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04.17.12

Microsoft is Attacking Free Software and Standards in the UK, Behind Closed Doors

Posted in Microsoft at 7:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ACT Microsoft

Summary: Leakage of dirty tricks from Microsoft in the UK, promoting patents to impede Free software and standards

THERE was a debate recently about whether lobbying is always a form of corruption or bribery at times (we linked to that at the time). As we saw a few years ago, Microsoft pays people to change legislation. Here is a reminder.

Amid the UK’s open standards consultation, Glyn Moody told us: “I’m sure you know about this, probably already made a submission. But it would be really great if you could encourage your readers to do the same.

“Microsoft’s fear and the primary threat is real choice in the market.”“I’m hearing from multiple sources that things are going really badly – Microsoft’s lobbying is working, and the government is moving towards adopting FRAND licensing for RF. We need to get lots of people explaining why this is bad idea for open source and thus bad for the UK government in terms of achieving their goals of promoting a level playing field and saving money.

“Any help you can give would be appreciated. Deadline for submissions is 3 May.”

Microsoft’s fear and the primary threat is real choice in the market. People are not fond of Microsoft products, but many are left without choice. By meddling with paper Microsoft is hoping to just obliterate competitors, as it has done for decades. One out of IRC regulars recalls what landed Microsoft in the federal courts. Before Microsoft came there was real choice:

So when exactly did this all start? The first reference I can find for Microsoft Windows is from 1993 when Radio Shack introduced windows to it’s customer catalog. Of course before that there was the rise of Microsoft DOS, used by almost every “PC” starting from the original IBM PC released in 1981, the infamous model 5150.

Naturally there is a far older history that doesn’t get talked about much from when computers used kilowatts and sometimes even megawatts of power and filled cavernous rooms with their bulk. The oldest preserved computers date back only to 1959 and the Ferranti Pegasus. Since then there has been a trend towards computers becoming more affordable and more homogeneous.

Right now in Munich the success story (getting rid of Microsoft) is being told and Microsoft cannot manage to squash the truth (it also tried paying Munich to derail this, it even sent out the trolls). Quoting a European Commission site:

Switching to a vendor independent desktop based on open source reduces costs and results in fewer calls to help desks, show figures provided last month by the Mayor of Munich, Christian Ude. Replacing the current almost ten thousand open source desktops by a proprietary system would increase costs by some 25 per cent, the Mayor shows in his response to questions from a city councillor.

FSFE leader Karsten Gerloff from Germany is pleased to see that Glyn Moody has just gotten a treasure trove of yet more Microsoft dirty tricks:

Wow, two thumbs up to @glynmoody for obtaining & processing files on Microsoft lobbying UK Cabinet Office. Keep the reports coming!

A regular on IRC says that in light”of [Microsoft] fight against open standards, it tries to re-define them. Moody comes close to hitting on that (with the FRAND example) but does not explicitly point it out. It’s a tactic M[icrosoft] uses again and again.”

“1st report on a treasure trove of FOI documents I have on MS lobbying” calls it Glyn Moody, who blogged some details in this first part. Investigative journalism at it finest:

Regular readers may recall that I was not a little taken aback by an astonishing U-turn performed by the Cabinet Office on the matter of open standards. As I pointed out in a follow-up article, this seemed to bear the hallmarks of a Microsoft intervention, but I didn’t have any proof of that.

So, without much hope, I put in a Freedom of Information request through the wonderful WhatDoTheyKnow site (highly recommended), asking for details of all the meetings that Microsoft had had with the Cabinet Office on this subject. To my utter astonishment I was sent a real cornucopia of briefing notes and emails that Microsoft used to lobby against Restriction-Free (RF) open standards and in favour for standards based on FRAND licensing of claimed patents.

Over the next few days I shall be presenting some of the astonishing things that Microsoft has been saying behind closed doors in its attempt to derail truly open standards. These are extremely timely given the current UK government consultation on open standards, which I’ve already urged you to respond to several times.

First of all, I have to say how impressed I am with the Cabinet Office’s response. Aside from redacting a few names from the memos, for entirely understandable reasons to do with preserving private information, the documents are essentially complete.

[...]

The tenor of the current document – and of Microsoft’s whole attack on true open standards – is that RF open standards are somehow unnatural, or unfair on big companies, and yet by its own admission it has contributed technology to open standards on RF terms not once or twice but dozens of times.

