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03.08.08

Now Comes the OOXML Patent Tax (Microsoft Lied)

Posted in Deception, Formats, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, Patents, Standard, SUN at 12:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When you pay Novell for semi-baked OOXML support, you actually pay Microsoft

Endlessly we kept insisting and showing that there are serious patent issues associated with OOXML (e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4]). Unsurprisingly, Microsoft resorted to bald-faced lies. It needed the false perceptions in order to lure in innocent supporters. And now comes the real Microsoft. [mind highlight, which is ours]

Microsoft today launched an update of its OpenXML and ODF translator for its Excel and Powerpoint applications and pledged to keep churning out more documentation to enable interoperability — and more patents to protect that IP.

[...]

Microsoft would not disclose pricing for its protocol licensing but pledged today that going forward it will be offered at a “reasonable and non discriminatory” (RAND) manner. Late last month — just days after Microsoft launched its multi-faceted interoperability initiative –the European Union fined Microsoft $1.4 billion for allegedly failing to comply with a three-year-old order to supply server interoperability data for competitors. Some rivals, including Samba and other open source players, argued in the past that that the costs were too prohibitive for ISVs.

Here comes Joe Wilcox comparing such an ‘interoperability’ to a public relations stunt.

Microsoft’s idea of a Document Interoperability Initiative is to put together a bunch of businesses that profit from file format incompatibilities. And that is supposed to demonstrate—quoting from the press release—”Microsoft’s commitment to implement a set of strategic changes in its technology and business practices to expand interoperability through the implementation of its interoperability principles.”

With such tricks being played, it’s hardly surprising that Sun is already adopting the (L)GPLv3 for OpenOffice.org. We wrote about this yesterday and here comes a later observation about the timing of the announcement.

OpenOffice.org has announced that the project will be moving from its current LGPLv2 licensing to the LGPLv3 with a coming version 3.0 of the open source office software suite.

[...]

Interestingly, OpenOffice.org’s announcement comes on the same day Microsot has made another interoperability announcement, this time centered on document formats.

The main man of the Open Source Initiative is at the same time praising Sun’s Simon Phipps, who was the first to announce this adoption of (upgrade to) the LGPLv3.

I believed that no matter what the process, a standard should be judged by the product. Watching the fallout settle from the BRM in Geneva, I’m beginning to think that you were right and I was wrong.

What you got right is that when a process is allowed to go out of its way to exclude legitimate participation, we must withdraw from the presumption that the standard can be legitimate, even if the end product does not overly exclude the possibility of an open source implementation. This is what I have leared by reading the Groklaw report on the BRM.

To conclude, Microsoft’s OOXML is a case of charging competitors money. OOXML is not free. The next few posts will also show that OOXML support simply cannot be provided by anything other than Microsoft Office, one of the company’s last remaining cash cows. Microsoft wants to control a second ‘standard’ not in order to facilitate choice, but in order to make more money.

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5 Comments

  1. markus said,

    March 8, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Gravatar

    Nice article.

    However I must protest that the EU – their decision some months was actually _bad_. The EU said that all the patents that MS has still apply (!) which means that the EU has strengthened MS position directly. :(
    The patent law suits are just postponed to a later day, as you can see how quickly MS finds new allies, i.e. Novell.

    Also, the cost to gain documentation is not free, instead the EU has only capped it. This is outrageous, the EU started a law suit but in fact ended by strengthening MS position.

    This is exactly why MS thinks it can get away with their supposedly free OOXML standard. After they bought Novell and Novell buckled in favour of the money, what opposition would hold against MS if even the EU supports MS point of view?

    The law suit about interoperability started earlier, because of fear of the multimedia market. And now, did the EU change the market AT ALL?

    No. Nokia, Apple and Google had a MUCH bigger influence on the video market than the EU with all its useless laws and regulations.

    This is so sad… The EU does nothing seriously against de facto monopolies. They should rather encourage a network of smaller companies work together, or they should encourage grants which go to the general public instead of being held by pseudo-patents.

    Microsoft tries to prevent any competition on its monopoly. The XNA license explicitely forbids using it on i.e. Linux. OOXML is of course tied to MS products (but actually there are many reasons why OOXML should not be allowed to become an ISO standard. I have no illusion that it will, money is just too important.)

    What is left actually?
    Noone is really surprised that Microsoft speaks with a splitted tongue. Same old company tactic. Over time, Microsoft will shrink, simply because its products will slowly become less and less important. (Its just sad that Google plays a bigger role than Linux-Desktop …)

    But the one to blame here actually is Novell, because Novell sold their soul with the Microsoft deal.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 8, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Gravatar

    See what we wrote about this awful decision in Europe before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

    As for Novell, it’s the one sellout which started an avalanche. It was the precedence Microsoft needed, just as myself and I predicted days after the deal had been signed. I was on the OpenSUSE mailing lists at the time.

  3. Philluminati said,

    March 8, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Gravatar

    It’s good that you are here doing this work and keeping your eye on Microsoft after other people have dismissed these concerns.

    You were and continue to be right to do so and this article proves it.

    Microsoft’s “high negative” is not merely a perception nor a natural result of having a popular product but the result of being a price-fixing, overcharging, unfair, over-restricting, anti-competitive, anti-compatible, poor-software-writing, user-needs-ignoring, tax-fiddling, compulsive-lying abuse monopolist!

    This site, the FOSS companies and the people closely involved are going to be the people that save the world from another generation of Microsoft Lock in, provided they continue to do such a good job to bring these issues into the foreground.

    Phillip Taylor :-)

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 8, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Gravatar

    Hey Philluminati,

    This is the first time I see your real name. Thanks for the compliments..I notice an oopise in my last comment. It should say “others and I”. I still remember the messages from that time. Andreas was dismissive and hopeless. We could not change a thing. He said the deal was irrevocable when we were still begging for it to be retracted, simply canceled. But that’s history anyway…

  5. CoolGuy said,

    March 9, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Gravatar

    Most of FOSS are not aware of the legal issues. We are developers and lest concerned about these shaddy deals. If it were not for this website I would have just used opensuse/mono/etc.

    Atleast the issues about novell/mono/ooxml are coming to light and as Roy had predicted about m$ – it has come true.

    I dont know what stand novell will take now. They are already a sunken ship the day they sold out to m$.

    But I think that this had happened for good – atleast the GPL3 is much more stronger now due to novell :P Everytime m$ tried to hurt GPL – it has come out more stronger than before and making m$ more weaker. Too bad novell and opensuse paid the price for it.

    I did dowload the opensuse live cd to try it out…liked it a bit, maybe had recommended it to few ppl. but now I stay away from such companies and recommend others to use fedora/ubuntu/debian.

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