The month is nearly over and it has been about 6 months since we last revealed some Web site statistics. Here are a few of interest:
- Windows: 51.9 %
- Linux: 30.2 %
- Unknown: 11 %
- Macintosh: 6.4 %
- BSD: 0.1 %
- Sun Solaris: 0.1 %
- Firefox: 59.4 %
- MS Internet Explorer: 15.9 %
- Unknown: 8.2 %
- Mozilla: 4.4 %
- Opera: 4 %
- Safari: 2.7 %
The site now delivers, on average, over 10,000 pages per day and it continues growing in terms of readership as the weeks go by. Mysteriously enough, we do not receive many comments. One explanation might be that some readers prefer to dissociate themselves from the “Boycott Novell” message (the site’s name was Shane’s choice, not mine). Thanks for reading anyway. We are about to hit 2,000 posts in total. █
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It’s everything except OOXML
While we generally have no faith in CDF, we have recently carried on some discussions with Marbux (he still wants others to listen). One thing which he gets correctly is that there exists another lesser-appreciated great threat to Microsoft Office. It is the large variety of Web-based office suites, not just those native applications which support ODF.
To give you an example of the significance of this, have a look at the following new presentation.
Open Source is a great resource for educators not only because it is free, but many times you can find specific applications for your needs. Click through the Google slide show and click on the links if you would like to download any of the applications.
Here it is embedded as an
The fact that HTML5′s draft does not contain Ogg among its recommendations is partly Nokia's fault. It’s shameful because this tactless move from Nokia could truly hurt tools such as the one above. HTML still lacks video support that obviates the need for proprietary RIAs like Adobe Flash and its uglier new rival.
There is some new information available about OpenOffice.org 3, which ought to be available in September this year. Of interest is the fact that PDF, an international standard (ISO-approved), can now be imported and therefore be translated to ODF, which is already on its way to KOffice and plenty of other software.
Have just another quick look at some of the features OpenOffice.org 3 will bring.
We love OpenOffice.org, hereby referred to as OpenOffice like normal people do. We like the fact it does pretty much everything we need for free, we like the out-of-the box PDF and Flash support, its better-than-Word ability to work with large documents, and the joys of using a standard file format that’s actually, you know, a standard.
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Diverse markets are harder to ‘hijack’
In our previous posts about Trolltech and Nokia [1, 2] we mentioned a strategy where one company strives to defeat another by acquiring smaller companies/software which it depends on. This brought back memories of the Citrix-XenSource acquisition from which Microsoft gains a lot, but it’s unlikely to be the case when it comes to Sun Microsystems and MySQL. Oracle is in no solid relationship with Microsoft (unlike Sun), but MySQL is less of a risk to Sun or even to SQL Server.
Taking some of these recent deals into account, Glyn Moody published a somewhat euphoric article in Linux Journal.
Ever since Red Hat bought Jboss for $420 million in April 2006, MySQL was clearly the leader of the rest of the business open source pack. It is used by many high-profile sites – including Google – as well as the vast majority of the main Web 2.0 startups to do the backend heavy lifting. It might not be in the Oracle class, but as Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma teaches us, relentless technological progress tends to mean that the underpowered underdog eventually becomes good enough for the vast majority of users, while the overpowered top dog – Oracle in this case – finds itself innovating for the sake of innovating, and adding ever-more features that nobody uses. This makes MySQL the GNU/Linux of the database world.
I certainly don’t have any answers to these questions, but I do believe that people need to start thinking about them seriously. I fear we don’t have much time before the knock-on effects of Sun’s move begin to make themselves felt: Nokia’s announcement that it hopes to acquire Trolltech, although not directly related, is nonetheless part of the same broader trend. And once a domino-like ripple of acquisitions starts to pass through the open source world, it will probably be too late to do much about it anyway.
Many of us are still very happy for those companies that received a lot of money from the Giants. It is hard to criticise a free/open source company for being successful financially. However, many of us apparently fail or refuse to see the long-term impact. Wouldn’t MySQL have been better off with an IPO? This was truly expected, at least based on an interview with Matt Aslett and various magazines that pondered or questioned the CEO on this matter.
In a short correspondence with Glyn Moody he told us: “I think this is a case where we’ll have to let the facts speak for themselves. I hope that Nokia becomes more “infected” with open source values; but you’re right that they’ve made some mistakes in the past, and if they carry on in that vein we’ve got big problems.”
“Microsoft wants to lock up all Linux users in a single cage (e.g. Novell) and then eliminate the single encompassing company…”On the positive side of things, new free/open source companies are born every day. At the beginning of this year we saw plenty of funds going to Automattic (WordPress), Alfresco and others. Last year we witnessed the birth of a startup which capitalises on its baby Drupal. It received a 9-million-dollar investment. It’s not as though we are ‘running out’ of companies, but let us keep an eye open.
