Bully, bully, bully
Groklaw calls it "slime, slime, slime," but what it truly might be is a simple case of bullying and intimidation. We saw this in Malaysia and days some ago we saw this India (heaps of similar examples are cited therein, including the story about jilted CIOs).
It doesn’t quite stop there. There may be a new examples to consider here, thanks to some research from zoobab.
Several days ago we showed that large European governments turn their backs on OOXML, not neglecting to cite investigations of Microsoft’s dirty tricks in places. Out comes the Microsoft lobbyist Jan van den Beld, one of the more revolting examples of shilling for OOXML (paid for by Microsoft, by association). More information about him you will find in:
Here is his latest:
Microsoft lobbyist using TBT for legal threats
Jan van den Beld, who was promoting OpenXML at the Geneva BRM for CompTIA, a well know Microsoft lobby group, is using the Technical Barriers to Trade WTO treaty for legal threats to governments:
He also advised governments against mandating just one electronic document standard as it may run foul of World Trade Organization policies and open themselves to possible legal challenges. “One of the big concerns of WTO is that you should not use standards as a barrier to trade,” he said.
“If a government enforces [use of just one standard], that would mean the whole country is not allowed to use OpenXML. Then, they could get into a very difficult legal situation as they can be challenged legally,” opinioned van den Beld.
Remember that Microsoft has been pretending that OOXML is about more choice while at the same time it actively discouraging vendors from implementing ODF support and it also refusing to properly support ODF. It does so while expecting others (even paying them) to promote OOXML at ODF’s expense, thereby demoting interoperability and essentially buying lock-in.
This allergy Microsoft has for real choice gets a mention in this old blog post. [via Groklaw]
So, Brian, do you really care about choice? Prove it to me. Instead of a halfway-functional plug-in that has to be searched out and downloaded, have your team write fully-native ODF support and download it as an automatic update to Office XP (2002) and later. Make sure that it is placed as an equal peer with OOXML in your “Save As” dialog. And take all of these secret quirks (do this the way Word 95 did) and plainly specify what was done, then issue a pledge that everything necessary to implement OOXML in any application whatsoever is perpetually guaranteed to be free for anyone to implement in any way they wish at any time, whether they use Windows, Linux, Solaris, BSD, or some home-brewed system they cooked up themselves.
Or maybe you are afraid of something…
This was written a long time before Microsoft officially made OOXML incompatible with the GNU GPL, its number one competitive threat. █
“I’m thinking of hitting the OEMs harder than in the past with anti-Linux [...] they should do a delicate dance”
–Joachim Kempin, Microsoft’s OEM Chief at the time
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The protests against OOXML in Norway were mentioned on a few occasions recently [1, 2, 3]. It appears as though they earned the media attention they had sought.
To be perfectly clear here, the protests are not against the national policy, which at the moment favours ODF, but against corruption, of which there is plenty of supporting evidence, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. A better and more recent roundup you will find here or here.
Finally appears at least one major article about the new protest. [via Groklaw]
OSLO, Norway: Roughly 60 data experts staged a rare and noisy street demonstration in downtown Oslo on Wednesday to protest the adoption of Microsoft Corp.’s document format as an international standard and against Norway voting for the move.
He claimed the committee ignored the advice of the vast majority of the Nordic nation’s software experts, was pressured by Microsoft and displayed “scandalous behavior.”
Here is a gallery of photos from the protest. There is some more information including the speech and photos right here.
There are some developments elsewhere in Europe. A few hours ago we wrote about the BSI. Here is the more formal page which touches on this issue. Even a week after the awful decision, people continue to pursue justice, proving that time did not heal Microsoft’s wounds. █
Update: here is some more media coverage of the protest in Norway. Simon Phipps writes about it also.
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A couple of readers have sent information for us to share, or at least become aware of. The issues will be addressed separately, in turn. They are loosely related.
“Keeping It Simple [It's Not Microsoft vs IBM], Stupid”
The latter points in this post talk about legal traps in OOXML, which are a very serious issue that is no surprise at all.
Meanwhile, other issues can be raised which are related not to practical exclusion but a conceptual one too. In relation to "Microsoft’s Open Confusion", a reader suggests a stronger rebuttal to Microsoft misdirection about the debate. “It’s not Microsoft vs IBM, it’s Microsoft vs a metric load of governments, businesses, universities and agencies,” he says. It’s worth emphasising this more strongly in the future.
