“If you agree that Windows is a huge asset, then it follows quickly that we are not investing sufficiently in finding ways to tie IE and Windows together.”
–Jim Allchin, top Microsoft executive
During the weekend we intend to publish a fairly comprehensive coverage of issues that surround government establishments in the United Kingdom. Many of them are directly or indirectly controlled by Microsoft and concrete evidence of this cannot escape without comment. In the mean time, further to our recent coverage of the BBC fiasco, some action appears to be have finally been taken:
BBC Director General grilled by MPs on iPlayer
During the meeting there is discussion of iPlayer’s total cost to the licence fee-payer – the BBC representatives are unable to give a figure, but start the bidding at £20m, excluding staff costs. Thomson gives incorrect information – that Mac and Linux versions of iPlayer have the same functionality as Windows versions – and has to change his evidence at the end. Perhaps it was this confusion that prompted Dr John Pugh MP to follow up the encounter with a letter direct to Mark Thomson today discussing platform neutrality in greater detail. A copy of this letter has been passed to the Open Rights Group.
The BBC is not alone. The British Library and now the Library of Congress (reported yesterday) fell into the very same trap of platform discrimination. They have become what FSFE once referred to as "agents of monopolisation".
More on this will certainly come within a few days because there is more such stuff than we can capably cover given time limitations. Another item in the pipeline is about the use of Exchange 2007 as a tool of browser and platform discrimination. The folks at Redmond seem desperate for new lock-ins and they use government- or state-owned bodies to spread venom like Silverlight (.NET) and Microsoft/Windows DRM. Open standards and real cross-platform solutions hurt them dearly. █
Further references, for those who do not know what this has to do with Novell:
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Permission granted to repost this article from Russell Ossendryver, Charles-H Schulz of http://standardsandfreedom.net/ and Lars Nooden
There are some important questions regarding OOXML’s upcoming ISO bid that Microsoft cannot answer or just simply won’t. From 25-29 February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland, the ISO community will hold a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) of the National Boards to discuss and vote finally on OOXML as an ISO standard. This article raises questions that Microsoft should answer to the satisfaction of the ISO community as part of the deliberation leading up to the BRM vote.
Today our society depends upon an enormous variety of software applications and easy access to information in order to function on a day-to-day basis. Everyone knows the pain of moving office documents around. There is a level of interoperability that is missing in today’s world, and OOXML’s adoption will just perpetuate and worsen this problem. And we all want interoperability. We also all want the ability to implement a standard. A standard that can be neither implemented nor used is useless.
Open Standards represent a democratic ideal, which means accountability. When one proposes one’s own property to become an ISO standard, we have a right to know all the answers before we vote you in.
At Left: Highly respected Martin Bryan. As outgoing Conveyor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 he accused MS of stacking his group and said, “The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting ’standardization by corporation,’ something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees.”
Download this article as a PDF.
As it currently stands, for the ISO community to adopt OOXML as a standard would be the first step toward our cherished Open Internet and Open Standards becoming an asset on the balance sheet of just one company, Microsoft. Recall that Microsoft was held liable by the US government and the EU as a proven monopolist, which illegally leveraged that monopoly to stifle competition. Here are some of the unresolved questions regarding OOXML that Microsoft cannot or simply will not answer:
- What will be the default file format of Office 14 (Office 2009)? Will it be identical to that described in Ecma-376? We don’t know, because Microsoft is not providing us with a clear roadmap. Further more, there appears to be a very real question as to whether or not MS’s covenant not to sue applies only to the current implementation, MS Office 2007, if you read the fine print. Where is Microsoft taking the world with OOXML? We just don’t know.
- As part of the comment disposition process in JTC1, Microsoft is proposing to make thousands of changes to the Ecma-376 specification. When will we see a version of MS Office that implements all of the revised specification? Currently, not one single version of Microsoft Office is capable of actually implementing the OOXML specification.
