Dots connected to draw a broader picture
Remember the British Library’s Adam Farquhar, whom we mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]? For some context, you can read some of these older items where we argued that the British Library had been essentially corrupted by Microsoft, just like the BBC, among other British national bodies, possibly even the BSI.
Imagine how unsurprised we were to find it all coming together with ECMA/Microsoft at the centre and even the convenor of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 BRM. Have a look at this detailed new page:
A small network of people of ECMA International dominated the whole ISO process around OOXML while technical experts of national ISO members were impeded by committee stuffing, rules bending and political intervention and the general restrictions of the revamped ISO/IEC fast-track process.
On the right you find a picture of Jan van den Beld, back then general secretary of ECMA international who received the 2000 pages from Microsoft represented by its employee Jean Paoli (center). Jean Paoli is probably best known for taking the Microsoft credit for the standardization of XML. The other person with the beard is Adam Farquhar from the British Library, chair of ECMA TC 45. You also find the picture on the right in Adam Farquhar’s May 07 presentation which advocates for OOXML.
ECMA’s former general secretary Jan van den Beld was in a building on the opposite side of the Geneva conference center where the BRM had a hard time, now retired from Ecma and employed as a CompTIA lobbyist for Microsoft. And the company Griffin Brown, of which the BRM convenor Alex Brown is the director, sent out a press release 13 March 08 celebrating the 10th anniversary of XML:
“Recent moves by Microsoft to standardise its Office products around XML file formats merely confirms that most valuable business data in the future will be stored in XML. … Alex Brown is convenor of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Ballot Resolution Process, and has recently been elected to the panel to advise the British Library on how to handle digital submission of journal articles.”
Groklaw then adds:
A bit of background on the British Library here, but the short version is that it uses Microsoft, was a co-sponsor of having Ecma put what is now OOXML on the fast track, and says today it is “pleased”.
This hopefully serves as further illustration of the misconduct and the ‘politics’ that were involved here. People are associated with numerous different establishments that only appear independent while working quite tightly together. Some people wear multiple hats, too.
“It’s rather sad that the deeper you look, the more you are forced to see it boiling down to ‘politics’ and corruption.”As highlighted recently, consulting contracts and the likes of them can be used as means of “soft bribery.” Those investigating this sordid mess really must take a careful look at the moneyflow because many payments can and will be channeled through what seems like employment contracts and funding of institutions such as CompTIA.
It’s rather sad that the deeper you look, the more you are forced to see it boiling down to ‘politics’ and corruption. What this interview with Lawrence Lessig. Novell’s story may not have been all that different.
It increasingly becomes more evident that ISO, much like ECMA, state CIO office and various committees, was probably hijacked. █
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This may be an unpleasant subject to read about, yet without realising what Microsoft strives to achieve here, more companies might fall victim and become hostile just like Novell. Here is a quick roundup of stories that ought to shed light on Microsoft’s ramming of its presence and influence down the Open Source world’s throat, ISO-style
Microsoft and Lobbyists Throw a Party
This seems like the perfect recipe for some sellouts. And haven't we seen this before? Microsoft is inviting all sorts of open source figures to a extravagant party and even bothers to bring in all sorts of consultant whom it pays. Meeting of the minds of just pure brainwash? Your call.
Last week I spent two days on campus in Redmond with about 40 of my industry colleagues at the Microsoft Technology Summit, an annual invite-only event where Microsoft selects a swath of people from all over the world — key technology influencers — to learn about what the company is doing in its development labs and to preview advanced technology and new products, as well as to provide an environment for face to face dialogue and direct feedback.
With the exception of Rob Enderle and myself – who were the only two “Professional” journalists and analysts present at the event as far as I could tell — the entire guest list was stacked with Open Source community folks, such as William Hurley, BMC Software’s Chief Open Source strategist and David Recordon, the the founder of OpenID. It wasn’t all Penguinista heavyweights either – there were a bunch of people who ran OSS-heavy IT shops at major corporations and even academic types from developing countries in Africa who were using Open Source software to put technology in the hands of underprivileged kids, like the guy who was deploying Ubuntu and Linux Terminal Server thin clients to students in his home country of Namibia.
As you can clearly see, even GNU/Linux folks are brought over to Redmond. Microsoft and its affiliates are trying to buy love again.
