It is going to get a little harder to trust articles from Joe Brockmeier (better known as Zonker), especially if his journalistic integrity has the intersecting — if not conflicting — interests of Novell, which views itself as a Microsoft partner. Joe is now working at Novell, just a a gentle reminder.
Novell tries hard to ‘sell’ the word “interoperability”, which it has been reciting for well over a year. It strives to rename or mis-characterise its embarrassing software patent deal, under which Novell pays Microsoft to have things working the proprietary way (with ‘Microsoft tax’) rather than the standards-based way. We will shortly supply another new example of this.
The other day we wrote about how Novell boosters use their positions of authority to push forward Novell’s agenda. By association, they help Microsoft as well.
Steve Pepper, the former Chairman of the Norwegian committee responsible for deciding the Norwegian vote on OOXML, is calling for a demonstration to take place outside the building where SC34, the ISO committee that has been landed with OOXML, is holding its spring plenary.
The demonstration will take place outside Håndverkeren, Rosenkrantzgate 7, Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday April 9 at 12.00. Among the slogans are:
No to ISO approval of OOXML!
Defend the integrity of ISO!
Microsoft: Support ODF!
Ecma: Withdraw OOXML!
Norway must say no to OOXML!
Those calls or accusations are probably intended to attract some media attention and raise awareness of the problem, which will in turn pressure those involved/guilty to come forward and have things rectified. The European Commission still investigates the situation in Norway, having seen ISO become Microsoft prey.
Over at the Financial Times, an article has just been published (subscription required) to more frankly explain the situation and its possible effect on Microsoft’s brand value, which we already know is declining very rapidly.
Allegations of committee-stuffing, the outcome of votes overridden by political appointees, a final decision that many involved consider tainted: this may sound like a discredited election in some third world country. But it is actually a description of an ugly fight over international technical standards that wrapped up this week. Microsoft came out on top, but at the cost of tarnishing its reputation and the credibility of an important back-room process that oils the wheels of many global industries.
Just to state or perhaps even emphasise the obvious, OOXML is a very large stack of proprietary Microsoft technologies, which directly contradict and antagonise existing standards, and not by coincidence. Microsoft has always established itself separately from the rest of the industry, as the following quote immediately reminds us:
“We want to own these standards, so we should not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.”
Some of the Microsoft comments have just been leaked out of the ECMA fortress. Microsoft continues to ignore the Muslim world, and they don’t want to correct its WORKDAY function in order to ‘do not break backward compatibility’: “Weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) are not considered as working days.”
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.
We wrote a lot more about this earlier today. It’s bad news for the Internet as well. Now is the time to advocate ODF and ensure that OOXML gains no traction.
“Before Paul and I started the company, we had been involved in some large-scale software projects that were real disasters. They just kept pouring people in, and nobody knew how they were going to stabilize the project. We swore to ourselves that we would do better.”
–Bill Gates, Programmers at Work by Susan Lammers (1986) ISBN 0914845713
“We’ve got to put a lot of money into changing behavior.”
As you may be aware by now, Norway has been ahead of many when it comes to ODF adoption. Just months ago we spotted this report. Translated to English it stated:
Norway: ODF Must Be Used on Government Websites’ Forms
Everyone should have equal access to public information: Open standards become compulsory within the government
The government has decided that all information on governmental websites should be available in the open formats HTML, PDF or ODF. With this decision the times when public documents where only available in Microsoft’s Word-format is coming to an end.
We have already covered this here. To repeat some more citations from last year:
Standard Norge actually gives a conditioned yes to OOXML, but that’s a big NO with comments.
As we explained or at least mentioned on several occasions recently [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], Norway’s latest vote was a big fiasco. Some people are finally gathering evidence and putting it up for display. The list is very large. Here is just a small arbitrary portion.
