this month, after reading about the original dispute between ODF advocates and representatives from the GNOME community,
Q: What would you say to critics that would argue that you’re a Microsoft shill, or less stridently, that you’re too accepting of OOXML and inadequately supportive of ODF?
A: Well, I’d (re)acknowledge that Microsoft is indeed a customer, but point out that our two biggest clients – those at the Patron level – are in fact IBM and Sun. So presumably I’d be shilling for them if I was shilling.
The whole pseudo-dialog there presents the same old argument, so if you’re new to the issue, it’s definitely worth a read.
”Miguel de Icaza was the president of GNOME at the time and he is also a Vice President at Novell, who thinks OOXML is a “superb standard”.“I’ve found out a few new things. What I did not know is the fact that Jody Goldberg left Novell just a few months ago. When I spoke to Jeff I got the impression that this departure happened a long time ago (enough to erode biases). My misunderstanding, however, isn’t the result of anything I was told specifically.
Since Jody worked at Novell until recently, one just might wonder about the influences and potential conflict of interests. Miguel de Icaza was the president of GNOME at the time and he is also a Vice President at Novell, who thinks OOXML is a “superb standard”. █
When Microsoft provides various examples of OOXML support, one of which is GNOME’s Gnumeric, it is important to remember that this is just one example among many others, which can be found in entirely separate places (besides other examples on MSDN blogs). That’s where Microsoft uses “GNOME support” as a bargaining card that demonstrates independence from the proprietary software world.
When several highly-visible GNOME people openly make negative statements about ODF and also make statements like “Office Open XML should be and blessed as and ISO standard”, this is damaging. When ECMA, in their most recent press release, mentions GNOME as a party that participates in the standardisation of OOXML, that is damaging. There are many other examples.
GNOME is essentially giving Microsoft many weapons to use for spin. Microsoft is arguing that OOXML is not bad for Free Software (GNOME) and should therefore be accepted as an ISO standard.
GNOME is naively pragmatic in this matter. In many respects, it’s possible to see some logic. It can be said on behalf of many in the community, who are not involved in the ISO process, that this is a case of pragmatism. It’s only a part of a larger picture though.
”In the mean time, Microsoft is lobbying privately and it is using GNOME as a support example.“After the BRM, National Boards go home to discuss the “new text”. This is when Microsoft will come in with all the silver bullets GNOME has given them. In the mean time, Microsoft is lobbying privately and it is using GNOME as a support example. That is a fact. Why would they not?
A suspecting party which opposes OOXML might ask: “But what about Free software, and patents, and the difficulties involved in implementing all of this?” Microsoft then responds confidently by using GNOME as the example that makes the ‘perfect child’, selectively citing and quoting voices from GNOME — voices that strongly support OOXML, not to mention an existing implementation and arguments that wrongly falsify some of the main deficiencies of OOXML (e.g. binary ‘extensions’, whose existence Jody Goldberg has tried to deny). Some of these arguments come from the mouths of a small groups (maybe just a tiny subset) of GNOME’s developer community, but that’s enough for Microsoft to pick on.
There are all sorts of excuses here about the community being independent and not being forced to adopt and accept a policy from up above, but this is where the Foundation’s role comes into play. It serves as an umbrella and it was not effective with its latest statement on this issue. It tried to express support for ODF, but it achieved quite the opposite thing by sending out a mixed message on the need for one universal standard.
There are quick sound bites, not much time to rebuke and these GNOME activities do damage. Period. This is not just us talking, but major international standards experts like Andrew Updergrove, Alberto for FFII.org and many others on the front line, who are right now preparing to beat down OOXML at ISO. None of them is happy with GNOME’s actions (speaking collectively here), so we, as Free standards and/or software supporters should not be either.
Some GNOME users might have to work with OOXML, which is a fast-moving target. In fact, it is moving so fast that even Office 2007 is not using the ECMA standard right now (Office 2009 is approaching a test build and who knows what ‘features’ will be added to the OOXML filedump by the time it’s relased?). Microsoft has already stated that it is not necessarily committed to stick to its own ECMA specification, which is still being changed.
The fact is that none (or very few) of GNOME’s users have actually received a .docx file. So, why get involved now amid this highly political process with so much at stack for so many in the community who have worked so hard, including all the major companies like Sun, IBM, Google, Oracle, the major financiers of Free software?
