Summary: Office cannot sustain its dominance in a Web-dominated era when devices mostly run Android/Linux
THERE was some amazing news just before this weekend. Microsoft did not handle something as basic as renewing certificates, so “secure Azure Storage goes down WORLDWIDE,” as The Register put it:
The problems were first reported by Microsoft on Friday at 12:44pm Pacific Time on the Windows Azure Service Dashboard. An update at 1:30pm identified a problem with SSL transactions.
And Microsoft actually tries to convince businesses to rely on Microsoft for Fog Computing. Even Windows users — not just GNU/Linux users — won’t want to to rely on that. Services depend on Azure Storage as a sort of file system.
Michael Larabel spread a seemingly false rumour about Microsoft Office (native, not online) coming to GNU/Linux. I have been chatting with him over the years and I consider him a highly reliable and well-informed guy, so his source was deceitful or badly informed. Either way, irrespective of whether or not he was misinformed by someone, here is an article which covers it: ‘Case in point? Oh, it’s a juicy one: “Microsoft is having a ‘meaningful look’ at a full Linux port of Office thanks to Linux showing signs of commercial viability on the desktop,” in the words of Phoronix writer Michael Larabel, who claimed to have it on good (but unnamed) authority.’
The matter of fact is, the Office cash cow is having problems and Microsoft struggles to adapt and keep the format lock-in/monoculture [1, 2, 3, 4]. The following is definitely not the way to rescue Office:
When quizzed as to whether a Microsoft Office 2013 licence can be transferred to another machine, Microsoft told The INQUIRER, “[Microsoft] Office 2013 is a single device license”, adding that those wanting to use Microsoft Office across multiple devices will “have to purchase [Microsoft] Office 365 Home Premium” as well, which allows users to share Microsoft Office with up to five PCs, Macs or mobile devices.
We probed further and asked what will happen in the event that the original PC carrying the single Microsoft Office 2013 licence is destroyed, lost or stolen. Will Microsoft allow the original licence to be transferred then?
This won’t go down so well and already we discover that Microsoft is rapidly being dumped by the Australian government, potentially costing hundreds of millions:
Australia has reduced the amount of money it pays for Microsoft products by AU$100m (£66m, $103m), according to the nation’s Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan.
Speaking yesterday at the Kickstart conference, Sheridan explained that consolidating contracts from 42 to one and working through a single reseller has enabled the savings. One contract now covers 300,000 devices and 260,000 people across 126 entities. Work has begun on negotiations for the successor contract with Redmond.
Microsoft is demoted by Australia owing to some prudent people who seek to decrease reliance, so we are quite sure that Microsoft is sending moles over there as we speak, based on past experience. █
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Summary: The slow but evident demise of Windows and Office, plus more lawsuits, potentially class action
Microsoft’s best known cash cow and principal common carrier, Windows, suffers a lot from Vista 8. Microsoft already faces lawsuits, as usual (it was the same with Vista). It’s not just Windows but Xbox too brings lawsuits, based on this report which says Microsoft was “defrauding them by letting their children run up massive charges for add-ons to play X-Box Live games online, parents claim in a federal class action.” As one reporter put it in his article about Vista 8:
…64 GB version comes with 23 GB of open space. The reason for the difference: space already taken up by the tablet’s Windows 8 Pro operating system and various preinstalled apps.
The other cash cow, Office, is also suffering as Microsoft tries to catch up with Google:
For Rent: The New Microsoft Office
Office is one of the great gushers of profits in the software industry, so it is noteworthy when Microsoft starts fiddling with how it charges for its suite of productivity applications.
The writer says: “Why fork over $100 for Office each year, rather than make one payment of $140? Perhaps more pointedly, why pay anything at all when Google offers online alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are free for basic versions and cost only $50 a year for versions with extra features?”
This is becoming a huge issue for Microsoft. Microsoft does not even deny it. The latest Vista is the death of Windows domination because Android is now the sales leaders. Without Windows domination, Office becomes obsolete to many. Microsoft knows this. █
“Two security researchers have developed a new technique that essentially bypasses all of the memory protection safeguards in the Windows Vista operating system…”
–Dennis Fisher, August 7th, 2008
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As a reminder, as part of its many OOXML abuses, Microsoft paid companies to ‘support’ OOXML
Summary: The similarities between the effect of adding UEFI code and adding OOXML code to Free software
IN 40 comments or so I have been discussing UEFI with the developer of Shim, whose latest work one can read about in:
So, while Garrett’s shim will soon be bring many more varieties of Linux to many more Windows 8 PCs, UEFI Secure Boot will remain a significant worry for anyone wanting to run Linux or other alternative operating systems on Windows 8 PCs.