We recently summarised the problems with OSBC 2008. Then, yesterday we came to find out that the organiser has also some questionable friends at Microsoft. We are not suggesting that there is a cabal here, but rather that Microsoft is approaching and wooing key figures in the open source world in order for them to obey and permit Microsoft’s entry. At the end, all you get is Microsoft standing there up in an supposedly open source conference where it redefines the rules, which then propagate into the press.
Smith also outlined what he said were Microsoft’s four big principles when it comes to intellectual property issues and open source software: First, a “well-functioning patent system” is a good thing. Second, there needs to be a bridge between different development, distribution and business models. Third, patents are best sorted out by “industry leaders [read: Microsoft and other big companies], so developers and customers don’t have to deal with these issues themselves.” And finally, everybody needs to make some compromises.
Microsoft doesn’t quite stop there. After repeated abuse of Web standards and criminal abuse of ISO Microsoft now enters MIT’s Kerberos Consortium.
Microsoft Corp. has joined the executive board of MIT’s Kerberos Consortium, an organization that oversees development of the widely used network authentication standard. Rivals Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are also on the board.
According to Cameron, the company wants to ensure interoperability between Microsoft and non-Microsoft privacy platforms, and has no intention of hoarding U-Prove. Cameron intends to integrate Brands’ algorithms into Microsoft’s existing identity-access-and-management platform by mid-2009, and plans to open the application programming interface to the world.
Moreover, Brands says Microsoft is placing the technology under its Open Specification Promise, which amounts to a pledge not to sue anyone for patent infringement unless someone tries to sue Microsoft first. The intention, he says, is “to make it possible for anyone to use this technology whether they use Windows or not.”
See that little bit about the OSP? Remember how Microsoft uses the OSP to exclude the GPL.
“Involved parties seem to be trying to ‘inject’ and force upon us the Microsoft-reliant and compliant idea of open source.”Meanwhile, also in yesterday’s news, Microsoft’s Gartner (or "Partner") Group conveniently confuses or mixes SaaS with “Open Source”. It’s adding more confusion and dilution to this pool of terminologies. Over in ZDNet, it’s said that Garner brings some “bad news” (and “good news”) about Open Source. As we asked recently, is someone paying to change perception?
Involved parties seem to be trying to ‘inject’ and force upon us the Microsoft-reliant and compliant idea of open source. We are still just trying to show you that Microsoft bends Open Source, not embraces or helps it. It wants to devour other developers’ revenue, and that’s just nothing new. Just look again at antitrust cases and witness history's lessons.
Microsoft’s approach to this fighting disruptive phenomenon can be described briefly as: commercialise, redefine, then change rules and generalise. It’s a case of invading, then expanding. Here is what Gartner, which is funded by Microsoft to a large degree, had to say and scare us with. It’s not related to the widely-circulated description of SaaS as a sort of open source-like thinigie (which in itself in harmful to the recognised “open source” label).
But for open-source vendors, the SaaS trend isn’t all good news.
In next couple of years SaaS providers will also challenge open-source vendors, and become the preferred method for lowering IT costs.
Mind the dash in “open-source”. I typically pronounce it “open minus source” because it pretty much describes what it is. It’s an attempt to get around the rules of “Open Source” with something that sounds identical.
ComputerWorld welcomes Microsoft as part of the ‘open source family’ in this new interview with Sam Ramji. This further illustrates how Microsoft partly hijacks presence (limelight time) in the very same area that it perceives and describes as its main threat (“keep your enemies closer”).
Zend, which has for quite some time seemed like a Microsoft apologist (especially after their deal), is now doing some more ‘PR work’ for its partner. It helps Microsoft change people’s perceptions about its willingness to change rules. And yes, it’s about software patents.
What did you think of Microsoft’s February 21 announcement about interoperability principles, basically opening up some of its APIs and technical documentation? What was the general reaction in the open source community?
This is obviously a multi-dimensional issue. I think on the one hand there is obviously, the legislation, especially in Europe, which is kind of forcing Microsoft to do that. I do think there is another constituency within Microsoft which actually believes that opening up more and becoming more heterogeneous is obviously going to benefit Microsoft. Because the ecosystem around the Windows platform is then going to be able to emerge that is going to add value to the Windows operating system. I think overall in the open source community, people have been cautiously optimistic about it. I think in general it is a good thing. I think it is a step in the right direction but I do think that there are a lot of details which aren’t clear today.
