Moments ago the following good analysis was published and it nicely complements and overlaps our own.
Microsoft’s latest move on “interoperability” is an indication that it feels it has reached the stage of “extend” in the famous “embrace, extend and extinguish” strategy for which the company is well known. And the timing could not be better.
The embrace of four Linux resellers in 2006 and 2007 has been well documented and needs no elaboration – eager for handouts and keen to stand in line like good citizens, Novell, Xandros, Turbo Linux and Linpsire signed up with the team in Redmond.
It’s curious that an announcement titled “Microsoft Executives to Make Significant Company Announcement” comes a few days before national standards bodies gather in Geneva to begin a meeting that will culminate with a vote on whether Microsoft Office Open XML is accepted as an ISO standard or not.
Call me cynical but I can’t help noticing that this move also comes on the heels of a European Union announcement that it would investigate Microsoft’s actions in its bid to get OOXML adopted as an ISO standard.
The detail of the announcement will emerge later, much later, as there are thousands of pages which one must digest. Significantly, there is no time for those who are attending the Geneva meeting to understand this announcement – and that is by design.
Update: check out Bob Sutor’s excellent collection of links and quotes. Among them:
“The European Commission has expressed doubt regarding Microsoft’s announcement Thursday claiming a move toward greater interoperability.”
“Microsoft made major concessions Thursday that should make it easier for open-source software to dovetail with or even replace Microsoft products, but a major caveat means the company’s legal threats remain alive and well.”
“The European Committee For Interoperable Systems said it will take a wait and see approach in determining whether the changes will alleviate its concerns.”
What the heck exactly is “non-commercial” use of open source? Hobbyists?
“I expect that there it is no coincidence that this announcement comes just two business days (and only one, for most of the world) before the Ballot Resolution Meeting convenes in Geneva next Monday.”
“Microsoft is really pulling out all the stops to make sure OOXML gets the ISO standards nod. Losing lucrative government contracts here and abroad that require “open” standards would be no financial joke for the company.”b
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Coincidence when it comes to timing? Surely they would jest. Last week we saw some rather useless (and incomplete) binary formats being released which are potentially doing more harm than good. Microsoft was then raving about a patent ‘promise’ (semi-valid as long as you're not one of those 'ugly' GPLers). which is by no means a binding contract.
“Microsoft really wants to world to think that the company suddenly loves openness..”“It’s advertisers, advertisers, advertisers,” as Steve Ballmer once said (watch the video). It’s a question of perception rather than reality. He more recently described the solution to Windows Vista’s problems as one which is hinged on advertising. And that’s what the latest announcement is all about. Microsoft really wants to world to think that the company suddenly loves openness and some journalists are innocently falling for it, making the press coverage a total disaster.
Antitrust, Antitrust, Antitrust
Bear in mind that there are 3 ongoing antitrust investigations (happening simultaneously) at this very moment. They all involve Microsoft and these include the abuses against ISO. Microsoft’s watcher in Seattle puts the news rather well with the headline “Microsoft tries to appease EU by sharing secrets”.
Microsoft, reacting to the rejection of its antitrust appeal in Europe last year, said this morning that it’s giving outside software developers new levels of access to its biggest programs.
Antitrust regulators in Europe were emboldened by last September’s ruling against the company by the European Court of First Instance, opening two new antitrust investigations into Microsoft’s activities last month.
Kroes Doesn’t Buy It
The European Commission is not naive. It does not blindly follow the press coverage and it can read between the lines. According to Associated Press, it’s not overly impressed by Microsoft supposedly ‘opening up’ (we’ll get to the substance of this news at the end, so bear with us).
EU skeptical on Microsoft sharing plan
European Union regulators are expressing skepticism over Microsoft’s latest offer to share more information about its products and technology.
Patents, Patents, Patents and Patents
Four software patent deals have been signed with GNU/Linux distributors and it was made very clear that Microsoft intends to use GNU/Linux to its own advantage. If it cannot defeat GNU/Linux (and more broadly FOSS), then it is tipping over itself to make it possible to warp GNU/Linux such that it’s owned by Microsoft, at least in the ‘intellectual’ sense. Microsoft can then turn GNU/Linux into another Microsoft cash cow. With that context in mind, think about Mono.