In a sense, the same principles apply to Linux companies that sign patent deals with Microsoft. At least 8 of them have done this so far, but there are practically hundreds of companies that sell Linux products and many thousands (maybe millions) that use GNU/Linux. Microsoft wants to lock up all Linux users in a single cage (e.g. Novell) and then eliminate the single encompassing company (or a small set of companies), thereby hurting everyone at once. But the Linux market is too diverse to allow this to happen, so there is hardly a reason to be worried. █
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“The purpose of announcing early like this is to freeze the market [...] One might worry that this will help Sun because we will just have vaporware”
–Leaked Microsoft E-mail
Consider this a warning. There are many known problems in the 'DNA' of the codebase derived from Windows XP/Server 2003, which makes Server 2008, Home Server, Vista and its successor or other siblings. Microsoft has openly admitted this, albeit very quietly. At the moment, Microsoft is trying to “freeze the market” (Microsoft’s own expression of this technique) not only through intimidation, but also using a slew of new lock-ins and announcements followed by procrastination or very poor products. Recall, for instance, the severe data corruption bug in Windows Home Server, which was revealed just weeks ago.
The Register has just published a good articles that makes some similar observations about this morbid pattern of delays.
The major issue here is that whilst Microsoft conveniently forgets the past, most of us can still remember SQL Server 2003, er…2004, oh, actually, that was eventually 2005. So Microsoft is turning into a serial offender when it comes to slippage.
Almost a year ago we mentioned vapouware tactics and provided some examples, some of which were found in antitrust exhibits that are leaked Microsoft E-mails. It’s worth making you aware of the fact that it is happening again and that has just confirmed by Microsoft.
We’ll guess that Windows 7 won’t be generally available in final form until about 2012 or thereabouts, maybe 2013.
“Didn’t Steve Ballmer promise to deliver a new version of Windows every 2 years?”The originally cited blog, which I read a couple of days ago, has run out of available bandwidth, so we’re linking to the Inquirer. The blog said that Windows 7 is only at the planning stage and will take (at least) 3 years to develop. Microsoft seems to have ‘leaked’ some mockups recently (viral marketing that Joe Wilcox apparently approves) and it also named the year 2009 in order to keep existing Windows users loyal (mind the recent comments from Stephane Rodriguez here). Didn’t Steve Ballmer promise to deliver a new version of Windows every 2 years? Promises, promises.
Have a look again at what we said a couple of hours ago when we explained the vicious (and mostly legal) attacks on Linux. The FUD used by Microsoft, ‘thanks’ to Novell kind acknowledgment, is just an empty accusation, much like SCO’s. It’s all vapour. Nothing concrete has ever been shown. █
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Moments ago we found the following interesting bit from the BBC:
The EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes talks to Peter Day about her power and influence on takeovers and cartels … and the benefits to consumers.
In the above, mind the part about takeovers and recall yesterday's discussion which involved one of our readers. Another reader wrote in to share his excellent insights on this topic. He permitted us to share parts of the correspondence:
[BN:] I know you like KDE and I really don’t like that new marriage…
[Reader:] We’re still trying to work out what the Nokia acquisition means…
Yes we like KDE, but have never had any dealings with Trolltech…
They’ve always been a source of problems for KDE. Right back in the old days, it was the licencing terms around QT that caused the formation of GNOME and the GNOME-KDE wars. From my (entirely personal) perspective, this got sorted out by the GPLing of QT for Free Software projects.
Trolltech have always occupied that strange ambiguous place. I have never understood how a Free Software/Open Source company can view itself as a product company, and Trolltech illustrate the case very well. I’ve never viewed the guys there as evil however, just disinterested.
Nokia are quite a different bucket of worms. As you point out, the Nokia attitude to software patents sucks, and they have been responsible for a reasonable amount of evil. My gut feel is that the Trolltech acquisition is *bad news*.
I’m afraid that’s all I can give you at the moment, and it’s all in the area of subjective viewpoint and speculation – as I said, we are trying to figure it all out ourselves right now…
The only concrete thing I can give you which is worth looking into is the licencing issue. At the moment QT is effectively GPL… [someone] tells me that the talk by Trolltech caused a few people to scratch there heads and ask “what was *that* all about?”… It seems that Trolltech repeated several times that if they went bust, or were *acquired*, then QT would be moved to a *BSD* licence… We suspect that the speaker had knowledge of the upcoming deal, hence the reiteration that the licencing of QT was about to change.
What does it all mean? I don’t know yet. I have a bad feeling that it may well reopen the KDE-GNOME wars, and it doesn’t look too great to me if QT disappears down a BSD hole and into the death-grip of a serial proprietrist with a hard-on for software patents
At best we are looking at a GPL’d ‘OpenQT’ for based on the last available GPL code, and life continues as usual.