And there you have it. Another Microsoft partner gives the nod to taxoperability and lends credibility to Microsoft’s demand. Is this manufactured consent in the making? Also in the news, the following press release seems rather benign.
IONA’s commitment to Open Source software is an integral part of its 15-year heritage. With a high degree of Open Source community involvement, IONA supports the efforts of its developers who are members and contributors to a number of ASF projects.
The only possible concern is that Microsoft has just gotten close to IONA and announced a deal/collaboration at a very similar time (almost an identical time). There is no intersection between the two, but it’s important to remember where money flows from because it sometimes leads to expectations or implicit obligations.
By all means remember that Microsoft tries to get cosy with Apache, which it’s still unable to beat. Apache’s market share has climbed for several consecutive months, according to Netcraft. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Might Microsoft be on to something? Microsoft’s attempted ‘hijack’ of open source remains one of the least covered big stories. And that’s in addition to the software patent maneuvers, which are equally if not more concerning. █
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As obligatory background about Jan van den Beld consider the following:
Noooxml.org, having done some further research on this, brings this latest scoop:
On a Microsoft event in Portugal, called TechDays 2008, ex-ECMA and now CompTIA (Microsoft lobbyst group) member, Jan van den Beld explains how multiple standards come to be on ECMA
What does Jan van den Beld – former Secretary General of ECMA – have to say about multiple standards? He seems to be puzzled himself!
Quote from his presentation:
Q: Why do you want to have 5 [DVD related] formats? Do you still call that standardization?
A: You are well paid. Shut up
Check out the video at 4:10 and amaze yourself!
This was on Microsoft Techdays 2008, in Portugal.
As we have seen before, the same lobbyist, who used to work at ECMA, does a lot of ‘legwork’ in a fairly aggressive fashion. Here is some more information.
Jan van den Beld ‘sents love letters’ to the ISO system and leaches out against parties who want to appeal.
Where does Microsoft find these people and how much does it cost the company to abuse the system in the most careless of ways? As the case of Jan van den Beld demonstrates, it’s almost as though Microsoft has insiders at every level of this process. █
Also of interest:
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The world awakens to hear the true story
Over the past few weeks, as stories about abuse of the system came up in different parts of the world, some people became vocal and stated that Microsoft had made itself some new foes. They were referring to themselves. Questions about antitrust aside, there are some noteworthy reactions from around the Web and below is a list containing more prominent ones.
Here you will find the expression of dissatisfaction from the Free Software Foundation Europe.
Today the International Standards Organisation (ISO) approved
Microsoft’s Office OpenXML format as ISO/IEC standard 29500 despite
severe technical and legal concerns with the specification that have
been raised by various parties.
“FSFE published its ‘Six questions to national standardisation bodies’
before the September 2nd vote last year.  Considering the statements
about progress made on MS-OOXML, one would have hoped that at least one
of these questions enjoyed a satisfactory response,” states FSFE’s
German Deputy country coordinator Matthias Kirschner.
Benjamin Henrion has issued the following press release which is summarised thusly:
ISO members failed to disapprove the Open XML format. Microsoft has compromised the International Standards Organisation (ISO) during the rush to get a stamp for their Office OpenXML (OOXML), using unfair practices such as committee stuffing in several countries and political interventions of ministers in the standardization process.
ODF Alliance Responds
The ODF Alliance talks about this ludicrous situation where one company fights the entire industry to have its proprietary formats unjustifiably privileged. It also explains the role of ODF in this announcement.
The ISO vote on OOXML has raised awareness at the highest levels of government of the importance of preserving access to public information and records. For too long, this information has been locked into the closed, proprietary format controlled by a single vendor. This is increasingly unacceptable. For this reason, governments around the world have been adopting the already-ISO approved OpenDocument Format (ODF).
Andy Updegrove Responds
Andy Updegrove criticises the fragility of the process and accuses various factors which enabled Microsoft to have it hijacked.
In order for the credibility of the traditional system to be restored, a thorough review of the just completed DIS 29500 Fast Track process should be immediately commissioned. That review should include recommendations for reform that would include, but not be limited to, suggesting revisions to the rules relating to Fast Track and PAS submissions, new National Body and ISO/IEC JTC1 rules relating to transparency and conflicts of interest, and providing for circuit breakers and corrective actions that could be invoked the next time such a process has clearly run off the rails.