The 451 Group looks at the recent events and concludes that patents are a major ingredient of this latest development, even though Microsoft did not place emphasis on this. Well, not based on announcements which it made (high note on ‘open’, quiet on the ‘tax weasel’).
It is worth noting that the new strategy will see Microsoft providing a list of the patents and patent applications that relate to the protocols and formats it uses for the named products. This should mean that open source developers are able to identify some of the 235 patents Microsoft previously claimed were infringed by free and open source software and will be able to license them (on RAND terms), attempt to develop around them, or challenge their legitimacy.
Don’t Cry for Ron Hovsepian, Argentina
Matt Asay, the former Novell employee who is neither there anymore (nor a fan of the company) explains why Novell ends up with an egg in its face.
Microsoft’s pledge to truly interoperate with the rest of the planet, including open-source developers (both commercial and community), leaves two clear victors in the Linux camp: Red Hat and Ubuntu. While Novell capitulated to Microsoft’s early demands for a patent stooge, Red Hat and Ubuntu stood firm.
Well, Novell gained a few quarters of “coupon cash” from the deal (though my sources at Novell say that customers aren’t renewing their subscriptions at a rate that Novell would like), but I hope it recognizes the value in standing firm for openness. What little wind it got puffed into its sails from its interoperability lock-up with Microsoft just dissipated.
There is an interesting sort of ‘leak’ there (inside information) about poor levels of subscription renewal, indicating that former Novell customers may be walking away after the deal with Microsoft.
A regular reader has E-mailed to inform us of the news stating rather sarcastically that he’s “sure we’ve seen the ever-spreading news that Microsoft are, er, ‘embracing’ Open Source today…”
“Like me, I’m sure you’re not fooled for an instant,” he writes.
The reader summarises what we are seeing in the following concise way:
It’s simply the next step in their plan to enclose the commons.
They understand that Free Software is going to win.
They have accommodated themselves to that, and are working on their best chance of retaining their abusive monopolist position in the new world.
So their answer is “Fine. You can have your ‘Open Source’. So long as you pay us a royalty for every single piece of Open Source you use. In fact, as long as they get their royalty stream, the are quite happy for us ‘filthy hippies’ to develop, unpaid, for them.
- It’s all about the patent encumberment.
- It’s all about owning the ‘standards’ (we saw their view of ‘standards’ in what they did to ISO).
- It’s all about enclosing (and hence owning) the software commons.
If you want to drink the Microsoft Kool-Aid, read articles in the press. They have to be 'politically correct' and follow the Microsoft press release, as well as face the wrath of prodding from Microsoft’s PR arms. If you have some different views, feel free to share them. It remains clear that Microsoft is motivated by profit, not goodwill, which it only sees as a route or a tool for making more money. █
Image from Wikimedia
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The recent news from England was discouraging and so was the discovery that Nokia, the new owner of Qt, is a key pusher for software patents in Europe. Then there is Sun Microsystems and its ambivalent approach to patents (lately it also nicked FOSS companies like Innotek and MySQL AB).
The heavy legalised bribery (aka “lobbying”) by no means helps (remember Microsoft’s blackmailing of the Danish government [1, 2]) and the next post will explore Microsoft’s new ‘promise’ and ‘goodwill’. Before we get to that, consider this new interview with Pieter Hintjens. the former president of FFII [via Digital Majority].
To be honest, the software sector, especially in the states, has been unable to take a solid position against software patents. Red Hat have been a long supporter of our cause, and I want to thank them for that. Sun… well, they seem unwilling to upset Microsoft, and Microsoft has been pushing hellbent for software patents in Europe, along with Siemens and Phillips, despite the fact that MS is the number one victim of software patent troll attacks in the USA. At a recent conference I attended, a Sun spokesman declared that trademarks were more of a threat to free software than software patents. Very freaky!
The day that the software sector forms a clear front against software patents, as pharma does for a unitary patent system (where all industries are blighted by the same 20-year patent model), will be the day our cause comes close to winning.
Another noteworthy articles is this one which demands change for the sake of the VoIP industry, where Linux and Free software are increasingly prevalent by the way.