Next I went to the other extreme, disabled Legacy Boot and enabled Secure Boot. In this configuration, the Live USB media for Linux Mint and openSuSE wouldn’t even try to boot as they don’t have EFI bootloaders included. Fedora 18 Beta would try, but failed — the necessary security certification is not yet included on the 18 Beta distribution. But Ubuntu 12.10 booted with absolutely no problem. Hooray!
UEFI was designed with lock-down — not just “security” — in mind. It’s like TPM. Thus, Microsoft hoped to embrace the darn thing, making it harder to boot Linux. It doesn’t take a wild theory to deduce this. We saw the same things around 2007, as I explained in comments alluding to hundreds of posts I had written in 2006-2008. Antitrust is bound to be hurt when the anticompetitive is embraced by that who is being hurt.
Speaking of which, check out what Simon Phipps says about Freiburg:
We recently saw the news that the German city of Freiburg had decided to end its open source migration and instead switch to using Microsoft products again. The rationale provided seemed curious to me – after all, at the same time the German city of Munich announced total savings amounting to €10 million from its own successful and ongoing migration.
What seemed odd was there was no account of how they changed course to make the migration succeed. Munich learned lessons from early challenges and updated its strategy in order to succeed. But not Freiburg.
From what I could see, instead of ditching the old versions of MS Office and OpenOffice.org they’d started with and installing up-to-date LibreOffice using expert in-house help, they had just hung on to outdated software and expected staff to muddle through to success. When that didn’t happen, they blamed the software and not the strategy. Everything was in German, so rather than risk misinterpretation I turned to German-speaking friends in the technology industry to explain the report to me (if I got anything wrong, please tell me – the documents seemed very complicated).
My (guided) reading shows three points of concern in the situation over the last four years. First, the only ongoing expenditure in support of the migration is running costs of less than €15 per seat per annum, all associated with licensing supposedly superceded proprietary software. Second, substantial one-off costs of around €231/seat associated with interoperability – a topic that is always an indicator that proprietary software is controlling people’s thinking. Third, no obvious investment in ongoing community engagement or equivalent commercial subscriptions for open source.
“Very good article,” Matthias Kirschner calls it. He is right. Phipps did a fine job and he should know. He was overseeing a lot of aspects of OpenOffice.org for several years at Sun. He also led some efforts to spread ODF and opposed Go-OO, whose team moved on to LibreOffice.
As we showed before, Microsoft had also used OOXML to derail the kind of migrations we saw in Freiburg. Those who were paid by Microsoft to pretend to support OOXML were also to blame. They helped legitimise it. It was always disguised as “choice”, where one choice was lock-in, i.e. no choice. For proprietary software lobbyists, to be “neutral” is to choose proprietary lock-in, as shown in this new article:
Two members of Congress, reaching across the partisan divide, are pushing the government to think broadly — governmentwide — about open-source software, provoking warnings from industry groups that they are ignoring the core principle of technology neutrality.
No, this is not such a matter. To deny choice using lock-in is not to be neutral, it’s to be predatory.
Anyway, one can hopefully grasp the similarity between the two cases; when Microsoft introduces new FOSS-hostile traps it requires that some "useful idiot" — either paid or unpaid — ‘proves’ that the traps are digestable. An effective diplomatic approach is to reject what is worthy of rejection, not give up. This is not a compromise, it is giving up/surrendering to Microsoft, █
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“Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process.”
–Richard Stallman, June 2008
Summary: Microsoft uses price hikes in the UK amid discussions about ultimately moving to standards like OpenDocument Format
MR. Updegrove, a standards guru, recently wrote about the new UK standards policy which is FRAND-hostile. FRAND is neither fair nor reasonable; it is about patents, usually software patents. There is more on that here at OSS Watch:
I have just got back from this event organised by the European Commission and the European Patent Office to discuss the implications of implementing open standards in open source. Now of course this is an issue that has been very active in the UK recently, and about which we have blogged, due to the present government’s desire to use open standards as a way of increasing efficiency in government IT procurement. The idea, briefly, is that specifying IT systems in smaller, interoperable chunks that implement open standards should make government IT easier to manage and maintain and more able to be supplied by a wider range of bidders, including authors and integrators of free and open source software. As discussed in the blog linked above, there is an issue with implementing royalty-bearing standards in GPL-licensed software, and as a lot of the free and open source software out there is GPL-licensed, government risks locking this software out if they don’t specify standards that are royalty free.