”GNOME is believed to have over-stepped its boundaries and made a mistake.“GNOME is believed to have over-stepped its boundaries and made a mistake. It cannot benefit from this participation in any way now and can only hurt itself and the community. Jeff Waugh refuses to admit it and some of his responses are aggressive and stubborn, which makes matters worse for the community as a whole.
Those who defend OOXML inside GNOME can deny things all they want, but others already do some ‘legwork’ by explaining our points (Jamie, Richard Stallman, Rui and maybe even Sutor and Weir, who begin to understand how OpenOffice and Symphony can get ‘poisoned’ by patents, through OOXML and Mono). The GNOME folks try to shoot the messenger, especially those who are close to Novell. To them, OOXML support might actually be a competitive advantage. It’s all about Novell, at the expense of everyone else in the Free software world, among other worlds. █
I am doing some corporate research these days to understand what it would mean if an entire company of 10,000+ employees chose to migrate to OOXML. OK, OK, I know ODF would probably be a better choice, but there are big bucks and corporate “friendships” involved here, so it runs out of favour.
”The question to Microsoft is this: who are you not ‘compensating’ (nicer word for “paying” or “bribing”) for assistance with OOXML?“Nice move, Microsoft. Trying to beat freedom using incentives, eh? Where else have we seen that before? Maybe the briberies in Sweden? Maybe the incident where you paid for Wikipedia edits of the article on OOXML? Or maybe it was the fake OOXML support from your business partners, whom you urged to go and vote for OOXML?
The question to Microsoft is this: who are you not ‘compensating’ (nicer word for “paying” or “bribing”) for assistance with OOXML? Frankly, Microsoft is getting plenty of people reason to be fed up. Why should anyone accept such corruption, which at the end of the day just defends Microsoft's moneyflow, at the consumer’s expense?
As further proof of the unhealthy state of patent law in the United States, consider this new story.
A company that was just awarded more than $140 million from Microsoft in a patent-infringement suit has sued the software giant again, this time for alleged infringements in Windows Vista and Office 2007.
In April 2006, a jury in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas found that both Microsoft and Autodesk infringed on those patents, ordering Microsoft to pay $115 million to z4 and Autodesk $18 million.
When you control information sources, you control the minds
Our previous post bemoaned the state of journalism, due to hidden motives in particular. It is sometimes worth writing a post which is slightly off topic just so that we can cross reference it in the future. This makes the Web site self contained, along with pointers to factual information that resides on other Web sites (news sites in particular). One piece of the puzzle that is still missing from this site are the strong holdings of the Gates Foundation in media companies worldwide, which affects reporting (making it biased, in favour of Microsoft).
Presented below are reports from the past year where the Gates Foundation buys, sponsors, or invests in media companies. The Gates Foundation is forced to disclose such information and the same goes for lobbying, of which there is plenty (that is a story for another day).
Here is a transaction that exposes Gates’ ownerships in Univision, which is a media company.
The foundation said it sold its remaining stake in Univision, which is in the process of being acquired by private investors, for an average of $35.34 per share in open market transactions.
Gates involvement has been very behind the scenes. In fact many of those involved in the deal didn’teven know he was one of the investors. It was carried out through the Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy outfit.
MediaNews did buy the Mercury News with a loan from Bill Gates’ foundation, and is in the process of paying back that loan by publishing information without much journalistic or technical integrity.
Specifically, I wrote “One might think that the San Jose Mercury News, being located in Apple’s backyard, would tend to trumpet the company’s success. One would be wrong… Apple’s corporate proximity to San Jose is trumped by the Mercury News’ need to publish low cost, highly sensational news to make enough money to pay back Bill Gates for the favor of his humanitarian loan.”
The foundation made moves in other sectors during Q3, as well, adding shares in Caterpillar and Canadian National Railway, while maintaining stakes in energy giants Exxon Mobil and BP.
We than come to the consequences, which are biased journalism and general fear of Microsft’s wrath. Linux Journal has a good article on this matter.
Of one thing I am fairly certain. Microsoft all but eliminated mainstream software competition. As a result, Microsoft became the primary source of advertising revenue for mainstream publications. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. So instead of publishing issues calling for a worldwide boycott of Vista because it focuses more on what you can’t do than what you can do, you see special editions praising Vista as the greatest advancement in computing since Windows 95. Granted we all know that Windows 95 was a dog from day one, but by the 90s, the mainstream press had already become rampant with Microsoft sycophants and they pushed Windows 95 like it was the second coming.
In short, I’d love to see a mainstream publication become an advocate for the consumer once again.