[This is a draft written by Tobias Brox and may not reflect EFNs official point of view. Also edited by Geir Isene, same disclaimer]
List of “irregularities”, possible irregularities and “dishonesty” in the Norwegian OOXML “war”. Disclaimer: We’re not implying that anyone has broken any laws – but a technical standard should be evolved and approved on it’s technical merits, not by political or commercial pressure, nor from personal opinions from administrative staff in SN.
2007: committee stuffing: the NS/K 185 committee grew from 6-7 persons to 30 persons due to the OOXML case…
So, the committee grew almost 5 times larger. Can anyone call this “normal”? Is this “regular” or “irregular”? Given the accusations from September 2007, should anyone be surprised at all?
Remember that OOXML is not a done deal yet, but Microsoft will spare no moment and waste this jubilation opportunity. It will most likely continue to celebrate while it lasts and give the impression that Microsoft Office is now a standard. Toby says a little more about it in this new video. █
Update on 14/04/2008: the video above is now available as Ogg Theora.
OOXML is trouble to the IT industry and everyone knows it, even those who are close to Microsoft and therefore seek to capitalise on the anti-competitive nature of OOXML.
We already know about the lying, the cheating, the bullying and the bribes which this OOXML fiasco has involved. We have it all documented. This makes standards less important as a whole, but there are some implications that tend to escape people’s attention and we present some of them here, particularly in light of the news. Be warned that this very partial, but hopefully informative as far as the topics covered are concerned.
We wrote quite a lot in the past about document formats and their relationship with digital preservation (or curation). The nature of lock-in is typically adverse to the notion of future access. You will find material of interest in:
Here comes a very timely April 2008 special from IEEE Spectrum. The referenced page speaks of death of digital media, which is related to the loss of digital access due to antiquated, unmaintained or poorly documented formats, such as OOXML.
A storage device can become obsolete in less than two years, as this timeline shows
Death of Digital Media: Jaz! Clik! Sparq! In no time, some of these storage devices leaped into oblivion. The media may survive, but will anyone be able to read them?
A 2007 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit may end up coming back to haunt Microsoft in their ongoing U.S. antitrust battle. The case revolved around claims by Broadcom that Qualcomm had deliberately included its patents in the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System standard in order to create a monopoly for its products. The appeals court held that if a company acts deceptively to gain adoption of a standard that then results in a monopoly to their advantage, they can be held to have violated anti-trust laws, irrespective of their right to determine the use of their patents. Interestingly enough, the Court of Appeals ruling relies on a Federal Trade Commission ruling which in turn relied on — drumroll, please — United States v. Microsoft, the very case that put MS under supervision in the first place.
All we can say is, we hope that with this many available avenues, something is done to rectify the farce acted out over the last several months.
Microsoft was last caught lying about this anti-GPL OSP only over a week ago, just in time for the key decision. More examples of patent ambush (OOXML included) you can find in:
Bill Gates once spoke about adding proprietary Office extensions to the Web browser and the World Wide Web. Here is just one of the E-mails that show this. [PDF].
From: Bill Gates
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 1998 9:44 AM
To: Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan; Steven Sinofsky
Cc: Paul Mariz
Subject: Office rendering
One thing we have got to change is our strategy — allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by OTHER PEOPLES BROWSERS is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.
We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.
Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to to destroy Windows.
We showed several more examples here, all based on Microsoft’s own words, which were extracted from antitrust exhibits.
Now they can possibly add what Rob Weir called “Open HTML” the other day to their Web browser. They might call it an ‘open’ (ISO-approved) standard instead of a “proprietary extensions”. Since it is just a proprietary format with Windows dependencies and GPL incompatibilities in place, Microsoft can try to break the Web further while using the ISO that it bought as a shield against complaints.
Shall you complain about ‘Open HTML’-based sites (maybe even government-tied), Microsoft would point at ISO’s directions and so would the government, which was seen selling out for proprietary XAML before. That’s just what makes it so outrageous and dangerous.