It’s a damn shame it’s happened though. And as you point out on BN, we are seeing the oligopolists picking off some of the vulnerable Free Software infants
In one sense, the vulnerability comes as soon as a Free Software company accepts VC cash. In Trolltechs case, they had taken it one step further on when they floated on the Norwegian stock exchange. From there, it was almost impossible for them to accept an offer like Nokia’s – they were answerable to their investors.
Finally, at it’s widest view, it raises the interesting question of whether a Free Software company can stay true to the principles of Free Software once it has taken VC money and/or external investors…
[BN:] As I repeatedly say, just ignoring a problem (e.g. Mono, Novell) won’t make it go away. Awareness is our pal.
[Reader:] …please be clear that musings are all they are at the moment. I don’t have any kind of insider knowledge here, we are trying to figure the deal out as we speak, and I am merely *speculating*…
Some more of our current thinking…
Glyn has an entirely positive take on the deal:
If Glyn is *correct*, and Nokia intend for the GPL to stay, then we are in a ‘net neutral’ position for the Free Software world. We then only have Nokia management incompetence and stupidity to fear…
Where we are seeing a strange ambiguity about this is in the semi-private statements from Trolltech to the KDE ‘insiders’ at the KDE4 launch a little while back (referred to in my last email). It is here in its entirety:
“You will see that he goes out of his way to point out that QT would end up BSD’d after an acquisition…”The really revealing stuff is 15 mins 30 seconds in to the presentation. Bear in mind that this is Trolletech’s CEO, and he flew off immediately after the speech (most likely back to the negotiations with Nokia – a €100m+ deal would be right at the top of his ‘todo’ list). You will see that he goes out of his way to point out that QT would end up BSD’d after an acquisition…
Our best be as to what the deal is all about is QTopia. Nokia will be aware of the platform’s potential and will probably have seen the Open Moko.
As a corporate, they would be paying a licence fee to Trolltech for its use. Some bean counter would have added up the figures and declared “it would be cheaper to buy them”, and so it came to pass…
In this scenario, the Free Software piece would be incidental, if not irrelevant, to Nokia. It is entirely possible they would be content to allow it to continue as a GPL project. As I say above, we then ‘only’ have the problem of incompetent Nokia management being applied to it – if they only care about the QTopia piece, they will not likely care much about the KDE relationship, or any of the other responsibilities Trolltech have taken on as part of their participation in the Free Software world…
I guess only time will tell…
We shall certainly write more about this development as things begin to come clearer. █
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There are a couple of new articles that are probably worth your attention. Other than ActiveX and Silverlight, there are other technologies which help Microsoft leverage its monopoly on the Web and shutting out competitors. Don’t forget DRM and Sharepoint, which only yesterday I was told is rejecting SeaMonkey (it already discriminates against Mozilla Firefox). There is another type of noteworthy abuse which is prebundling and cross-linking.
As the following new article suggests, Microsoft has even resorted to throwing blame and denying the problem it created itself in order to extinguish competition about 10 years ago. It takes some nerve, does it not?
Fear, Uncertainty and Denial
I’m very much aware that this post could construed as FUD. Certainly, there’s fear, the fear that Microsoft will break the web in favour of supporting their customers. There’s uncertainty over the real facts and issues, since those has been cloaked by Microsoft through Non Disclosure. And there’s doubt, I do not believe Microsoft are doing things in the best interests of web standards.
FUD relies on vague information to paint a bad picture of a competitor, as a tactic of disinformation. It’s a tactic well employed by Microsoft, so it would be ironic for me to be successfully accused of FUD against the masters themselves.
As it stands, Microsoft’s closed negotiation stance, not speaking clearly with an unfiltered voice is a disservice to themselves and a persistent danger to web standards developers. The limited information, the secretive consultancy, the – what seems like – scant disregard of the value of open standards. These are qualities that are not conducive to solving problems or proposing solutions.
Mozilla expressed its concerns about Microsoft a couple of weeks ago and this wasn't the first time. Mind this new articles from ECT which talks about Active Directory environment FUD being used to keep Firefox et al off the corporate environment.
In the past, Firefox faced two main obstacles among enterprise users: its immaturity, and its incompatibility with corporate Web applications and intranets that relied on Microsoft technologies such as ActiveX.
An even bigger problem is that Mozilla hasn’t formally tested and certified either of the two tools.
“It’s absolute FUD to say that you can’t administer Firefox well within an Active Directory environment with third-party tools,” Ebron said, using the acronym for “fear, uncertainty and doubt.”
Mozilla has no plans to more tightly integrate Firefox and Active Directory, according to Chris Hofmann, the open source vendor’s director of special projects. He dismissed Active Directory as a “proprietary technology” that would hurt rather than help Firefox administrators.
“Multiple levels of permissions applied across different groups adds a lot of complexity,” he said. “If you look at the track record for that feature, it’s resulted in less security for IE.”
