“Open Source” is no longer synonymous with Free software. Far from it.
This item explores some of the latest evidence which suggests Microsoft is hijacking and subverting “Open Source” as it was once known to people. This development was seen in advance… a very long time ago as a matter of fact.
Backstabbing of Developers, Possibly Bald-faced Lies
The Sandcastle open source hoax was mentioned here before, so its description probably needn’t be repeated. It is, however, important to emphasise a few things:
- Rather than tilting Sandcastle into an ‘open source’ route when it got caught with its pants down, Microsoft withdrew it. That’s the equivalent of promising you diamond, but giving you sandy and shady glass instead; once busted, they grab the glass away rather than fulfill the promise. That’s very, very low. It’s a shame that A- and B-class bloggers were too shy to vent; they were almost as apologetic as Microsoft.
- Herein we ought to find some more early warning signs. We find dishonesty. Microsoft itself is faking open source and probably then pretending that it was just a ‘terrible mistake’ (as opposed to a marketing ploy gone awry).
- The third thing, which was probably easy to miss, is that developers clearly got betrayed by Microsoft’s selfish deeds (and yes, it's a pattern, almost a cliché by now). Here. Have a look below.
The fix to Microsoft’s open source faux pas creates another problem: Developers were relying on Sandcastle to produce code documentation. Numerous responses to Ramji’s blog post indicate real frustration over having the documentation tool summarily yanked out from under their projects.
Adding insult to injury, the OSI seems to have said nothing about this. Microsoft got away with faking. How irresponsible.
Microsoft’s ‘Open Source’: Windows-only “Collaborative Development”
Watch what Glyn Moody has just had to say. We covered these issues recently.
This trope of openness being “just another business model” is a favourite of Microsoft’s, alongside “we need more than one standard for a given area, to promote choice” – when what are needed are *implementations* of a single standard. These rhetorical siblings are rather desperate, if amusingly Jesuitical, attempts to use words to gloss over the reality.
Going a little further (perhaps too far), remember what Microsoft wishes to strip off the definition it’s unable to embrace.
Microsoft is going to become an OSS company, not a FOSS company. (See what the “F” stands for here.) We are already seeing the early signs of this. They have created a couple of open source licenses and have submitted them for approval successfully with the Open Source Initiative. Microsoft has pledged to become a more open company. Although the said pledge has been received with a lot of skepticism, I think they really mean it. They have to. Microsoft is now hard at work trying to convince the world that they really have changed. Is all this going to be enough? I don’t think so.
Blasts from the Past Year
New readers may not have seen the following old stories that speak volume. We wish to repeat them in sequence.
Steve Ballmer: ‘I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows’
Steve Ballmer apparently likes open source. Well, so long as it drives Windows revenue. And doesn’t replace any. Ever. In fact, as he said at an event in Microsoft last week in London that he hopes to see all open-source innovation going to Windows, rather than Linux (more below).
Ballmer: Microsoft Will Buy Open-Source Companies
“We will do some buying of companies that are built around open-source products,” Ballmer said during an onstage interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
Steve Ballmer on Open Source, Online and Other
Any plans to bring development tools to other platforms? No.
OSI approves Microsoft licenses
For now though it’s all eyes on Microsoft to see what the company will do next, and in many ways this will be more interesting than whether or not the OSI approved the licenses. For reasons that were never fully explained, Microsoft wanted open source licenses.
Now that it’s got them, will it use them to release significant code to the community?
Earlier on we wrote about what we can only suspect is rotten; it might end up as another BECTA scam. Here you can find some valuable background information from ITPro, which is UK-based.
Becta, open source and education: Too little, too late?
Slow adoption of open source and free software in UK schools can be attributed to the same kind of inertia that afflicts SMEs in the UK. It arises from a fear of the unknown, misapprehensions of the capabilities of the software, over-reliance on trusted suppliers, and general lack of awareness of the alternatives – but the major obstacle has been a lack of coordination, direction or understanding from the relevant authorities, exacerbated by a series of agreements with Microsoft at government level that have effectively tied the education system into Microsoft-only solutions.
Recall yet again which firm BECTA finally chose and who got designated for “Open Source”. BECTA chose a Windows/Microsoft shop for so-called ‘open source’, whose site won’t work without Flash. What a farce in the making. Later on they might use such a farce to throw ‘blame’ and pull a Newham [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].
BECTA seems to have deceived on “Open Source”. Many in the UK will be deeply disappointed by the choice of a proprietary software workshop (consultancy). How can it be trusted in handling what should be open source software at schools? More absurd than this it hardly ever gets and flack for it is only to be expected in days to come.
Time to paddle back to "Free Software"? Gradually maybe? Need there be an index?
The Great OOXML Scam
“Remember: it’s all just for marketing purposes.”For OOXML marketing needs, Microsoft India is still hijacking (or borrowing) “open source” and pretending to have embraced it (its own definition of it). Remember: it’s all just for marketing purposes. This article seems like another Microsoft brainwash piece, but you may wish to familiarise yourself with the mental manipulation contained in it.