As noted above, there are exceptions, including Linux Journal, most other FOSS-centered publications and even The Register. But we’re the little guys.
Here is the impact Microsoft has had on the BBC ever since their close collaborative relationship began.
BBC viewers have flooded the corporation with complaints over how it covered the launch of Microsoft Vista earlier this week.
In one cringingly servile interview worthy of Uriah Heep, the Beeb’s news presenter Hugh Edwards even thanked Gates at the end of it, presumably in appreciation at being allowed to give the Vole vast coverage for free.
In other TV news items presenters excitedly explained how Vista could be obtained and installed – details courtesy of the BBC’s website.
But British viewers, currently forced to pay a £131.50 licence fee to maintain the BBC’s “impartiality”, were less than impressed.
Apparently he also told the staff that product reviews had to be nicer to vendors who advertise in the magazine. The sad thing is that given the economics of publishing in this day and age, I doubt anything even comes of this even tho it essentially confirms that PC World reviews should be thought of as no more than press releases. I know that’s how I will consider links from them in the future. But congratulations to anyone willing to stick to their guns on such matters.
Remember Mr. Geer, who apparently lost his job (or quit) after criticising Microsoft? This is far from fiction and the evidence above speaks for itself. █
Permission granted to use this plot, which has been slightly modified (annotation)
Rob Weir has just published an excellent new post which describes not only how far ahead of OOXML OpenDocument Format has already gone, but also shows how Microsoft deception (or “spin”, or “lies”, depending on whose side you’re on) is used to hide this fact. The first comment from Stephane Rodriguez is worth reading also.
There are fewer than 2,000 OOXML documents on the entire internet (as indexed by Google at least) and the trend is flat.
What about ODF? Almost 160,000 and growing strongly.
Looking at the comments, Microsoft has not yet found a response or a decent rebuttal. The silence speaks volumes.
Several times in the past we have shown cases where Microsoft uses the tricks such as (selective) statistics to pretend that OOXML is spreading quickly. It’s a case where the “numbers game” is called “statistics” or “study”, just as “lies” are called “marketing”, "astroturfing" is called “evangelism”, and "bribery" is called “marketing help” (yes, that’s how Microsoft sneaked out of the recent fiasco in Nigeria).
OpenDocument Format community steadfast despite theatrics of now impotent ‘Foundation‘
…Microsoft, the company whose Office empire is probably more threatened by ODF than most people realize, capitalized on the confusion by spreading its own FUD on the story.
The headline says “theatrics”. Dare I say that Sam Hiser himself has told me that it’s all theatre? Yes, his own words.
Other concerns to bear in mind here include journalistic integrity, which has been put to question. Time after time. After time. After. Time. Peter Galli from eWeek spreads FUD (no, he hasn’t stopped yet) which is based on the Foundation’s views. He seems to have joined the more Microsoft-dependent ‘journalists’, such as Mary Jo Foley.
This isn’t the first time that we catch Peter Galli spreading some FUD (see this open letter). Be cautious whose word you take (possible for granted, without doubts). A few weeks ago Peter wrote an article whose headline was not correct (about Obama’s policy on formats) and some months ago there was unnecessary outrage because of an incorrect headline in an article that speaks about Microsoft and virtualisation.
I have personally given hope on the mainstream media, which now more than ever is inclined to please its advertisers, sponsors, and benefactors. I’ll say more about this in the next post. █
Or Novell’s equivalent of “Mac Office, $150 Million, and the Story Nobody Covered”
This post was made possible thanks to a suggestion passed by a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous. He points out the resemblance between a decade-old Apple/Microsoft patent collaboration deal and the one Microsoft has with Novell.
Let’s go through the article and extract some points which are made about the Apple/Microsoft deal. We’ll comment about each of them in turn.
In July of 1997, the ongoing rivalry between Apple and Microsoft appeared to vanish with the announcement a new cooperative partnership that included:
1. a cross licensing agreement
2. a five year deal for continued development of Office for the Mac platform
3. the designation of Internet Explorer as the default Mac web browser
4. a small but symbolic $150 million investment by Microsoft in Apple
Sounds familiar? Well, point (1) is exactly what we find in the Microsoft/Novell deal. The patent promise was due to expire within 5 years.
In some of the other Microsoft deals (Turbolinux and Linspire at the very least), Microsoft products got embedded in the rival’s software, as in point (3) above. That serves Microsoft monoculture ambitions (de facto software and services).
