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11.30.09

Helge Sander Helps Microsoft Again by Blocking ODF in Denmark

Posted in Bill Gates, Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 4:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dannebrog

Summary: Danish minister with history of Microsoft affinity is suspending a move to make OpenDocument Format the only national standard

THE saga surrounding Denmark never seems to end. Considering the size of this country, the amount of information about ODF and OOXML that comes from there is staggering. Some of our previous posts covered both the scandals and the wins of ODF. We wrote about OOXML and ODF in Denmark under:

Some of the above information may be required for good understanding of how Denmark reached its current policy and controversy. Its delegation at the OOXML BRM, for example, was stuffed by Microsoft. Its national standards body is internally divided and as more recent posts show (the above is chronologically sorted), the head of this body accused Microsoft of “lying” earlier this month. Tough words, true words.

There is a major new development in Denmark and Josef Assad (Danish) writes: “It looks like the Danish public sector might announce #ODF as the chosen standard later today. http://bit.ly/5noiB8″

“Yes glad someone didn’t fall for M$ propaganda – http://bit.ly/6seZLp (Denmark looks to go for ODF only),” argues another Dane.

Leif Lodahl, who is renowned for his work spreading ODF and Free software (OpenOffice.org) in Denmark, writes: “The Parliament said #ODF only! The Minister of Technology said NO and told his ‘big brother’; Minister of Finance.”

Guess who that would be? Helge Sander. Again.

This has been covered as it developed, primarily by IDG in Denmark. Articles include:

Ebbe Petersen from Denmark writes: “ODF/OOXML standard discussion in The parliament, sigh! In the future, office packages will support each others ISO, so full backing to ITST.”

Later came IDG with this report about Helge Sander’s disruptive role.

For those who cannot recall, the Sander report was rather hostile towards standards (ODF) and neglected to account for Microsoft scandals. Why would Sander be so apologetic towards Microsoft? Many people have just asked the same question. To quote: “I Wonder how much Microsoft pay Helge Sander (http://bit.ly/6Hc88a) to work against Open Document Format (ODF)”

Here is another IDG article about Sander’s blockade. What it may not say is that Sander has history with Microsoft. From Microsoft.com:

“As part of our software strategy, we asked Microsoft to provide us with technology that would help exchange our many millions of documents. We wanted something that would make communication easier, create interoperability and stimulate innovation,” said Helge Sander, minister for Science, Technology and Innovation for the Danish government. “Microsoft has responded with a clear step in the right direction by making its XML technology openly available. This enables our E-Government solutions to utilize standards-based technology while further enabling open and effective tools for our citizens and government.”

He also met Bill Gates under the banner of “openness initiative” (seriously, it’s no joking matter):

Helge Sander has recently talked with Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates about the need for greater openness. The Danish government stresses the importance of open standards, efficient exploitation of software and healthy market competition. For its part Microsoft characterises the Danish government’s focus on standard- based technologies like XML as visionary. The iconic software concern’s initiative in Denmark will soon be followed by similar initiatives in other European countries. The news is reported by Computerworld online.

Leif Lodahl had his own interpretation a couple of years ago. Sander’s unofficial service for Microsoft is not exactly news.

Please tell me why The Prime Minister Ander Fogh Rasmussen and Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Helge Sander is so happy about Microsoft?

[...]

In 2002 Microsoft bought the Danish IT-company called ‘Navision’. ERP etc., now called Microsoft Dynamics a company in Vedbæk, just a few miles north of Copenhagen. Today there is about 1.400 employees and Dynamics in Vedbæk is the largest Microsoft development center outside the US. In February 2005 Bill Gates visited Copenhagen and at a meeting with The Prime Minister and The Minister of Science, Bill Gates threatened to take development ‘home’ (to the States), if the Danish government became too hostile to Microsoft. This is about the same time, where Europe began to find out what was going on in State of Massachusetts.
My guess is that some promises was made at the meeting.

So once again Sander is obstructing open standards and instead defending Microsoft’s cash cow, which is of course proprietary and does not support ODF properly [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It is also rather concerning that almost all the coverage comes from IDG, which does business with Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. This type of ‘monopoly’ over information that people receive can be misused and often enough we have shown that it does get abused.

Here is an automated translation of one report about Sander’s impact:

IT decision put on hold

Folketing’s IT committee could not convince Helge Sander, of the IT standards of the public to use. The decision is now on standby.

It remains open what file formats the public need. It was otherwise expected that the Folketing’s IT committee Wednesday evening would agree on the so-called open document standards, ie free file formats, public institutions must use in the future. But a majority of the IT committee could not convince Science Minister Helge Sander (V).

With Microsoft cronies seemingly everywhere, it is reasonable to be skeptical.

Peter Krantz writes about the situation in another Scandinavian country. He writes: “Norway evaluating ODF and the two OOXML:s for national generic document standard.”

We wrote about Norway’s struggles against OOXML lock-in under:

On the upside, ODF carries on growing an ecosystem of templates, tools, and developers. One of them asks: “Does anyone know how to manipulate opendocument files with ruby?”

From around the same area comes Bart Hanssens who shares links to Ruby tools for ODF, not all of which are new. There are lots of ODF projects out there which do not receive the recognition they deserve.

The lpOD Project develops a set of multilanguage tools around the OpenDocument Format standard.

* Development of a library implementing the ISO/IEC 26300 OpenDocument Format standard in extenso.
* Development of a set of high-level APIs in the Python, Perl, Ruby languages. The project has some industrial relevance through projects and applications in the fields of Business Intelligence (BI) , CMS applied to museography, ETL, etc.

Here is a new post on “ODF Templating using Appy pod.”

I you ever need to generate ODF documents from Python, do give pod a try!

Bart Hanssens also shares information about YaBS, which we mentioned some days ago.

YaBS, the successor of MP Invoicing, is an Enterprise Resource Planner for managing products and contacts. It can be used to generate offers, orders, invoices, and includes basic book keeping. YaBS can export to ODF and PDF.

Apart from more ODF fanfare (and even literature) from the likes of Jomar Silva, there is also this good new essay on the importance of open standards. ODF is given as an example of an open standard, whereas OOXML is treated as proprietary (as it should be treated).

There are some file formats which are published, open standards. Portable Document Format (PDF) is one you’ve probably heard of. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is another. OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an ISO international standard, and the tools to use that format are free. But there are other file formats which are proprietary, and can only be edited natively in one specific application. The formats used by Microsoft Word (DOC and lately DOCX) come to mind. WordPerfect (WPS) is another program which uses a proprietary file format to store information.

If I receive a PDF or HTML file, I can open it in a wide variety of applications, some of which are both well designed and obtainable for free. But if I’m sent a WPS or DOCX, I need the specific application that was used to create the file to open it reliably. Requiring me to have certain computer software doesn’t seem very inclusive. “But everybody has Microsoft Word!” you might be thinking to yourself. Is that the same “everybody” who celebrates Christmas? Think about that.

In summary, eyes should now be on Denmark because Sander poses as a barrier which needs to be removed. He acts as an agent of monopolisation.

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