Moving a little further, it’s clear that secret formats remain secret formats. Formed selfishly, put together privately (out of people’s sight) and made dependent on a single platform and non-Free application, here is where we stand. There is still no OOXML. Nobody know what it is, yet Microsoft boasts about a mythical rubber stamp it acquired from ISO.
The standard as it stands is naked. It lacks a text. Where is it? The secret 30 April document is a phantom. We don’t know yet if ISO can provide a consolidated version of the BRM results. We only know that member states adopted the non-existing text as a standard. Now the nations that filed complaints will be blamed for lack of delivery.
This one is good for a laugh as well. The level of deception has no bounds.
“You know what Microsoft’s problem really is? They’ve lost the ability to feel ashamed.”
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More downplaying of Microsoft’s abuses. Alex says:
Denmark has not appealed. What appears to have happened in Denmark is that an open source lobby group has written a letter to the Danish Standards body. That is not “Denmark protesting”.
Many people in Denmark did protest (see the rant below for example, along with coverage on Denmark here). Need the opposition come out to the streets too? Watch this space because, as a few source pointed out, Alex Brown is bound to have some influence inside ODF.
“37 letters with exactly the same words. Some of the senders didn’t even care to remove the ‘Type company name here’ text.
Simular letters has been circulating in Denmark as an e-mail from the Danish MD Jørgen Bardenfleth to customers and business partners.
I call it fraud, cheating and disgusting. If I wasn’t anti-Microsoft before, I am now. Disgusting !”
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To those keeping abreast of ODF news, here are some articles of interest. Remember that open standards, not brute-force market penetration with binary codecs (i.e. short-term compromises and concessions), are likely bring Free software to the mainstream desktop. GNU/Linux must compete based on its own merits rather than the ability to successfully mimic (and this depend on) other parties, in which case it becomes another Mac OS X.
ODF = Free Software; OOXML = Non-Free Software
Here is a very long article from ETYTimes. In concludes with:
Thus, as it may seem to many, it’s not a matter of choosing between ODF and the ISO-approved OOXML anymore — it’s a choice between open and closed source technologies now. What will customers like the government choose?
Of course, OOXML was made incompatible with Free software. As Groklaw pointed out a couple of days ago while citing the Red Hat settlement, “those who claim the GPL isolates itself from standards bodies’ IP pledges are wrong. It is possible to come up with language that satisfies the GPL and still acknowledges patents, and this is the proof. That means Microsoft could do it for OOXML if it wanted to. So who is isolating whom?”
One Standard to Rule Them All
Here is another interesting article from The Inquirer.
ONLY ONE STANDARD type of electronic document will survive the struggle for supremacy between convicted monopolist Microsoft and the Open Source movement, said the world’s leading standards regulator.
The ISO’s decision in April, along with fellow aedile the International Electrotecnical Commission, to award Microsoft’s OOXML document standard an international certification was tarnished by something of a revolt led by supporters of ODF, a standard that had already been certified. Amidst international appeals, a street protest, law suit and a European Commission anti-trust investigation, the New York state government said the two standards were both as bad as each other.
OOXML’s role in shoring up Microsoft’s dominant market position is not only the subject of an EC investigation, but the subject of a long-running disagreement with the UK’s education sector and the substance of appeals made to the ISO about its certification. NY state said that Microsoft itself had suggested the ISO merge OOXML and ODF into one format, on the eve of the ISO meeting that endorsed the software giant’s standard.
Microsoft was unavailable to comment. So was the IEC.
This suggests that Microsoft was never supposed to have gone its separate way. It should have embraced the already-existent standard. It was invited, but it declined. It turned down an offer to establish an industry standard because it relies on vendor lock-in.
The High Cost of Justice
It’s still sad to find that the price of justice stands in the way of UKUUG. Should the system not correct its own abuses at its own expense?
Chairman for the group Alain Williams was clearly disappointed to announce the group does not have enough money – they need about £50,000 ($98,000US) – to cover the costs of their action. The UKUUG was looking for the High Court to consider that the British Standards Institution (BSI) had no grounds to vote in support of Microsoft at the International Standards Organisation.
Google for the International Standard
Google seems to be doing some promotional work, this time for OpenOffice.org
OpenOffice.org Training at Google New York
On June 5, 2008, a new model of technology training was tried out. It was inspired by the “unconference” and “camp” models of technology conferences, and we called it an “untraining.” It was designed to be created by the participants, where they would work together to learn what they needed to know.
OpenOffice.org Can Make ODF a de Facto Standard
Here is another interesting observation. This ought to explain why Microsoft fights so aggressively for large markets such as the one in India (possibly costing it its leadership.
As Schwartz writes, “Where is OpenOffice.org deployed in the greatest numbers? In places where saving $300 per desktop is meaningful.” If you take this view, as emerging markets become an increasingly important customer base for the technology industry, open standards such as the ODF (Open Document Format) used by OpenOffice.org will almost certainly become de facto standards, as well.