The $250 million Vonage burned through as a result of the patent lawsuit brought by Verizon et al provides yet another example of why patents for business processes implemented on computers (a.k.a. software patents) deserve to die. Verizon’s two successful “name translation” patents negate an open standard assembled by Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Intel and Vocaltec via the VoIP Forum during 1996. The threat of patent litigation cleared the landscape of independent VoIP companies the VoIP Forum sought to make possible.
Added below is an article which demonstrated that even Microsoft knows software patents are absurd. With that in mind, let’s explore (in the next post) what Microsoft enthusiatically prepared the press for, calling it “big news” in order to create unjustified hype (confusion) and get unsuspecting minds excited just ahead of OOXML’s acid test. █
Older article of interest:
Microsoft Wins in Supreme Court; AT&T Ruling Overturned
In a stunning 7-1 decision with extremely broad implications in the field of patents and patentability, the US Supreme Court has overturned a Federal Circuit ruling that was in favor of AT&T, and has apparently affirmed Microsoft’s arguments that software coupled with the device on which the software is installed cannot be considered patentable.
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A post about Microsoft
embracing consuming trying to devour FOSS coming shortly
One of Microsoft’s greatest (and very vital) ambitions is to conquer and hold SOA on a short leash, ensuring that Windows maintain a certain advantage in an age of Web-based services. Gates et al. foresaw this threat back in the Netscape era, shortly before they decided to annihilate Netscape and bring back control to the Windows platform over the Web (ActiveX, seriously deficient CSS support, non-compliant Microsoft Office markup/MSHTML, war on Java and so forth). You can still find concrete evidence of this (as E-mails used among court exhibits) in our Comes vs Microsoft section.
“…Silverlight snubs GNU/Linux and it will never be ported to that platform. ”Using Novell’s helps (with Mono and Moonlight), Microsoft is still hoping to tighten its grip on the Web and be able to exclude rivals at will. Already, as a matter of fact and principle, Silverlight snubs GNU/Linux and it will never be ported to that platform. Microsoft is targeting — in a malicious sense of course — both Flash and PDF format (from Adobe/old-age Macromedia) at the same time. It also hopes to introduce Windows DRM as part of its offerings, too. Recall what was said last week about this fight against Adobe and Free software as the motor of the Web.
We have recently given several examples of practical ways in which Microsoft forces people to use Silverlight, or at least ‘punishes’ those who cannot use it (hello, Linux users). Consider the Olympic games and some video sites (mind the mentioning of Yahoo also). Given Novell’s existing 'advertisements' of Windows Vista, it would be almost predictable for them to put some Silverlight in Novell.com sooner or later (“buy SLED or Novell ‘protection’ for Moonlight to view this site almost properly”).
Here is another new report that combines and revisits several elements or patterns we have come across before: acquisitions, Silverlight, software patents.
LiveStation, which Microsoft Research co-developed with Skinkers, includes a client-based player that runs on top of Silverlight, Microsoft’s rich-media technology.
Microsoft acquired a minority equity stake in Skinkers in exchange for Skinkers’ use of the Microsoft P2P intellectual property.
It’s the same old theme — to be sure. Microsoft is willing to spend a lot of money (which it no longer has so much of) just to leave its .NET fingerprints all over the Net. It makes another dependency in cyberscape. The solution, by the way, is not Flash. The solution is open standards and preferably an open implementation as well. Mentioned among the previous links digests: Adobe Pushes DRM for Flash
Now Adobe, which controls Flash and Flash Video, is trying to change that with the introduction of DRM restrictions in version 9 of its Flash Player and version 3 of its Flash Media Server software. Instead of an ordinary web download, these programs can use a proprietary, secret Adobe protocol to talk to each other, encrypting the communication and locking out non-Adobe software players and video tools. We imagine that Adobe has no illusions that this will stop copyright infringement — any more than dozens of other DRM systems have done so — but the introduction of encryption does give Adobe and its customers a powerful new legal weapon against competitors and ordinary users through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The possible Nokia-Microsoft tie-up (and action) versus Ogg and pro DRM (details coming soon) is why we strive to give Ogg versions of videos and audio. For reasons and concerns that we voiced here before, DRM is a big win for Microsoft, which told Forbes Magazine that it likes it — no matter how much consumers loathe it.