The investment that is mentioned in point (4) can be equated to Microsoft paying Novell $348 million. Microsoft might argue that it’s due to cross-licensing imbalance, but Jeremy Allison opinies that Microsoft just needed to pay Novell to swallow a bug (analogy from an old interview).
Why did Microsoft invest millions in a partnership with its most obvious remaining competitor in the desktop operating system market?
In the case of Novell, that would be the Microsoft API (.NET/Mono), OOXML, software patents, FUD, and an ‘anti-Red Hat alliance’.
According to common legend, Microsoft was forced to pump millions in Apple to prop up the struggling rival as an apparent competitor to fool the Feds, who were hot on its tail leading up to the monopoly trial.
The government’s oversight is nearly ending (2007), so Microsoft must avoid extensions at all costs. The deal with Novell could truly get the Federal government off Microsoft’s back.
In addition to serving as an antitrust ruse, analysts, columnists, and sensationalists of all stripes have chimed in to add extra flourish to the legend of Apple’s rescue.
Equate this to the illusion that Microsoft had the upper arm ahead of the disaster called Windows Vista and litigation in Europe. From a technical perspective, SUSE Linux may have been more interesting than Windows Vista.
Legend Becomes Myth
As noted in Paul Thurrott’s Merciless Attack on Artie MacStrawman, it is fashionable among Microsoft apologists to insist that the company bailed Apple out in an altruistic act of compassion, and that any success now enjoyed by Apple should rightfully be delivered to Microsoft in tribute.
Microsoft ‘collaborates’ with Linux. How ‘kind’ of them. Patent tax, patent FUD, and OOXML forcefeeding come to mind.
Even doing very little, Microsoft could still make lots of money, keep Mac Office releases out of sync and well behind the Windows version, create compatibility barriers between the two Office platforms, and continue to leave long delays between releases.
That would enable Microsoft to slide along on fat Mac Office profits without much work, and would direct attention toward Windows, which would “obviously run popular programs like Office better!”
Microsoft had repeatedly used threats to delay or hamstring the next version of Mac Office as a bargaining tool against Apple.
The dependency has turned Novell into an obedient sockpuppet. Novell is Microsoft-dependent now.
Setting its products up as the default, pre-installed software choice was the whole basis for Microsoft’s monopoly business model. The company wanted to use the Mac platform to establish Internet Explorer and kill Netscape’s browser, ensuring that all web applications would need to be compatible with Internet Explorer, and thus providing a reason to buy Microsoft’s Internet Information Server product, and Windows NT servers to run it.
The deals with Linspire and Turbolinux contain elements that help Microsoft complete with Google. These companies link to Microsoft’s online services. Other elements, such as hijack of the Web with XAML, is something which Moonlight (via Novell) takes care of.
While Microsoft positioned Internet Explorer as a primary issue in its negotiations with Apple, the real reason Microsoft agreed to commit to Mac Office and lend some symbolic support for Apple with a stock purchase was to resolve outstanding patent issues.
Remember Microsoft’s deal with Corel, recall the ownership history of WordPerfect and then consider prior art and patents.
Microsoft paid Novell $539 million to settle its antitrust suit over the NetWare operating system, and Microsoft is still being sued by Novell over claims related to WordPerfect.
To sum up, Novell escapes litigation scrutiny in Europe, oversight in the United States, and legal issues involving Novell. Such deals have only one clear winner — Microsoft. █
With Novell’s customers getting exclusive patent protection for mono, it
seems unfair for everyone else who have a heightened risk. Increasing
mono adoption combined with MS FUD tactics would give Novell an unfair
advantage over its competitors (as Ms tech is more likely to be tainted
with patents obviously)
If novell want mono to be on the agenda then they really have to can
their patent deal – I personally would object to any new mono apps
proposed for Gnome because of it on the grounds I stated above
The discussion has drifted on to other forums as well. The last reply from Shaw (who confronted our assertions before) suggests that Novell will be at least pressured to stop with its Mono strategy.
”Our message gets dismissed using all sorts of excuses and questions about our credibility.“The situation might be too complex for some people to dis/agree with or understand entirely. A reader says that “like one of the other BN commentators stated recently, it’s a lot to absorb, and I’m still digesting it before making an intelligent comment.”
Further to the previous post on this matter, there seems to be an attempt to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Our message gets dismissed using all sorts of excuses and questions about our credibility.
I’ll have an audio discussion with Jeff Waugh next week. It will be published in linux.com/Slashdot.