ODF Alliance and Europe
Last but not least, let’s remember that the European Commission sidles with open standards now. It expresses this preference very openly. The Managing Director of the ODF Alliance has responded to this.
“The end is near for the era of public information being locked-in a closed format,” said Marino Marcich, Managing Director of the ODF Alliance, in response to Kroes’ comments made June 10th in a speech before OpenForum Europe. “The OpenDocument Format, with its status as the only internationally recognized open standard document format with a wide range of supporting applications, is a critical tool for governments to help end the era of lock-in.”
The future, overall, seems bright for ODF. █
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Ammunition in exchange for dough
We have been warning about Forrester for the past few months [1, 2]. This firm has done a great deal of Windows Vista advertising recently. By all means, they do it in sophisticated ways — wearing suits and equipped with ‘reports’ — yet it does not make them much more than sophisticated marketers in practice. Case of point:
“Analysts sell out – that’s their business model… But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.”
–Microsoft, internal document
Critical observations about analysts/consults are by no means unique. Just watch what Cringely thinks of the likes of them (analysts in general). He spoke about this recently. Let us go back to 2005 for a case of point:
Commentary: Getting the Facts, Forrester-style
Still browsing through Microsoft’s Get the Facts campaign website, and I think I found one of the primary reasons Microsoft is hammering on the “You’ve already bought us once, why not more?” theme. Take a look at this Forrester chart, available here in its original report, posted (and paid for) by Microsoft.
Recently, Matt Asay has been suspecting that Forrester is doing it again. He cites the report above.
Back in 2005, Microsoft was paying Forrester for anti-Linux research. I assume that this report, referenced at the top of this post, is more of the same. But even in the midst of FUD there is real data that can make open-source vendors better.
The Gartner Group, a close ally of Microsoft, has done something similar to Forrester does here. It last did this just a couple of few weeks ago. In its key report it pretty much ignored open source.
According to Asay’s update (‘correction’), Forrester denies that money was exchanging hands this time around, but benefits/incentives needn't be immediate. In many cases, it’s like paying in advance or receiving ‘mass discounts’. We have already seen how the Burton Group was granted consulting contracts for slandering ODF [1, 2, 3]. █
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Might this be ‘open source’ the Microsoft way?
When BECTA first uttered the words “open source”, people were rather shocked. This agency has been one of the most open source-hostile ones out there (some would say an anti-Christ of Free software), despite great pressure to change its ways. For background, consider previous coverages (with many external references) in:
Transparency in procurement is something which is desperately needed in the UK. The public services have an abysmal track record with things like secret "Memorandums of Understanding" or secret deals that BECTA signs with Microsoft behind taxpayers’ backs (part of the deal is that it must remain secret, just like in the case of OEMs).
This brings us to this morning’s news.
Open source snub in UK schools
THE OPEN SOURCE community was bitterly disappointed today after the UK appointed an unknown consultancy to run an historic programme of advocacy in schools.
“They’ve chosen the worst possible candidate because [Alphaplus] have no open source experience whatsoever,” said Taylor. “The project is about open source in schools. Unless you have open source people in there, its nonsense,” he said.
The Sirius bid was backed by Red Hat, the pioneering open source software cowpowayshen, and pulled in million of Euros of development backed by the European Commission.
Another sidelined bid by The Learning Machine, an open source schools specialist, was backed by Canonical, the organisation behind Ubuntu, the ground-breaking open source operating system.
Yet another, was put forward by Open Source Software Watch, a not-for-profit organisation that already co-ordinates open source development in the Higher Education sector. OSS-watch pulled Eduforge, the world’s largest repository of open source educational software, into its bid, along with one of the backers of Moodle, an open source software system that made great advances in the education sector around the world.
Having looked at the Web site of Alphaplus, there are reasons for concern. There are quite a few warning signs, but Alphaplus deserves the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Their whole Web site is Windows and Flash (i.e. can’t view pages unless some opaque binaries are used). There’s no sign of Free software and GNU/Linux, let alone “open source”.
Hopefully — just hopefully — this is not a farce in the making.
“It’s all about marketing and the Microsoft ecosystem exploits this too.”Let us hope that this is not one of those parties who call "Open XML" "open source" and prefer things like “shared-sourced” .NET. Open source can be quite meaningless unless those who assess it actually understand that it’s about the licences and vendors, not just some badge. Lately, Microsoft has been faking a lot of open-source things in order to exploit loopholes and enter some contracts. It’s all about marketing and the Microsoft ecosystem exploits this too.
Speaking of Microsoft’s escapades in “open source” territories, remember SourceForge? The CEO has just announced his resignation. He is being replaced.
As was asked earlier in the IRC channel: “Can we find out how the new guy feels about .NETness and Microsoft ‘open source’ licences? There have bee[n] concerns about the Microsoft sponsorship recently and now the CEO quits.”
In light of the SourceForge moves we have been seeing (e.g. Microsoft sponsorship), have a look at the comments here. This is hopefully not a sign of a new era. Microsoft will try to assimilate and steal to the very same disruption it strives to eliminate. █
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