Statement and Responses from IBM
Here is the formal IBM statement on OOXML’s latest ‘win’:
“The need for truly open standards and processes is demonstrably more important than ever. IBM will continue to be an active supporter of ODF. We look forward to being part of the community that works to harmonize ODF and OOXML for the sake of consumers, companies and governments, when OOXML control and maintenance is fully transferred to JTC1 (ISO/IEC).”
Rob Weir and Bob Sutor have been eerily quiet in the past few days, essentially refraining from making comments on the subject. Rob Weir now explains how OOXML could poison the Web.
The world should be pleased to note, that with the approval of ISO/IEC 29500, Microsoft’s Vector Markup Language (VML), after failing to be approved by the W3C in 1998 and after being neglected for the better part of a decade, is now also ISO-approved. Thus VML becomes the first and only standard that Microsoft Internet Explorer fully supports.
Open HTML, anyone?
We alluded to this issue the other day (mind the citation at the bottom). Bob Sutor chooses an approach that’s similar to that of Andy Updegrove. If you want to see some more angry and blunt response, check out blogs of less formal figures who needn’t keep their cool and behave like gentlemen, even in the face of sheer abuse. Remember that the story is not over, despite the fact that Microsoft craves for everyone to believe it is. █
“If you flee the rules, you will be caught. And it will cost you dearly.”
–Neelie Kroes (about Microsoft), February 27th, 2008
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OOXML under fire
We experienced some downtime earlier, due to an overwhelming load on the server. This hopefully won’t happen again, especially at this crucial time.
Let’s just go very quickly at the overlooked facts which Microsoft and its press are less than keen on informing you of.
Two Months for Appeal
The story is not over yet and with various ongoing investigations, antitrust concerns and enormous scrutiny, this battle won’t be an easy one for Microsoft. Over at Groklaw, it’s even stated that OOXML “sits on hold”.
Now that OOXML has been shoved through, (and if you are new to the story, here’s a very complete and succinct history of what happened by James Hogarth on Tideway), we find it cut and bleeding on the other side. What about appeals of the travesty? There is an appeal process, although you may have noticed that Standards Norge’s decision was objected to elsewhere. Perhaps folks have gotten the idea that ISO is a bit tilted at the moment.
NetworkWorld agrees and here is what’s stated there, based on the simple rules in the ISO/IEC JTC1 Directives.
If any national standards organizations do make appeals to the Joint Technical Committee of ISO (JTC1) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that worked on the draft, then Microsoft may have to wait several months longer while the appeal is heard, according to Section 11 of the ISO/IEC JTC1 Directives.
Microsoft is already expecting some difficulties. It’s actually acknowledging that these challenges lie ahead.
Now that Office Open XML (OOXML) has been certified as an ISO standard, there is a possibility that the vote leading to that result will be challenged. It seems Microsoft is already counting on it.
Antitrust Issues Kick In
The vote on OOXML may actually be illegitimate for various reasons, including the possibility of WTO intervention. Over at InfoWorld the antitrust question and related implications are being brought up.
Microsoft’s ISO win may worsen its antitrust woes
Microsoft may have won a year-long quest to make its OOXML (Office Open XML) document format an ISO-recognized international standard, but claims of foul play in the voting process may come back to haunt the software giant when the European Commission concludes its latest antitrust investigation of Microsoft’s business practices.
More Irregularities in the Press
Reports about wrongdoings haven’t ceased spreading. Some of them actually reach the more popular press [via Open Malaysia] where the story about Malaysia is told.
Minister ignored objections
According to Open Malaysia, the Malaysian Industrial Standards Committee for IT (ISC-G) took a vote on Mar. 27 to decide the country’s stance on the OOXML-ISO vote, with 13 disapprovals, five abstentions and only three approvals.
By eventually taking the decision to abstain in the OOXML ISO ballot, Maximus Ongkili, who is two weeks into the job as Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation–following the country’s Mar. 8 general elections–appeared to have ignored the ISC-G’s majority “disapprove” vote.
The BSI is not off the hook yet, either. Far from it in fact.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) has always been one of those iconic central points of reference in British life – a kind of Big Ben for standards. But it’s a little hard to square that image – perhaps hopelessly outdated – with the BSI’s recent decision to vote in favour of Microsoft’s OOXML document standard.