OOXML harms real competition. It puts Microsoft at the centre of the document universe and has everyone else enslaved to it.
We mentioned around the same time also a bad follow-up article where Microsoft, in response, threw some mud — so to speak — declaring or at least by implication characterising advocates of Free software as “anti-industry”, “anti-capitalism” and “anti-Microsoft”.
Shuttleworth is of course part of the IT industry. His company, Canonical, is a business based on FOSS. Canonical’s revenue comes from implementing FOSS business models. There are many other companies, including fairly substantial multinationals, that use FOSS and hybrid FOSS/proprietary business models to gain revenue. Among them are Sun Microsystems, IBM, Novell, Red Hat and others.
The minister talked about the need for open standards. Who would implement such standards but the IT industry? The article presents the impression that the minister’s call for open standards is somehow against that very industry. The article clearly sets up the notion of FOSS and open standards as being anti-Microsoft, which is equally absurd. If the particular standard that is at the heart of current debate is accepted, Microsoft will obviously be one of its implementers because to do otherwise would be suicide.
It is a shame to see that Microsoft’s brainwash in the media even required such an obvious clarification. When will the company stop daemonising Free software? █
The subject of Free software is closely related to the subject of software patents, which are a great threat to it. In order to illustrate just what sort of mess Novell has committed itself to, we continue to present some examples of the system’s failure and beneath lie some of the very latest.
Business Methods and… Marriage Methods Patents?!?!
The purpose of this invention is to provide an improved method of proposing marriage to an individual. The method of proposing to an individual generally comprising the steps of meeting the individual; exchanging names with the individual; dating the individual (not necessary); drafting a government document having a proposal to marry the individual incorporated therein; and showing the government document to the individual. The government document may be a patent application. The patent application may claim the method by which the proposor will make a marriage proposal to the individual. The proposor could then use the method claimed in the patent application to propose to the individual. The patent application could be the actual marriage proposal.
Be careful. And be very afraid of the ‘marriage police’ (see the recent CeBit incident). They could storm into the restaurant and confiscate your golden ring if you ‘dare’ to propose without paying for a licence. Sarcasm aside, business methods in Australia and Europe are not an impossibility either. Digital Majority has just found this paper. From the abstract:
This paper reviews the availability of business method patents in Australia in light of the 2006 decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Grant v Commissioner of Patents,5 which confirmed the need in Australia for a ‘useful product’ to issue from the working of a method (business or otherwise) in order for the method to be patentable.
ACLU Introduces First Amendment Argument In Key Patent Law Case
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212)549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
Patenting Abstract Ideas Violates The Constitution, Group Says
WASHINGTON – Introducing a rare argument applying the First Amendment
to patent law, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of
the court brief today urging a federal court to uphold the denial of a
patent that would, if awarded, violate freedom of speech. In the
brief, the ACLU argues that Bernard L. Bilski is seeking a patent for
an abstract idea, and that abstract ideas are not patentable under the
“The court must ensure that any test it uses in determining whether to
award a patent is in line with the Constitution,” said Christopher
Hansen, senior staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working
Group, who filed the brief. “If the government had the authority to
grant exclusive rights to an idea, the fundamental purpose of the
First Amendment – to protect an individual’s right to thought and
expression – would be rendered meaningless.”
In 2006, Bilski sought a patent for his idea that the weather risk
involved in buying and selling commodities could be minimized if
sellers had conversations with two buyers instead of one. The U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office denied his request and the Board of Patent
Appeals and Interferences affirmed the denial. Bilski appealed that
decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the
court has agreed to hear the case in a single joint session in May.
“Patent law prohibits the patenting of abstract ideas, but recently
the courts and the patent office have been granting patents that
consist essentially of speech or thought,” said Hansen. “If the
government continues to allow patents of speech or thought it risks
violating the First Amendment. No one can have a monopoly on an idea
or prohibit speech on a particular subject.”