Well, after a long consultation process, the Cabinet Office has decided that it will indeed make it a principle that government IT should implement interoperability standards that are royalty free…
The founder of the FSFE said that Microsoft had stated FRAND is FOSS-compatible, which is of course a lie. Microsoft did this in an awkward European event on FRAND and OSS. It’s not “reasonable” to ban Free software. According to the British technology press, since lock-in enables raising of prices for little risk associated with customer retention, Microsoft does exactly that: [via]
Microsoft will make businesses pay 15% more for licenses…
It is for particular services. As we showed in the site’s previous posts and will also show in the next one, Office as a service is struggling, just like Windows. Price hikes are the only way for Microsoft to dodge further losses in the long term. Microsoft is struggling most than common people appreciate. They think that widespread usage necessitates financial stability.
Now, before it is too late, governments should follow Munich’s lead (12,000 desktops migrated to GNU/Linux with ODF). The sinking ship if the ageing Microsoft monopoly.
Updegrove explains how a controlled opposition strategy, namely the portrayal of non-open as “open” (OOXML is one example), is being used now:
The debate over what ‘openness’ should mean in the standards arena has been around for a long time – perhaps as long as a hundred years. But in order to understand the current debate, it’s important to realize that we are in phase two of that dialogue.
In the first phase, the definition of openness was pretty well established and nailed to the wall, following the evolution and formalization of the global standards infrastructure. The high level result was the principle of “RAND” terms (the RAND standing for reasonable and non-discriminatory terms), or FRAND terms (adding an F for “Fair,” if you hail from Europe). These terms are backed up by fairly universally accepted process rules for the conduct of standards development in the global standards bodies. In the United States, compliance with the rules is supervised by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which until recently accredited almost all U.S. standards setting organizations.
The definition of “open” — with all sorts of slants and variations of it (e.g. “open core”) — has been changing over time because of those who feared Free software and later on Open Source resort to deception. They try to conquer the opposition. █
“More Open Than Open [...] I am constantly amazed at the flexibility of this single word.”
–Microsoft’s Jason Matusow, integral part of the ‘Open’ XML corruptions (further background in [1, 2, 3])
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Summary: OOXML helps Microsoft derail Free software adoption in the German public sector while Portugal’s goes ODF-only
So the news says that Freiburg will return to Office after failure to properly communicate with those who understand lock-in. IDG covered this almost exclusively and wrote: “According to the organisations, no open source experts were consulted in the process. Therefore they hoped the council would still consider a migration to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.”
Calling the Free Software Foundation Europe an “open source group” is bad, but we saw that in previous reports on the subject. The matter of fact is, a lot of issues have already been addressed:
Open source developers have already fixed three of the five major problems that are limiting support by open source office suites for Microsoft’s proprietary document format OOXML, reports Matthias Stürmer. The Swiss Ernst & Young IT consultant is one of those improving the open source office tools. He hopes better support for OOXML this will “help to successfully complete and maintain migrations towards open source office suites.”
Notice how OOXML always stands in the way, as Microsoft intended. Here is the call for Freiburg to stay with ODF:
Five civil groups advocating the use of free and open source by public administrations urge the German city of Freiburg to continue to use the Open Document Format as its default format for electronic documents. “Free office suites are making progress. LibreOffice today has over 60 million users worldwide.”
This week’s Tuesday evening, Freiburg’s city council is voting over a proposal to end its floundering migration of OpenOffice and to stop using the Open Document Format. Instead of ODF, the city board wants to default on Microsoft’s alternative, OOXML.
Some people who oversee Microsoft OOXML start following me in Twitter, so I guess Microsoft watches us ODF proponents very closely. Andy Updegrove has great news from Portugal:
According to a press release issued today by the Portuguese Open Source Business Association (reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry), the government of Portugal has decided to approve a single editable, XML-based document format for use by government, and in public procurement. And that format is not OOXML.
Here is a news report in English. After those Portugal OOXML scandals we sure expect some corruption from Microsoft. Here are some observers who should keep an eye on Microsoft's thugs. A timely reminder from Portugal:
Other Microsoft irregularities in Portugal can be found in:
ESOP says: “We must stress the importance of the whole open standards adoption process and declare our explicit support for the way the interoperability regulation was designed. On one hand, there is some pragmatism to be noticed: the list of open standards is relatively short with priority given to functions where interoperability problems are a large concern. On the other hand, pragmatism didn’t mean lost of insight: there is no more than one open standard per functional category. This is something ESOP has always defended, as a measure to prevent incompatibilities that could bring the adoption process to a failure.”