- Thousands of changes are being made to OOXML as part of the JTC1 comment resolution process. Is MS going to implement those changes, and if so, and how?
- We have the OOXML “standard” and we have the MS-OOXML “reality”, what Microsoft Office actually writes out. It is known, for example, that MS-OOXML can contain scripts, macros and DRM, features that are not documented at all in the OOXML specification. What other features are output by MS Office but not described in the OOXML specification?
- The Microsoft Open Specification Promise (http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx) says that it only covers things that are “described in detail and not merely referenced in such Specification.” What are the technologies that are not covered by the OSP, the technologies that Microsoft believes are not described in detail or are merely referenced? What is shown in the OSP simply reinforces that the whole OOXML spec cannot be implemented. Rather than this vague language, why doesn’t Microsoft give an explicit list?
- What comments from the general public did Ecma TC45 receive during its review period in Ecma? Why have these public comments been suppressed?
- If Microsoft Office “Open” XML is truly “open,” why is it that the OOXML specification is tied so heavily to only one vendor’s products, as opposed to 40 applications currently capable of supporting the ODF specification?
- OOXML still has many technical shortcomings, as failed tests demonstrate. A couple of examples:
1) Excel 2007 can produce a fully binary file format that has the same extension as OOXML for spreadsheets, so the application knows what is inside, but the user will never be privy to that information, absent specific accommodation from Microsoft on a case-by-case basis, which is an accommodation that Microsoft is unlikely to grant to the public at large; 2) try setting a password on an OOXML spreadsheet file from Office 2007. The document is no longer in OOXML format and the user is given no indication that they are no longer in a documented file format. Is OOXML ready to be an International Standard?
- From the overall document contents, it is acutely clear that no effort has been made in OOXML to start from the existing ISO standard for the representation of documents in XML. (The current standard is ODF 1.0, formally known as ISO/IEC 26300:2006). OOXML is unneeded and only harmful. Why did MS embark on this deliberate departure from an internationally recognized standard?
- If you read through the draft submitted to ECMA and ISO you will see MS has only disclosed a disabled subset of the markup and functionality of its new file formats. Lots of elements designed into OOXML are left undefined in the specification and require behaviors upon document files that only Microsoft Office applications can provide. Why? Also, when MS released the feature RTF format for interoperability initially in OOXML, it supported both read and write capabilities in Office. But they changed that so Office 2007 can receive OOXML files but will only “Write” now to a different file format. Why did MS make this change?
- In addition to the “open specification promise,” Microsoft should change the licensing scheme for any relevant current patents which can be used to extend OOXML. Those patents should be made available under a license which is clearly compatible with GPL and LGPL. This licensing schema should apply to future relevant Microsoft patents, too. Will Microsoft make its relevant patents legally valid for Open Source use.
- The name “Office Open XML” is often mistakenly called “Open Office XML” implying a non-existent connection to the OpenOffice.org project. This naming confusion has been documented and has occurred numerous times, including by analysts and even in Microsoft press releases and blogs. Since “OpenOffice.org ” is the pre-existing name, by 6 years, Ecma should choose a new name, less apt to continue this confusion. Will Microsoft make this change as a condition of gaining ISO status for OOXML? Don’t hold your breath.
- The Open Specification Promise that covers OOXML explicitly covers only the “Ecma 376″ version of the standard. However, thousands of changes are being made to OOXML as part of the JTC1 comment resolution process. Are these changes covered as well?
- While Microsoft originally made assurances that the ISO would take control of the standard if it were approved, Microsoft has now reversed that position and will keep near-full control over OOXML within ECMA [PDF], an industry group that exists to advocate its members interests. Since the development and standardization of OOXML has been opaque, what guarantee will MS make to assure those activities will be done in an open setting in the future, including changes to MS Office as they are made which have direct effect on the format? Will Microsoft fulfill their promise to transfer stewardship, control and ownership of OOXML over to ISO, a promise made they made publicly and repeatedly?
