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OOXML/ODF Roundup: ODF is Winning, BECTA Runs Back to Microsoft’s Bed

Posted in Europe, Interoperability, Mandriva, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 6:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

BECTA: best PR agency Microsoft can buy


Tables and ODF

OpenDocment format (ODF) does not have a marketing force or department behind because its embodiment is a huge number of companies and institutions. It is undeniable that ODF is becoming widely recognised as an industry standard, as opposed to the Microsoft Office ‘standard’. In fact, deep beneath the news there’s a new example of ODF embrace, even on the proprietary software platform which is Mac OS X.

The upcoming Tables 1.5 will add additional formatting options as well as an OpenDocument format (ODF) exporter. Tables 1.5 will be available as a free update for all registered customers.

In order to fight against such rapid adoption of ODF, Microsoft is said to have arranged nasty deals, e.g. with ThinkFree. Paying for exclusion is not paying for exclusivity, especially where an international standard (ODF) is concerned. It’s a clear violation and mockery of corporate spirit which honours the customer’s needs and basic rights. Such selfishness harms everyone.


As far as document formats go, Novell is among the dodgy vendors. It was paid by Microsoft to support OOXML. Further to this previous post, head of the Mandriva community writes: “Our oo.o build is based on the go-oo project, which optionally adds Mono support (basically for writing plugins or macros in Mono). We enable this, and by default if you do that, it winds up with an auto-generated mono dependency in the package. In fact everything will basically still work without Mono installed – you just won’t be able to use any plugins or macros that are written in Mono unless you have Mono installed.”

Some day later in the week we will discuss in greater depth this Mono insertion by Novell. It makes Mono virtually impossible to escape and it gets more pervasive as time goes by.


The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, which seems to have become a close ally of Microsoft [1, 2, 3], has had some trouble with OOXML and Microsoft Office 2007 [1, 2, 3, 4]. The same goes for Windows Vista, but that’s a separate story about bloat and lock-in.

News aggregators have just been getting littered by BECTA’s latest ‘favour’ and kisses to Microsoft.

UK government agency BECTA said that it has made progress persuading Microsoft to change its stance on interoperability and software licensing.


The quango said that Microsoft has committed to building in support for the open document format (ODF) and this well help colleges and schools to use a wider range of software.

“Committed to building” is not support and it’s all vapourware at the moment [1, 2, 3, 4]. There are also warnings about Microsoft's (mis)treatment of the format.

There’s repeated use of this word “interoperability”, which is standards-hostile. It appears here again.

Becta Gains Ground in Interoperability for Education


The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) appears to be heading toward a reconciliation with Microsoft

watch this headline: Becta hails Microsoft progress

what is an innocent reader supposed to absorb based on such deceiving headlines? It is all just another excuse for overpriced lock-in.

The use of the word “interoperability” is criticised by Glyn Moody.

Just in case you thought things were getting a little dull in the world of UK computing compared to, say, UK finance, here comes the BECTA roller-coaster again:

Becta has been working closely with Microsoft to understand how the various issues identified in relation to interoperability in its Office 2007 product will be addressed. Becta takes the view that effective interoperability is an important component of the technology infrastructure needed to improve educational outcomes, facilitate home school links and address the digital divide.

Ah, yes, interoperability: Microsoft’s favourite word of the moment.

In the following article, some of the ugly bits are being mentioned.

The company’s educational volume-licensing arrangements usually cover all machines in an educational institution, regardless of which operating system is installed on them.

Linpro scored a win against this type of monopoly abuse [1, 2].

Responding to just this article from Kelly Fiveash, Matt Asay, who is originally a Brit, wrote:

discounts only make it cheaper to fall into lock-in. The Open Source Consortium’s president Mark Taylor says it well: “Schools can now choose between long-term software freedom or a short-term discount on the next lock-in play.”

Fortunately, groups like Becta, which brought the original complaint against Microsoft to the European Commission, are unlikely to fall asleep at the wheel.

Microsoft will no doubt eventually be forced into offering interoperability alongside its discounts.

As the first commenter points out, he did not do his homework and there is more to this stories than he realises.

BECTA recently came under fire for designating a 'Microsoft shop' to take care of open source in British education, so the following eye-twitching article, “Britain sees Sense with open source .NET,” seems to ring a bell; An alarm rather.


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  1. AlexH said,

    September 18, 2008 at 2:57 am


    Just for clarity, OOXML support in OpenOffice.org 3 doesn’t require Mono because it’s native code written by Sun.

  2. Dan O'Brian said,

    September 18, 2008 at 7:13 am


    Some day later in the week we will discuss in greater depth this Mono insertion by Novell. It makes Mono virtually impossible to escape and it gets more pervasive as time goes by.

    I know that running ./configure –disable-mono might be “virtually impossible” for you, but to the average joe, this is pretty trivial.

    Your arguments are ridiculously shallow and uninformed.

    Please try to get at least the vaguest of clues next time.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 18, 2008 at 7:30 am


    Does “Average Joe” compile his entire operating system?

  4. Ian said,

    September 18, 2008 at 8:21 am


    Probably not. Although, the average Joe also runs windows and doesn’t directly care about patents, mono, microsoft’s business tactics, etc…

  5. Dan O'Brian said,

    September 18, 2008 at 9:06 am


    If “Average Joe” doesn’t need to build his entire Operating System. He only need custom build the applications for which he wants to change the enabled features.

    There’s no real reason to build OOo w/o Mono.

    If Mono isn’t installed, he loses nothing. If Mono is installed, then he has the option of using .NET macros and addins.

    It’s a win-win for users.

  6. Dan O'Brian said,

    September 18, 2008 at 9:07 am



  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 18, 2008 at 9:15 am


    it’s creating an habitual dependency. The average user does not understand Mono, but s/he understands programs and features which disappear. Novell feeds them Microsoft’s poison, IMHO. More about that later this week…

  8. twitter said,

    September 20, 2008 at 2:17 pm


    Dan, your technical mastery has put you out of touch with how evil mono macros are. The average user is not going to build OO.org, they are going to be hyped up into making mono macros so that M$ can claim a networking effect in ODF itself. That’s how they push Office and it’s dependencies on the world. The issue creates strife and division that only M$ could love.

    If M$ were not rattling sabers and pretending mono was a trap, this would not be a problem. Because they are and there are better scripting languages, Mono should not be included. Mono will never be feature complete any more than RTF and M$ will continue to move the goal posts to make OO.org and ODF look inferior to their newly purchased “standard” and scripting. It would be better to use the newly GPL’d Java, perl, php, lisp or any other free scripting language.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm


    Exactly. Those hooks are probably just a first step. Next they’ll preload some Mono ‘goodness’ and get users ‘hooked’.

  10. Dan O'Brian said,

    September 20, 2008 at 4:29 pm


    Sounds like a lot of unsubstantiated speculation to me.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 20, 2008 at 4:57 pm


    We shall live and see. A year and a half ago, a mono ushering in OOo was far fetched. Novell takes it one small step at a time. Last month the Irish press said that Novell would triple its collaborations with Microsoft, remember?

    Does it mean that Microsoft will bend the GNU/Linux way? [sarcasm /]

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