Norway & OOXML
Related to the above, consider the protest in Norway and mind the central point of the speech given there. Our reader tells the gist of the story:
“I found that Geir Isene’s blog has a good article about a speech given by Steve Pepper at a demonstration against OOXML:
OOXML demonstration in Oslo: The speech
“He thinks that ODF is like the standard electrical outlet and OOXML is like a major vendor who tries to get everyone to use a different kind of electrical outlet which is only compatible with their equipment.
“He also has a good article called “Sorting to untruth to justify a bad decision”:”
After Mr. Jachwitz overturned his technical committee and decided to vote “Yes” to OOXML on behalf of Norway:
“We had an initial vote back in 2007 of nearly 50 people and the vast majority were in favor,” Jachwitz said. He did acknowledge that 21 members of the group last week submitted a letter asking for Norway to oppose Ooxml. “Our vote reflected the majority opinion,” Jachwitz said. “I do not see that it was improper.”
Source: The International Herald Tribune
He is now counting votes all of a sudden – and the 37 form letters are the basis for his justification to change Norway’s vote to “Yes”. Sorting to untruth to justify an irregular decision only adds to the irregularity.
The EU commission has already inquired about possible irregularities in the Norwegian process. This too will be reported.
The OOXML Trap
Yesterday we mentioned those 14,000 pages for software patent tax to be enforced. It’s a patent trap, as even the Gartner Group admits and developers are encouraged never to approach it, The same goes for OOXML, which is a case against the GPL. Microsoft is creating new conditions under which GPL development is being excluded and sidelined. By ruining ISO, Microsoft strives to make GPL exclusion the international standard, too.
Wishful Thinking: Making MSN the Standard
Speaking of exclusion, Microsoft’s fight against Google comes to mind also. Remind yourself again of how Microsoft escaped DoJ scrutiny (mind the bit about Google) when exploiting its Web browser and other bundled software.
A reader tells us: “I noticed that the search box built into MSIE nowadays goes to MSN and only MSN. If it weren’t for that MSN Search would probably get 0 hits.”
Microsoft uses Linspire and Turbolinux to redirect all users to MSN, as well. It’s part of their patent peace deals. You may also wish to know that, based on ODF/OOXML test runs, Live/MSN is inherently ‘broken’ (possibly tweaked by business design). █
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This post contains a collection of news items which provide insight into the latest on this topic.
Bilski and Software Patents
We mentioned Bilski the other day and soon afterwards we saw Red Hat's response to it. There are several other interpretations and the following article, “software patents could be killed off for good”, is probably worth pointing out.
TWO ADVOCACY ORGANISATIONS, the End Software Patents (ESP) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF), have filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC) rehearing of the In re Bilski case, set to be heard on May 8, 2008. This rehearing could have significant implications and mean the death of software patents.
As you can see, the ESP is involved. In fact, it has just put up this press release in its Web site and so has The Free Software Foundation. The ESP is backed by many large companies, so it can hopefully lend a muscle to this fight. Groklaw wrote an article about Red Hat’s involvement and it’s very law-savvy.
I thought you might like to understand what is going on, as best as I can explain it. Here’s the ACLU brief [PDF]. Red Hat’s announcement indicates that it is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to consider something dear to your hearts, whether or not, or to what degree, patents should be allowed on software, and its brief explains to the court the damage that software patents are doing to Open Source software.
For those wishing to explore this further, the articles above ought to help a little.
In the face of desperation over the state of the patent system, Béranger wrote this good item. It truly makes it all seem rather outrageous.
The plastic bowl and the patent attorney
It means that you shouldn’t be worried only about the possible patents infringed by the (open-source or not) software you’re using, but you should also be paranoid about whether some object you’re merely using (and you have paid for it!), such as your laptop or a plastic bowl or whatever else (a simple cardboard package as the ones used by Amazon.com is covered by 7 or 9 patents, don’t ask me what for!) is not infringing a patent.
Maybe it’s time to stop suing companies for alleged patent infringements in the software they use, and we should tell the lawyers that they could sue instead for the pegs, chairs, tables, office stationery, door knobs, lavatories and wash basins the company is using without verifying whether the manufacturer is not (even unknowingly) infringing a patent. They’re still valid patents for almost anything nowadays, especially in the United States.
The Lobbyist Epidemic
As we have repeatedly stressed here, formation of the law boils down to politics and wealth, not science. The rules are typically made by those who can afford to make changes without contradicting the constitution (or by stepping just around it, sometimes making amendments).
Watch Microsoft doing its thing.
Microsoft Corp. spent $9 million in 2007 to lobby for immigration and patent reforms, tax credits and cybersecurity among numerous other matters.