- There’s a limit to what you can do with metadata. Working with RDF is nice, but custom XML schemas are the complete opposite of interoperability. Custom schemas break interoperability as they are by definition not shared by everybody or every organization. It thus condemns documents containing custom XML schemas to be manipulated and shared only by the users who have access to those custom XML schemas (typically inside one organization, generating maintenance problems for the future). How can the ISO community ever be assured that OOXML will interoperate with the established ISO standard?
- Many countries, including Thailand, expressed that they had no time to review the MS OOXML Spec during the Fast Track process. Other countries combined submitted thousands and thousands of comments. Yet only a small percentage of those comments will be addressed at the BRM, and all of those comments to be addressed will be technical comments only. When will comments on IPR, ISO policies/goals and JTC1 “contradiction” be resolved if not at the BRM? These countries deserve a resolution. Will they be resolved in an open and transparent fashion?
- MS claims that MS Office can support arbitrary user-supplied XML schemas. If that is really true, then the established ISO standard ODF’s schema could be loaded into Office 2007 and future versions natively, with an ODF option as default and the cloaking of OOXML as a standard dropped? Why not?
Information and communication technology (ICT) devices are able to exchange information only if they adhere to common communication protocols, technical interfaces, and information formats. We all desire the freedom and ability to develop, and implement these ICT’s. We all feel the need for ICT within the same field to be able to interchange data efficiently.
OOXML demonstrates a “standard” Microsoft hurried through ECMA and appears to be nothing more than a rubber-stamp of one vendor’s product specification. Microsoft’s OOXML is nothing more than a format Microsoft created by running a program that spits out the guts of MS Office in an XML form. Now MS appears to have realized this and expressed the “Intent” to deprecate features in the future. Microsoft appears to think it is best to get rid of references to legacy formats and other proprietary technology in experimental Version 1.
The trend is that Microsoft is opening up the boring legacy bits of OOXML, in stupefying detail, while neglecting to document the pieces actually needed for interoperability at a competitive level, like macros, scripting, encryption, etc. In essence, Microsoft is opening up and releasing the file format information that competitors like OpenOffice.org have already figured out on their own, while still at the same time restricting access to the information needed to compete. And the more MS realizes it has to open up the specification, deprecate and modernize OOXML, what do you get? You get XML. XML is XML. Strip out the non-XML garbage from OOXML and you will have the OpenDocument Format.
“Rather than hiding all the information we need and trying to cloak OOXML as ODF, we ask Microsoft to please get off the sinking ship…”We need for MICROSOFT TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS. Rather than hiding all the information we need and trying to cloak OOXML as ODF, we ask Microsoft to please get off the sinking ship, collaborate with the global community (which will welcome Microsoft) and help develop one universal file format for all. Long term, Microsoft can only benefit from cooperating with the market!
To our readers outside Microsoft’s walls, we ask that you please consider contacting the National Board in your country, and request complete resolution for all issues raised by the comments to Microsoft’s OOXML ISO application. Please be sure to insist that both the technical and non-technical issues be completely resolved as a pre-condition before OOXML is granted ISO status. You can find your delegates here: http://www.noooxml.org/delegations
An ISO standards vote is an open process. You are entitled to express your opinion. Remember a YES vote for OOXML is a vote against democracy and the freedom of choice. █
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“When you taunt the referee, he usually watches you even more closely. That’s what happened to Microsoft, whose “up yours!” attitude toward the Department of Justice has inspired investigators to dig even deeper. Now they’re looking at Microsoft’s efforts to take over Java. These relentless investigations sap Microsoft, and distract the DOJ from worse dangers such as Intel. And Microsoft’s childish, insulting behavior is largely to blame.”
This is definitely an off-topic post, but recent developments are too hard to ignore and leave alone without comment. Here’s just quick pointer to another new antitrust investigation of Intel.