“Remember that Novell’s support for OOXML is done using Mono and remember that OOXML embeds DRM capabilities too.”It’s not just media companies that love DRM, mainly because DRM makes media application- or platform-specific, augmenting the existing problem of application and data compatibility to form a new class of lock-ins. Simplified example: think along the lines of “your song is only compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista and expires in 2009.”
The role of Flash (and Silverlight) is ever more evident when it comes to video. These can be used to build applications as well, but there won’t be many takers for a whole bunch of reasons. With videos and binary implementation comes DRM, which brings back to mind the recent discussion about Mono as a "ramp" for WMV, DRM, and the likes of that. It might just be an implementation bridge, a programmers’ hook. That, among other reasons, is why Mono worries us. Remember that Novell’s support for OOXML is done using Mono and remember that OOXML embeds DRM capabilities too.
The Inquirer is not a publication to be taken too seriously (nor lightly) when it’s sarcastic, but Charlie Demerjian, a faithful Linux user, has this bizarre new ‘interview’ with Miguel de Icaza:
Inq: Why did you name your biggest project after an infectious disease?
Miguel: Because I am Mexican and in Spanish, Mono means monkey.
Inq: Thank you for your time.
It appears more than evident that other sources are growing impatient when it comes to Mono and addressability of the questions surrounding it. █
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Due to Novell’s increasing dependence on Microsoft, it has become rather difficult to distinguish between Novell and Microsoft. Both companies are motivated by some similar ambitions and therefore they help one another. In reality, Novell helps Microsoft a lot more than the other way around, so it’s hardly a reciprocal relationship. Novell gives Microsoft business whereas Microsoft gives Novell ‘FOSS bills’ to pay.
Quite ironic is that fact that Novell, a contributor to OpenOffice.org, is harming the very same project it purports to be helping. Have we mentioned that the front page of OpenOffice.org used to link to BotcottNovell.com for a couple of months? Watch what Novell is still doing for Microsoft, based on this new article from the Asian press.
In concert with the efforts to promote interoperability between the two platforms, Novell also announced support for the Office Open XML file formats in their version of the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.
Mind the word “their”. When Novell says "their", one can also interpret that as “Microsoft’s & Novell’s”. It serves both companies, as though they have become a collaborative team that strategises together.
Remember our writings about what seems like a Novell fork of the project [1, 2] and consider other related observations [1, 2]. Sun Microsystems, being a FOSS control freak, must not be too thrilled about Novell’s behaviour. Then again, there are many complex (and sometimes conflicting) agendas, so just like IBM, they ultimately find a way to get along and carry on.
“Hundreds of millions in throwaways is small money for a multi-billion cash cow, so Novell truly sold out here.”Novell ‘supports’ OOXML, but make no mistake. It does not mean that it truly believes in OOXML as much as it is obliged (almost forced) to support OOXML. It signed such a contract with Microsoft. Hundreds of millions in throwaways is small money for a multi-billion cash cow, so Novell truly sold out here. It apparently needed the money.
On several occasions in the past we showed that Microsoft increasingly support ODF. In fact, only yesterday there was the following article with a very telling headline:
Microsoft CTO: ODF is an ‘elegant’ standard
“What [Microsoft] is doing with OOXML is to further lock down [users] with dependencies on Microsoft technologies as part of their business value chain,” said Pillay.
Microsoft believes that ODF is an elegant standard, which seems to contradict the analysis of its own vassals, the Burton Group's analysts whom it hired for several paid-for gigs. Let’s repeat this headline again.
Microsoft CTO: ODF is an ‘elegant’ standard
Then use it. Remember that ODF is already the one and only international standard. OOXML is an attempt to ‘complement’ the standard with an application and an entire operating platform (Microsoft Windows).
Rob Weir has more to say about what was once described as the fragmentation of OOXML (too many versions).
So let’s reject Microsoft’s push for legacy inflation. Otherwise we will soon find that the next version of OOXML is also unchangable, since Office 14 will be out before the next version of OOXML is standardized. Will we then be unable to change anything in OOXML 1.1 because Office 14 is already in beta? Where does this end?
When one talks about or defends OOXML, the question you should ask is: “which version of OOXML? Or rather — which version of Microsoft Office(R)“? █
“It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats. We’ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. … Since it’s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement.”
–Brian Jones, Microsoft
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