The software company spent $4.2 million in the second half of 2007 to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form posted online Feb. 13 by the Senate’s public records office. It lobbied on government purchases of software, including electronic health products, cybersecurity for critical infrastructures, high-speed Internet issues, online advertising and free trade agreements.
For further information about Microsoft’s attitude towards software patents, see these recent takeaways from Brad Smith's presentation at OSBC 2008. There are other reports about lobbying, which has become an industry worth billions of dollars.
John W. Thompson, chairman and CEO of Symantec, used part of his keynote address Tuesday at RSA 2008 to announce the merger of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance and the Information Technology Association of America.
Again, it’s worth stressing that Red Hat just recently announced that it would fight software patents. But what are its chances against several multi-billion-dollar companies that almost literally sponsor congress members (affecting not just in the US)? Can David defeat Goliath? How about several Goliaths working synchronously? █
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A reader has just sent us the following good pointer.
“Below is a blog entry from ThinkFree,” he writes.
April 8, 2008 @ 12:43 am
I’m marketing manager Benedict from ThinkFree.
Thanks for your suggestion !
We are also considering the ODF support in ThinkFree.
By the way, There is one obstacle for solving the problem…
That is MS Policy for ODF, Because of interoperability with MS
Office in ThinkFree,
We still need the MS cooperation that support OOXML,,,
I think you can understand this situation & MS policy strategy…
But we plan to solve this political problems, and also We will
make the detour.
Anyway, We feel your kind mind… Thanks”
Can you see what is happening here?
Our reader adds: “It looks like the hoops to jump through for OOXML include speed bumps for open formats like ODF. Could that a main reason Apple held back for two years on ODF?”
“…it is yet another example of using money or other incentives to stifle ODF.”I personally complained about Apple’s lack of support for the international standard (ODF) in public forums and portals in the past. I did this on several occasions only to find that Mac users supported my comments. Eventually, Apple added some ODF support. But the deals between Apple and Microsoft are something that we looked at before (they are similar to Novell's). Those two companies are closer than people realise and more collaborative than Mac users wish to believe.
While the above revelation does not involve Apple directly, it is yet another example of using money or other incentives to stifle ODF. Microsoft has been very systematic about it and a source close to ODF opines that Microsoft will even try to actively intercept ODF 1.2 at ISO. █
“There won’t be anything we won’t say to people to try and convince them that our way is the way to go.”
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Microsoft mindset: “We come in peace, then take the piss”
This is just minor observation and by no means a suggestion that The 451 Group has betrayed any principles.
On Free software matters, some of the more trustworthy commentary out there comes from The 451 Group. Recently, however, the group’s founder has been including .NET projects and Microsoft’s ‘open source’ links in his digests. The group hardly ever blogs about it, but it’s apparent that it at least keeps an eye on Microsoft. Fair enough.
Watch this mystifying new statement from Mark:
The 451 Group’s Raven Zachary recently used this slide at an address in Redmond during Microsoft Open Source Day.
We wrote about Microsoft’s “Open Source Day” very recently. The event was almost unheard of (unbelievably low-profile). It was covered nowhere except for some Microsoft blog/s on the face of it.
We have many reasons to be suspicious and skeptical about trips to Redmond (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]). Microsoft usually buys love, inviting people for free and expecting something such as acceptance and publicity in return.
As pointed out earlier, Matt Asay’s reluctant-but-noticeable affairs with Microsoft’s so-called open source people (namely those whose role is to change the definition of "open source" and snatch all software away from GNU/Linux) continues to show. Someone really ought to reminded of Redmond’s true intentions. Asay too should know better because he has definitely seen it already. █
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Reassuring news arrived from The Inquirer, which says that a legal challenge to the BSI might be served in addition to a formal complaint and a large-scale investigation by the European Commission. It could soon become the third vector of scrutiny.
the UK Unix and Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) has sought the advice of a barrister over whether it can mount a legal challenge to a British Standards Institute decision to approve the Microsoft standard. It has also written to the BSI asking for an explanation.
We last wrote about the BSI yesterday, including pointers to previous self-containing summaries. Despite the secrecy of the process (no transparency in an open standards process), the evidence gathered seems sufficient to justify a thorough investigation into what seems like ballot-stuffing.
If you are part of the action against the BSI and you require more information you are unable to find, please leave a comment. Justice ought to be eventually brought because large-scale interaction on the Web makes corruption more shallow. We accused the BSI back in February, long before we even knew about the outcome. █
“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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