New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has launched an antitrust investigation of Intel, after his office served a wide-ranging subpoena on the chip giant.
Cuomo is investigating whether Intel violated state and federal antitrust laws by coercing customers to exclude its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), from the worldwide market for PC central processing units (CPUs), Cuomo said in a news release.
The subpoena seeks information on Intel’s pricing practices and possible attempts to exclude competitors through its market power, Cuomo’s office said.
As you may recall, Intel dumped Classmates (covering their cost) just to drive OLPC out of the market. Do refresh your memory by looking at previous articles about Intel's case against Linux as a whole, not just Linux-powered OLPCs. This includes combating planned deployments of GNU/Linux in China and Russia, along with Microsoft.
Intel likes Linux only where money is involved. It strives to maintain hardware dominance and high profits regardless of the software which uses the hardware. To Intel, Linux is bad news, for reasons that Glyn Moody explained just a few days ago.
I’ve noted before that Microsoft is in difficulty over the ultra-mobile machines like the Asus EEE PC; now it seems that the other half of the Wintel duopoly is also in trouble because of the new triple-P (price, performance and power) demands these systems make….
This OLPC-Intel issue is already covered pretty well in Groklaw, so it requires little or no unique comments and interpretation elsewhere. I happen to have discussed this in Groklaw personally. Here is something that came up in the the midst of one conversation:
IIRC during the late 1990s Intel would threaten motherboard makers that if they made boards which supported AMD’s athlon they would get their engineering samples and documentation late, it took ages for any motherboards to appear which supported the athlon and the first ones were from small makers, then I think ASUS made a board but left their brand off the silkscreen possible to avoid a backlash from Intel. Intel knows the cost of building FABS and appears to be on a starve AMD of market volume thereby depriving them of funds to build their next FAB mission. This means that Intel will always be one or more generations ahead in process technology, this is a big thing in this industry.
The few articles I found are speculation but hardly unfounded Toms hardware Athlon MB review And another one
Tomshardware Athlon motherboard review 2 The reluctance of motherboard manufacturers to take up and promote the new AMD products even though they were technically superior at the time is telling.
The more terrible news comes as a correct assessment from Bruce Perens
Why Microsoft Must Control One Laptop Per Child
It’s a threat Microsoft can’t let stand: the entire third world learning Linux as children, and growing up to use it. And Microsoft is going to get its way.
It comes after a sudden wave of SCO-like problems for the OLPC project. A specious patent lawsuit over keyboards. Board-member Intel thrown out of the project for attempting to convince national governments to drop OLPC purchases and go with its own (Windows) product. First, OLPC is shown what its problems will be if it doesn’t cooperate with Microsoft. Then, Microsoft approaches with money and technical help – you just have to run Windows to get it.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Microsoft’s intent toward the OLPC project is at all benign. They will promote their OLPC software load for DRM-locked content with the help of proprietary publishers who are threatened enough by open content to throw some zero cost but DRM locked e-books to the third world. If they can get governments to commit to the DRM-locked content on your platform, a non-Microsoft OS is going to be out of the race.
Also, nobody who wants an open platform for the third world is being “religious” about it, promoting sound public policy is not religion. I’m really tired of hearing that old saw brought up, please stop it.
According to Microsoft’s OLPC team, which is responsible for “addicting” children to Windows (to use Bill Gates' own terminology), Windows will come to OLPC later this year.
Between Microsoft employees and third party contractors that we have brought into the effort, we have over 40 engineers working full-time on the port. We started the project around the beginning of the year and think it will be mid-2008 at the earliest before we could have a production-quality release.
Do not be surprised if the Gates Foundation later steps in. It will probably become the Sugar Daddy that “saves the day” for OLPC, provided it runs Microsoft Windows. Yesterday, calls were made for an abusive spouse (Intel) to return to the project. Will OLPC end up being just another Wintel laptop after so much corruption, manipulation and sheer abuse of volunteers? Can the world ever accept so much evil? More importantly, will the world be told the true story? █
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You might find the following stories interesting because they relate to some of the tricks that are used with (or against) Novell.