As you can see, the Web is still ‘infected’ with Microsoft-specific technology. Rather than improve this, Microsoft is about to bring more of the same. The European Commission already pays attention to these developments [1, 2] whilst the US, despite being aware of this issue, seems like a lost cause because of lobbying. █
Interviewer: “Will I have to suffer the shadow of Microsoft patents over Silverlight when using or developing Moonlight?”
Miguel de Icaza [for Novell]: “Not as long as you get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include patent coverage.”
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Microsoft development targets USPTO
When money is being lost, you can bluff. When key staff is leaving, you put a spin on it. When you cannot sell your products, then you stuff the channel, boast some bogus figures, and attack your competition.
Microsoft has found yet another method to concealing its problems. It signed patent deals with GNU/Linux vendors, lobbied for and defended software patents and started mass-filing for an accumulation of heaps of patents. There are two new articles that shed some light on Microsoft’s new strategy, which revolves around software patents (this was actually mentioned as an option a decade ago in the Halloween Documents). Here is the first article
Similar to a stash of weapons a player might rack up during an online adventure game, high technology companies for more than two decades have racked up as many patents as possible.
In November 2006, in one of its most controversial patent deals to date, Microsoft signed an IP cross-licensing and collaboration deal with Linux vendor Novell. The deal was roundly criticized by other members of the open source community who claim Novell sold out by joining forces with Microsoft.
Meanwhile, in September, the European Union’s Court of First Instance upheld a European Commission (EC) order that Microsoft license IP, including patents, required for interoperability with its products to competitors.
How about just using industry standards instead? Here is the second article that has it coming right from the horse’s mouth:
PressPass: So, what do you say to those who believe Microsoft has come to prominence by going it alone?
[Microsoft's] Eppenauer: The truth is that we’ve entered into numerous cross-licensing deals and IP arrangements with other firms in order to share our patent portfolio, to gain greater freedom to innovate and also to mitigate any potential legal conflicts. Some agreements have even been with direct competitors, such as our November 2006 patent cooperation agreement with Novell, a leading provider of Linux and other open-source software.
Remember that this is Microsoft's strategy. It cannot compete based on technical merits, so it’s important to understand its new alternate manoeuvre. Shown on the right is the man who sank SCO. █
“I realize the last negotiations are not as much fun, but Microsoft will have brough[t] in $86 million for us including Baystar.”
–Mike Anderer, Halloween Documents
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The best pro-OOXML propaganda money can buy
At the end of last week we alluded to Sam Varghese's piece of spinmeisters when discussing threats as a competitive weapon. Spinmeisters are expected to be well paid. These are the people that will have you (or the press) believe anything. Spinmeisters are often driven by some corporate interests and Sam warns that their number is rising. Several months ago Sam also wrote the article “Shills Abound”, which warns about the type of stuff that we find in OOXML/ODF studies from IDC (funded by Microsoft) and the Burton Group, which has very recently given some pro-OOXML/anti-ODF presentation to the press in Microsoft’s own yard. There is also the Yankee Group. Remember that analysts are not always required to say who funds their operation. Sometimes the funding comes through investments rather than commissioning.
“Good publicity in exchange for a paid-for trips is a no-brainer.”This brings us to the point of this post. The spinmeisters from Redmond are at it again (yes, again). Several months ago we gave examples where Microsoft flew in some Linux journalists to its campus and even bribed bloggers for positive publicity. Microsoft gets its money’s worth. Good publicity in exchange for a paid-for trips is a no-brainer. And here is a brand-new example from ZDNet Australia which quotes Microsoft employees on the subject of OOXML and ODF:
“It obviously works,” he said. “Apple, Novell, Turbolinux, Google can all do it. For somebody like Apple to bake natively the format into their operating system, it says a lot.”
Brett Winterford travelled to Redmond as a guest of Microsoft. ¶
Novell and Turbolinux are a case of paid-for support for OOXML (Microsoft buys this support [1, 2, 3]). The inclusion of Google is utter FUD for the same reason that IBM inclusion would be FUD. Microsoft recently lied about IBM and got slammed for it.
So there. Here you have another bias article that was composed after a seemingly-free trip to Redmond, WA where Microsoft partners delivered grossly-biased talks. We spoke about these free trips some time ago and nothing seems to have changed. Sugar Daddy buys some sugar.
More FUD can be found in the following new article:
“ISO has a policy that, wherever possible, there should only be one standard to maximise interoperability and functionality,” she says. “We have an international standard for digital documentation, ODF, which was developed by Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle and the open-source community some years back. ¶
Microsoft throws lies about ODF in this article. It’s almost as though some of these articles are intended to promote Microsoft rather than focus on the technical deficiencies of OOXML, the documented briberies, and the endless manipulations which themselves alone justify getting the boot in Geneva. █
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