So the question has to be: why is it objecting now? Is it just so that it can exclude open source from future UK government tenders? Or could it be simply that it thinks it can bully the UK government in a way that it couldn’t bully other organisations? This is certainly something that the Cabinet Office should be exploring with Microsoft when they next meet, since the above statement undercuts the company’s position that it can’t work with RF open standards.

[...]

Nobody is suggesting that GSM phones, say, should be banned from UK government use, as Microsoft’s letter seems to insinuate. For a start, these are hardware standards, and not about software interoperability at all; secondly, there are no comparable RF open standards that could be used, and even if there were, there would be clear business reasons why GSM phones should still be purchased. There simply isn’t a problem here.

This straw man attack on non-existent difficulties is symptomatic of Microsoft’s general assault on the idea of RF open standards, and in subsequent posts I shall be exploring other examples of arguments and techniques that it deployed last year in an attempt to turn the UK government against the idea of producing a level playing field for UK procurement through the introduction of truly open and truly fair open standards.

British citizens can contact their authorities and help reveal the truth if not expose this disgraceful behaviour from Microsoft as well. Apple is also a foe of standards by the way, for many reasons including this latest: [via]

Apple Computer came under fire for back-pedaling on its support for IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol, at a gathering of experts held in Denver this week.

Presenters at the North American IPv6 Summit expressed annoyance that the latest version of Apple’s AirPort Utility, Version 6.0, is no longer compatible with IPv6. The previous Version, 5.6, offered IPv6 service by default.

Apple also supports OOXML. What we are dealing with here is an assault on a government’s natural inclination to choose software it controls and trusts — software that the population would approve.

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7 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    April 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Gravatar

    People are not fond of Microsoft products, but many are left without choice.

    Who is lacking choice? Heck, Stallman says he uses only Free software (what normal people call open source software). I have a Mac, though I do – by choie – have some MS software on it.

    I really would love some examples of where people do not have choice. The closest I can think of are when public documents are published in MS Office format, but even then there are free readers… but many people are not aware of them.

    As far as Apple supporting OOXML – *good*. it would be silly for them not to… in fact, I wish they had better support for it. Why would anyone consider supporting an open format a *bad* thing?

  2. mcinsand said,

    April 18, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    It’s great that you punctuated the article with a mention of OOXML, since that is really the posterboy of our standards problem. To get it approved, MS actually had to buy off the Portugese ISO committee, it is not open, it is not fully documented, and it is patent encumbered. In other words, it is neither a standard nor is it open. Parts of the standard handled situations with merely a handle ‘like in Windows 95,’ rather than actually detailing the operations that needed to take place.

    Did MS ever actually implement it in anything? The most recent thing that I heard was that the version they were using was not compliant with the approved ‘standard.’

    Regards,
    mc

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    ECMA OOXML is not implemented by anyone. It’s a phantom. It’s am expensive hack, made possible through widespread corruption that I spent years of my life tracking and documenting.

    Michael Reply:

    LOL!

    I am happy web space is cheap… otherwise you could not afford enough to hold your head in whatever space you could purchase. :)

    Michael Reply:

    The main problem the “Free” community has with OOXML is that it represents choice. Developers have a choice of which standard to use, and the market, over time, will end up at least mostly focusing on one. Right now OOXML is “ahead”, with strong support from MS and moderate support from Apple and even such groups the OpenOffice and LibreOffice groups.

    The “Free” folks do not get that Apple and MS have little incentive to do the work required to support a “standard” that is used by such a tiny fraction of the market.

    This does not mean, of course, that OOXML is perfect or that MS has handled it well or that it is not in need of some pretty big fixes. If the open source community wants a truly open format, though, why not focus on the one that is far more popular and make it better. It is an *open* standard – which means MS no longer has control over it. look up info on ISO/IEC 29500 for more information…

    I would like to see what alternatives there are to OOXML that actually support all of the features in MS Office. I do not know of any other office suites that support all of the features of MS Office, so maybe ODF is simply not sufficient for the needs of MS. I do know that the attempts to have ODF work with MS Office have continued to fail to support quite a few features: http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/features.html

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    It was more that just Portugal. Scandalous irregularities occured in just about every nation represented in the ISO process. The Norwegian committee even resigned in protest.

    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1012179/norway-iso-walk-ooxml

    All that OOXML represents is a desire and ability to throw sand in the gears.

    Michael Reply:

    So the open process leads to junk as much as the proprietary one. Maybe even more?

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