ODF Advocacy News
Pieter Hintjens has announced that on Wednesday they signed the Hague Declaration. “We signed four copies. One went to the Royal Dutch Archives, one will remain with Digistan, and we’ll sell two on eBay to raise funds for our work.” We address this issue simply because readers have asked. So… it’s done. Signed and completed. Now we must only cope with scary people, to whom Digistan seems like some satanic ritual.
Yesterday we wrote yet again about the study from New York (additionally mentioned in [1, 2]), which serves as an objective analysis suggesting that only one document format should rule them all. That format seems likely to be ODF after Microsoft’s change of heart. To explain this change of heart, consider what Slated said last night in a discussion group:
“It’s pretty obvious Microsoft is making concessions in order to soften the blow of the inevitable antitrust findings, rather than it being just a hand-waving exercise.
“Looks like the old schoolboy trick of admitting to the lesser crime, to divert attention away from the bigger one. Bribery and corruption are such ugly words.”
Back again to the New York study, there’s some decent coverage of it in The Inquirer.
It is an interesting turn of fate that sees US legislators recommend dismantling a vital means for Microsoft to hold its dominant world position in desktop software, yet make those same US commercial interests central to the nascent international document standard, while ensuring a powerful lobby of the ISO in the interests of US government.
Looking back a little further, you can find this formal response
[PDF] from the ODF Alliance. It was quoted widely in the media.
The ODF Alliance today greeted with scepticism Microsoft’s announcement of its intention to include support for the OpenDocument Format in the first half of 2009. “The proof will be whether and when Microsoft’s promised support for ODF is on par with its support for its own format. Governments will be looking for actual results, not promises in press releases,” said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance.
Memories also return from OpenMalaysia which, needless to say, isn’t too impressed by Microsoft’s endless spin. Here’s one for a chuckle.
Then a few weeks ago (April 2008), we had the famous words of Malaysia’s very own Yasmin Mahmood, “The industry just wants to have the best innovation; they want to have the freedom of choice. The whole idea is not about choosing, it’s about having a choice … and that is what customers and partners want.”
Take a moment to think about this one.
Here is yet another article which elaborates on Microsoft’s technical difficulties with its own format. How can a company — any company for that matter — struggle to implement a specification that was derived from its own implementation in the first place?
Microsoft has admitted that it won’t be adding support for the new OOXML standard in Office 2007 Service Pack 2 because of its complexity.
This says a lot about the volume of deficiencies in OOXML, does it not? We addressed such issues the other day (software bugs as a standard).
Microsoft’s nightmare scenario is becoming more of a reality already. What’s that nightmare, you ask? Consumer choice. Tenders and bids for government contracts. Should we not expect those to be the default choice and simply take them for granted? Limitation of choice has, for a long time, been on Microsoft’s side.
“Limitation of choice has, for a long time, been on Microsoft’s side.”For many years, Microsoft has relied on the fact that nothing “worked properly” unless you bought Microsoft Office. This enabled Microsoft to fix the prices, overcharge, exclude GNU/Linux (bar Wine), and persist with an iron fist attitude whenever features are requested, discounts seen as needed, or critical security patches craved for.
We mentioned the following development in a hurry (and thus very briefly) a couple of days ago. Now comes this article from the British press about the opening of doors that could soon bring Free software to more schools, or at least facilitate choice.
Officially sanctioned open source and free-to-use software could be in use across the UK education system within months after government education agency Becta issued a tender for a four-year framework agreement.
Becta is looking for up to 10 software suppliers to participate in the £80m framework that will launch in October. This will replace its software licensing framework, in place since April 2005.
The contract notice says: “We are particularly seeking suppliers which can provide a comprehensive choice of software solutions including appropriate open source and free-to-use alternatives and advise users on best-value licensing.”
Solutions should be cost-effective, but provide freedom of choice, said a Becta spokeswoman.
“We’re providing guidance on the educational elements and looking for suppliers that can provide comprehensive choice,” she said.
There are still some important questions to be answered. For example, would Microsoft charge for an Office and Windows licence covering all computers regardless of what's actually installed on them?
The following other article wrongly gives credit to Microsoft, as if the company did something because of kindness. In fact, it has done pretty much nothing other than tossing some words in blogs and a press release. We shall see how that vapourware comes along [1, 2, 3, 4], but we won’t know for sure any time soon, will we? Maybe in 2009. Maybe later. Microsoft rarely delivers anything on time and excuses are the marketing model.
In a development that could make it easier for schools to use cheaper, open technologies instead of proprietary programs, Microsoft said it will make its Office 2007 software compatible with the OpenDocument Format (ODF).
Assuming they deliver at all. Can’t wait for Longhorn (due by 2003)!
South Africa Revisited
Microsoft must really, really hate (or be afraid of) South Africa at the moment. The insults are very telling and the formal complaint which soon followed put some dark clouds over OOXML. Yesterday we argued that South Africa could soon find other nations joining the opposition, following its lead and its example in a way.