There are some new interesting developments inside Qualcomm [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19]. Here is one of the latest developments that are related to Qualcomm patent cases, which we frequently cite here.
Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder attorneys James Batchelder, Adam Bier, Kevin Leung, Christian Mammen and Lee Patch, and Heller Ehrman’s Stanley Young were sanctioned and harshly criticized by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major in a 42-page order. The ruling follows a patent infringement trial Qualcomm had brought against Broadcom Corp.
The attorneys “assisted Qualcomm in committing this incredible discovery violation by intentionally hiding or recklessly ignoring relevant documents, ignoring or rejecting numerous warning signs that Qualcomm’s document search was inadequate, and blindly accepting Qualcomm’s unsupported assurances that its document search was adequate,” Major wrote. The judge also sanctioned Qualcomm for intentionally withholding “tens of thousands of e-mails.” Qualcomm will have to pay Broadcom’s $8.5 million attorney fees — though that award mirrors a sanction already imposed by another judge.
Here it is put more bluntly by The Inquirer: Qualcomm lawyers accused of ‘exceptional misconduct’
The judge exonerated 13 other attorneys who had represented Qualcomm and ordered the company to review its discovery practices and report back to her later this month.
Prior Art Must Not be Buried and Forgotten
Groklaw requests some assistance as it reaches out for examples of prior art. The site has been doing this a lot recently.
This time it comes from a company called InterSystems, which is a software company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They’ve been targeted by a patent infringement lawsuit, along with the world and its dog. In Texas, naturally, despite the plaintiff, JuxtaComm, being located in Canada.
This video explains why such lawsuits typically take place in Texas. Here is damning proof that too many patents are filed and accepted, which probably shows that prior art gets ignored.
There Are Patents in Your Format
Remember Blu-ray and the format siege it went under? It was allegedly fueled by Microsoft for its own selfish interests. And well, DRM aside, have you ever considered the role and impact of patents, as revealed in the following press release?
MPEG LA Expands Call for HD DVD Patents
In its continued response to marketplace interest in the creation
of a joint HD DVD patent license including as much essential
intellectual property as possible, MPEG LA, LLC today expanded its
call for patents essential to the implementation of the HD DVD
Standard to include the following specifications:
1) DVD Specifications for High Density Read-Only Disc (HD DVD-ROM)
Part 1 Optional Specifications: Triple Layer Twin Format Disc; and
2) DVD Specifications for High Density Read-Only Disc (HD DVD-ROM)
Part 1 Physical Specifications (51 Gbytes).
Mind the use of so-called ‘propaganda terms’ (see Richard Stallman's take on terminology like "intellectual property"). An important lesson to learn here is about the burden imposed by inclusion of patents in standards. For what it’s worth, this battle for Toshiba’s (and Microsoft’s) HD DVD seems to be approaching a loss, despite well-documented dumping (a la Intel) and manipulation.
HD DVD, which is backed by Microsoft and Toshiba, now has support from only Universal and Paramount among the big film studios.
More curious articles from the beginning of the week show us why the director of Transformers was apparently right. Microsoft has a lot to earn from the destruction of both formats, so it intervenes and invests in market confusion. Watch this:
USA Today points out that the the movie download market could be another killer. That industry is expected to double from $689 million in 2006 to $1.6 billion in 2008.
And who is the potential gainer? The same company which is said to be destructing the market of physical media. From CES 2008:
Microsoft to bypass High Def disc war with Mediaroom on Xbox 360
This is why Microsoft is not overly worried about Warner Bros jumping ship from the HD DVD that they back, to Blu-Ray high definition disc format. They know that in the long run, the physical media will be bypassed.
This is a bit off topic, but it is hopefully it is considered interesting nonetheless. █
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