You don’t have to take my word for this cognitive dissonance. Someone rather more qualified than me to comment on the process to produce the final version of the proposed standard is Tim Bray. He’s generally credited with being one of the fathers of XML, which of course lies at the heart of OOXML. It’s true he’s currently employed by Sun, the main backer of the rival ODF standard, and so potentially biased, but I don’t think anybody has ever impugned his integrity because of that.
Britain’s situation was last summarised yesterday. There will be a formal complaint about what seems like serious misconduct. There will be at least one investigation and a decent amount of evidence is already available.
Over in France (see yesterday's post), the founder of OpenISO protests against what has happened. He seems determined to explore and to help bring justice.
Having participated within the responsible technical committee of the Swiss Association for Standardization and considering the decision-making process that has been used to be unsatisfactory, I find it interesting to look at how things have been handled in other countries, in order to see what can be learned from that. I plan to focus my attention in this regard on countries where the primary language is German, English or French, so that I will be able to understand any relevant documents which might become available to the public or personally to me.
To sum up, the story isn’t over until — as some folks say — “the fat lady sings.” It’s not just a question of procurement though. Microsoft’s OOXML might still lose its ISO and it appears to be facing an uphill battle as highly disturbing findings continue to emerge or resurface. These not only shatter the already-stagnant image of the company, but might also have it lose this small battle, in which it invested a helluva lot. █
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While Microsoft intends to intimidate its Free software rivals using software patents, or at least force the foolish ones among them to pay ‘protection money’, the company also gets to grip with the fact that software patents are its enemy. With trigger-happiness and greed comes great pain as well. There is a reciprocal cost to be paid. Here are two new articles about software patent lawsuits which were filed against Microsoft and are yet to be concluded.
The first speaks about Alcatel-Lucent’s case against Microsoft. A verdict is said to be near.
The patents were owned by Lucent Technologies Inc, which Alcatel SA acquired in 2006. Lucent sued in 2002 claiming infringement of patents for computer-video coding used in digital television, DVDs and video games, a method for entering data on computer forms, and the use of a stylus.
We mentioned Avistar the other day and its battle against Microsoft is not over. It seems determined to give Microsoft a hard time because it’s in a situation similar to that of SCO. It has little or nothing to lose on the face of it (c/f previous reports).
So far, four of Microsoft’s requests have been rejected by the US Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) on procedural grounds. If all procedural flaws are corrected, the USPTO has approximately two months to decide whether or not to grant the requests and hold a full formal re-examination.
Tony Rodde, president of Avistar, said: “Avistar has a lot of questions about why Microsoft might be doing this, because some of these patents have nothing to do with Microsoft’s technology or business.”
If software patent lawsuits continue to rise in terms of number, just as TrollTracker showed a couple of months ago, then Microsoft’s economic model will lose its seemingly healthy equilibrium. More patent nuisance of this kind might hopefully — just hopefully — convince Microsoft to rethink that love affair with software patents. █
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Some months ago we spotted and documented a long series of strategic 'donations' which Microsoft made in countries on the verge of adopting GNU/Linux. One of the first countries in this series was Finland. Some more details now emerge from the Finnish press [thanks to a reader for the pointer]. The highlight below is ours.
Prime Minister’s former aide arranged Microsoft donation to Finnish schools
Mikko Alkio, the new State Secretary at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, who had previously served as aide to Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre), was a key instigator of a donation from Microsoft of computer software to Finnish schools.
Alkio was still working as manager for information society relations at Microsoft a couple of weeks ago when Prime Minister Vanhanen visited the United States.
During his US visit, Vanhanen met with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who promised Finnish schools a free package of the Windows Live@edu service platform.
As far as Finland and OOXML go, where does one even start? We recently put together some links and looked well beyond just OOXML.
“Employees that come from Microsoft sometimes pay a favour to their former employer.”Microsoft employees must always be considered, if not carefully tracked as they hop from one company onto another. Novell, Yahoo, XenSource, Nokia, Vodafone, the BBC and many others ought to have taught us some lessons. Employees that come from Microsoft sometimes pay a favour to their former employer. It would not be far-fetched to assume that Microsoft lets some employees go for strategic reasons too, in order to have an effect in governments and rival companies. The latter is less probably, but that’s just how the story goes.
We probably will require thus article in the future, its use being an example of possible ‘inside jobs’ at a national level. █
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