Norway, for instance, has just revealed, due to South Africa serving a blow to Microsoft, that it’s working to reverse its vote and the same type of action is considered or already taken in other countries whose post mortems reveal evidence of corruption too compelling to ignore. The embargo proposal is still on and Microsoft's popularity very low in Europe.
If you wish to know more about South Africa’s impact on OOXML, then have a look at the following new articles (listed in no special order).
This is from Glyn Moody:
When the ISO vote was “won” by OOXML, many spoke of challenging the result, but nobody actually took that step. Until now…
Also worth noting here is the growing stature of the South African computer community in terms of standing up for open standards and open source, which is great to see. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Microsoft’s Jason Matusow has recently attacked the South African government for its policies on computer procurement – a sure sign they’re doing something right.
Andy’s post was among the first few to highlight this development and Groklaw commented further on it:
I wonder if this is why Microsoft suddenly decided to support ODF, to avoid being shut out completely pending the appeal. Might other national bodies be considering doing the same thing? Stay tuned.
So. OOXML is not currently an official standard? I think that is what this means. It will take months, at least, I believe, to resolve this. So, to me the ODF support announcement by Microsoft yesterday suddenly makes sense. I wrote a bit about the appeal process here, if you want to review it. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over.
Quite a lot in these South African affairs has had to do with economics, stereotypes, and imperialism. At verge and risk of crossing over to non-technical aspects of this, consider another noteworthy comment.
South Africa has done what many other countries (presumably through corruption or laziness) have so far failed to do – call out the obvious. I guess a country like South Africa that was denied freedom for so long, truly values freedom for the same reason, while the rest of us just take it for granted.
To quote a comment from Ed landaveri (posted in our site a couple of hours ago):
“Africa (and the whole Third World) needs Microsoft lik
it needed colonialism.” Mr. Paul Saunders
“Matusow is only reflecting his bosses a band of scared tyrants afraid of people waking up to real freedom. Matsulow have entered into history along side many idiots who spoke of racial superiority or justified genocide. The only dumbs in SA and the whole world are the ones who could swallow Matusow’s rhetoric.” he said. █
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Norway’s vote might soon be flipped to a “No!”
Some short while ago it was Denmark, which joined several other countries amid complaints that came from many different directions simultaneously (e.g. Norway’s protests, India’s street protests, the UK’s BECTA shoots at OOXML, BSI targeted, Poland’s investigation, multiple EU probes). And now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome South Africa.
At least one National Body has submitted a formal complaint to ISO and IEC. South Africa was rather vocal about the Fast Tracking process of OOXML from day one.
Yoon Kit has already extracted the text from the PDFs, of which he had put up some screenshots. This happened just moments ago. Norway’s Steve Pepper comments further it in his blog. Pay attention to this:
South Africa’s action confirms that the battle is not yet lost. Here in Norway we are working hard to get the Norwegian vote changed back to No and we think we might succeed.
This development in South Africa could not come at a better time because of the emotional factor that will be earning sympathy. Microsoft has mocked South African people (some more of this at the end of this very recent post and even here). The exposure of the slurs was very high (some big front pages last night). Watch SJVN’s rather blunt response to this:
Those Dumb South Africans
None-the-less, it seems Matusow is convinced that “The developing world still views OSS as ‘free as in no money,;” and … “I heard this same point of view for 5 years all over Asia, parts of Europe, and Latin America.” So, I guess it’s not just South Africans, but a lot of people, all those non-English-speaking foreigners, who aren’t capable of understanding open source.
And, Microsoft wonders why so many counties really are ‘anti-Microsoft!’
See his reference to the "anti-Microsoft" label. He too, despite being a very respectable journalist, is sometimes being assigned this label by known or anonymous (cowards) critics. Apparently it’s unacceptable to denounce crime and insults. It makes you not anti-crime and anti-insults, but anti-Microsoft. But what does that say about Microsoft? That it’s crime and insults? That Microsoft cannot be named when it commits a sin? █
Side note: The Web server is somewhat wobbly at the moment. Scalability issues on the face of it. If you see some sparks and bolts flying, please holler.
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Not yet anyway…
IAM mentions Digital Majority and argues that the recent powwow about software patents through Europe's back door seems unjustified, or at least premature.
Finally, the Digital Majority website – which is very firmly in the anti-software patent camp – is reporting, in somewhat of an alarmist manner, that the US and Europe are long to do a deal on harmonising laws concerning patenting software. It’s not true, of course, but there may be some grain of reality in the fact that the European Commission and the US government are at least discussing the potential alignment of some aspects of their respective patent regimes. It is something that we reported on last year.
Here is the press release which seems most relevant to this. [via Digital Majority]
A year ago, at the EU-U.S. Summit meeting of 30 April 2007, our leaders committed themselves to deepen and broaden transatlantic economic ties and signed the Framework for Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration (Framework), which set up a joint political-level body, the Transatlantic Economic Council (or TEC), comprising U.S. Cabinet Members and European Commissioners, to oversee implementation of the Framework’s work program. Since last April, we have been working energetically towards that goal.
To those in the EU who are interested in the effect of the Community Patent on software patents in Europe, the following introduction to EUPACO-3 may say something.
