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12.21.10

Groklaw Lashes Out at Novell for Promoting OOXML (With Lock-in and Patent/RAND Traps)

Posted in ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, RAND, Standard at 5:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New year promise

Summary: Novell is slammed by a longtime stickler for helping promote Microsoft’s proprietary rival to ODF, which is the international standard for documents

PEOPLE have begun leaving for their vacation, but earlier on Groklaw decided to speak about Novell’s massive betrayal (translation to Spanish), which is not exactly news at all. Novell’s betrayal has been clear to us for over 4 years and we wrote thousands of posts on the subject.

Groklaw turns to Comes exhibits, specifically IBM exhibits. Rob from IBM has just posted this chart which shows what an utter mess Microsoft Office can be for ODF (pretty much by design [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]) and Groklaw links this to what Novell did with Microsoft and what Microsoft did to IBM a couple of decades ago. To quote some parts:

First quietly create incompatibilities to make sure that Microsoft applications wouldn’t run right on OS/2. Then tell the world that they shouldn’t buy OS/2 because Microsoft applications wouldn’t run right on OS/2.

But 1991 is a long time ago, I hear some of you say, and there is a new Microsoft. Oh? Let’s see if that’s so by highlighting one of the recent Novell filings with the SEC, its work agreement with Microsoft titled “Improving Microsoft-Novell Interoperability through Open XML” and dated March of this very year.

It’s regarding work Microsoft was willing to pay Novell to do to make Microsoft’s cynically misnamed Open XML seem like it allows interoperability. Novell has been at work since March to make Novell’s version of OpenOffice.org interoperate, sort of, but as you will see not completely with Microsoft Office 2010 so that it would at least look like Open XML works and that somebody is implementing it.

What a role for Novell to agree to play. We’ve had our suspicions for years, since Microsoft and Novell entered into its patent peace agreement and technical work agreement, and now we know that everything we suspected Novell was doing with its version of OpenOffice.org, it was. It is. This is the smoking gun. And the work agreement runs through November of 2011, so this story isn’t over yet.

[...]

Remember that one of the big objections to OOXML becoming a standard in the first place was that it allowed for proprietary extensions, which it was pointed out would make it difficult and indeed impossible for anyone but Microsoft and any chosen pals to interoperate with the “standard”. And here you see it in real life. Under criticism, Microsoft hires Novell to be a Microsoft pal and to try to figure out a way to make Microsoft Office look like it interoperates with OpenOffice.org up to a point, not any version of it, but just Novell’s version of OpenOffice.

You are not supposed to have to hire people to figure out a private way to be compatible with a true standard.

[...]

Oh, Novell. What were you thinking? Why would you agree to this? I can read these words, so why couldn’t you? They say you are being used to prop up the reputation of Open XML, while not really making it compatible in the end. What kind of goals are these? For a *standard*? For a company selling GNU/Linux?

[...]

Irony is dead. Here you have a so-called standard being used for exclusivity, so Microsoft and Novell have special interoperability that others can’t enjoy.

And as for Novell’s awful role, obviously, Novell executives never grasped the essence of Linux or FOSS. That explains a lot, including the company’s downfall in the end, don’t you think? Selling out the community in secret does not a long-term business plan make. And to everyone who pushed for or accepted Novell’s version of OpenOffice.org, what’s the plan now? Seriously. Time to really make a plan. Microsoft does. How about the community? How stupid are we?

Groklaw also appends the exhibit (we will hopefully have its Spanish translation soon, courtesy of Eduardo Landaveri) and Microsoft’s booster/insider Alex Brown gets slammed for his role in this whole process (he is a Microsoft “mercenary” as Landaveri would probably call him). He is criticised severely not just for his abuse as OOXML convenor but also as a Microsoft booster after all these incidents. Brown also threatened me after I had leaked OOXML, for all the misconduct associated with it (even corruption like bribes). That’s the type of crowd Microsoft surrounds itself with, in order to defend itself from prosecution for crimes.

For those who can recall the debate from 2008, OOXML is filled with RAND traps although it’s not the only issue with this proprietary format. The news about EIFv2 [1, 2, 3] (also in Spanish) suggests that Europe will not exclude OOXML for its unacceptable RAND terms and there is a new analysis (supposedly impartial) of what EIFv2 will mean to Europe:

Whether or not by indirect reaction to some of these developments, Red Hat has this week issued a blog post outlining the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), which has been set out by the European Commission. The commission recognizes that open technologies are key to achieving interoperability and therefore recommends that public administrations should aim for openness at all times.

If the European Commission is right to back this initiative with its emphasis being on “open specifications” and open standards being implemented in practice, then it may help the wider cause of free and open source software application development (in the public sector at least) from the following perspectives:

* The promotion and support the delivery of public services by fostering cross-border and cross-sectoral interoperability;
* To guide public administrations in their work to provide public services to businesses and citizens; and
* To complement and tie together the various National Interoperability Frameworks (NIFs) where they exist.

Although this model is confined to Europe under the auspices of the European commission, if effective it may prove telling for procedural adoption in other developed countries of the Western world from the United States and beyond.

The EIF is more than just a typical paper from another government committee. It is the result of a multi-year, multi-stakeholder effort that sets out to shift the paradigm for IT deployment in the public sector. Indeed, in the words of the EIF, it… “should be taken into account when [governments are] making decisions on public services that support the implementation of policy initiatives… [and] should also be considered when establishing public services that in the future may be reused as part of public services.”

OOXML was never supposed to get anywhere near ISO, but Novell helped it along the way, in order to appease Microsoft which had paid Novell hundreds of millions of dollars. Boyott Novell and whatever comes after it (AttachMSFT is buying Novell, so the name of the target will change).

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