With our third European Patent Conference we look again into means of enhancing the patent system in Europe. With the planned Community Patent and the European Patent Court in stormy waters and intense debate on the future patent framework in the EU under the French presidency, patent policy stays an ever amazing, controversial field.
Be aware of the fact that Microsoft lobbyists are actively working to make this Community Patent a reality. It may be another back door to software patents in the EU.
The forces of greed work relentlessly to build fences around their software monopolies, even in India. This mustn’t be ignored because ignoring a problem does not make it go away; au contraire — it helps it quietly expand without scrutiny.
Lulling the watchers? Not yet. There is too much to lose. █
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Office Reveals Pains, Exposes Its Achilles Heel
Steven JVN, whose opinions may be biased yet very insightful, has just unleashed a couple of curious blogs items. In his personal blog he wrote to say that Microsoft can’t support OOXML:
If Microsoft can’t give users a compelling reason to switch from their old version of Office to Office 14 their cash-flow is going to slow down considerably.
Over at Computer World he argues that Microsoft Office may be in trouble, citing (or at least repeating) some of the observations made earlier in his blog.
And, now Microsoft isn’t hurrying to support its own format, but it is moving to support PDF and ODF… Could it be that all those copies of Office 2007 Microsoft boasts of selling are collecting dust at reseller and retailer warehouses instead of being used on office systems? Could users be sticking with their older copies of Office and when they do want to move to something newer, they’re moving to OpenOffice and Google instead?
Interesting isn’t it?
It is worth reminding readers that sales of Microsoft Office declined in the last quarter. This is unusual and Robert Cringely had some interesting interpretation of this last week.
What Authorities Say
Microsoft loves to label us all “zealots” and wishful thinkers if we dare to question its market strength and/or criticise its technical output, such as OOXML. Consequently, one of the more effective ways to counter The Beast is to cite not pundits or individual companies with vested interests but impartial sources instead. The mainstream media isn’t such a source because it's corporations-funded and corporations-influenced; even the BBC is no exception.
State studies, on the other hand, which are funded by states themselves (taxpayers, i.e. consumers/citizens, not corporations or corporation-backed universities) are of relevance here. Slashdot has just brought to readers’ attention this Minnesota State study about document formats, which could accompany the recent New York State study [1, 2]. It supports the idea that one single format is preferable, yet it’s not being specific as to which one.
The response of the European Commission, which has been studying this case of electronic document formats for a very long time, is worth special attention also. We bring to you a group of new articles about this:
1. Microsoft’s ODF Policy Gets Skeptical Reception From EU
Little sooner had Microsoft announced upcoming Office support for the Open Document Format than the European Commission countered that it will investigate to make sure such a measure actually ensures greater consumer choice. Microsoft’s Office 2007 will support ODF once the suite’s Service Pack 2 comes along. It’s expected in the first half of 2009.
2. Microsoft’s embrace of ODF cautiously welcomed
A looming concern is if Microsoft’s implementation of ODF within Office will handle documents with the same or better performance as competing suites. Microsoft has been criticized for embracing a particular standard but using subtle means within its software to subvert it.
3. All eyes on how Microsoft pulls off ODF support
European Commission, weary of dealing with Microsoft, will put the software giant under the microscope
4. EU to investigate Microsoft file format support.
Microsoft’s move, also announced Wednesday, is seen as a concession to regulators concerned about competition and to customers, mainly governments, worried about product lock-in.
5. Critics Blast Microsoft Despite ODF Support Pledge
Microsoft said it’s going to build native ODF support into Office 2007. But is that enough to satisfy the rival camp after a lengthy debate over OOXML?
That last one comes from an author who is typically biased in favour of Microsoft, so do not be deterred by the wording.
Glyn Moody’s fast reaction over at Computer World UK is worth a quick mention because he uses the analogy which many people have been using and puts it right there in the headline:
Should We Fear the (Redmond) Geeks Bearing Gifts?
As well as this unexpected backing, proponents of ODF should also find their hand strengthened once OpenOffice.org 3.0 appears. By all accounts it’s a good step up from version 2.0, and that was markedly better than 1.0. All-in-all, then, things are looking up for open source office suites in enterprises: now might be a good time to go on the offensive.
One article that we mentioned earlier (“South Africans don’t understand OSS – Microsoft”) cannot escape without further comment, such as this response which comes along with the headline: “Chickens don’t understand coop–Fox.”
It replaces some of Microsoft’s own words, without exactly paraphrasing Microsoft. It’s mildly amusing.
Despite having a chicken-coop strategy, chickens don’t really understand how to benefit from coops. This is according to Fox director of corporate standards, Wile E. Reynard.
“‘Chickens have taken a most unfortunate position of late–they have sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of coops with locks,’ Reynard writes…”
That’s just pretty much the situation and the way Microsoft responds to it in South Africa. The difference is: Microsoft does not tell the audience that Microsoft Office is vendor lock-in.
What choice? Choice between office suites? Pay attention to the Malaysia story where Microsoft deliberately confuses or interweaves office suites and formats. It just loves that spin! █
Previous posts about Microsoft’s ODF policy announcement:
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