Related to this, also see:
Keep on open eye on Microsoft Portugal. █
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Summary: Microsoft is the one struggling to catch up in an age of Linux expansion, but LibreOffice continues to chase Microsoft’s proprietary formats
ONE of our readers, Marti, alleges that Microsoft is copying Android. As he puts it, “[o]n Android ICS they are simply widgets, which show the latest updates of your email and social media, or whatever widget you place on one of the preferred multiple “virtual desktops”. You simply have the ability to “browse” trough the history, by tipping the widgets and scrolling down (like in a web-browser).
“Marti provides some more examples where Microsoft is copying Android, just like it copies KDE.”“Windows® 8 Live Tiles® on the other had are showing a “history” of the most recent updates in a “interactive” manner. Meaning text is scrolled continually on multiple Tiles®. At first this seems quite funny and sexy, but trust me, it gets on your nerves within 15 minutes.”
Marti provides some more examples where Microsoft is copying Android, just like it copies KDE. A Gartner analyst’s negative remarks on this copycat act of Microsoft are spreading further to say that Vista 8 is not suitable for enterprises, just as OOXML causes nothing but headaches in businesses. On the face of it, attempts are being made to bridge some gaps:
If in past, you had trouble importing Microsoft Publisher documents in LibreOffice, you may get relief soon. Bernnan Vincent, a GSoC student, has created libmspub library capable of reading Microsoft Publisher files and converting it to SVG and open document format.
OOXML support in LibreOffice is a case of following Microsoft rather than leading with ODF. In a future episode of TechBytes we will talk to someone from the LibreOffice team (Charles-H. Schulz and explore the rationale of the strategy, e.g. whether SUSE's relationship with Microsoft played a role in this. Before we get to that we are going to release an episode where Stallman tells me about phone surveillance. With Skype, Microsoft is now tracking people’s phonecalls too. See our Skype wiki page for more information and some background. As one new report puts it: “The question was: “Is Skype snooping on your conversations?” The answer is yes.
“According to a Microsoft Skype spokesperson, “As was true before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype co-operates with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible.” So what the heck does that mean?” It probably just means that Microsoft continues to be an enemy of the population, and furthermore toppling Microsoft is a good thing. █
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Summary: Migration difficulties consistently point to problems with Microsoft’s format abuses
WE recently explained how SUSE, part of the now-defunct Novell, is promoting OOXML in government. Rather than embrace ODF, some governments find themselves reliant on Microsoft-funded SUSE programmers who were legally required to push OOXML. And here is the outcome:
Local, national and European governmental dependencies on proprietary software continue to hinder municipalities that try to get rid of vendor lock-in by switching to open source. Recent examples include the municipal governments of Freiburg in Germany, Miskolcs in Hungary and Schoten in Belgium.
ODF has no such issues; our guess is, Microsoft occupied the competition to the point where ODF advocacy got demoralised and rather scarce. The problem is not Free/open source office suites; the problem is proprietary Microsoft formats that corruption such as bribery has defended. █
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Controlling behaviour using money (bribe)
Summary: SUSE developers unite with Microsoft as LibreOffice developers with financial Microsoft ties help advance the agenda of their backers from Microsoft
THE relationship between Go-OO and LibreOffice continues to remind us to be at least somewhat vigilant. Money buys results. As part of Novell’s deal with Microsoft it was required to advance OOXML. It’s a form of bribe, but nothing compared to the other fraudulent activities that Microsoft used to advance OOXML. The elusive format was not even implemented by Microsoft and it led to many incompatibilities. Based on this news, Office continues to be a fragmented mess, which is a way of encouraging everyone to always buy the newest version. To quote: “The newly unveiled productivity suite from Microsoft, Office 2013, won’t be running on older operating systems like Windows XP and Vista it has been revealed.
“As part of Novell’s deal with Microsoft it was required to advance OOXML.”“Office 2013 is said to be only compatible with PCs, laptops or tablets that are running on the latest version of Windows i.e. either Windows 7 or not yet released Windows 8. According to a systems requirements page on Microsoft for Office 2013 customer preview, the Office 2010 successor is only compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012. This was confirmed by a Microsoft spokesperson.”
More interestingly, some body we have heard of before (the so-called “Open Source Business Alliance” which we wrote about before because of rogue agenda), together with SUSE connections (Microsoft-funded), is helping the promotion of OOXML:
Developers from a project hosted by the Open Source Business AllianceGerman language link are working to improve the compatibility of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with Microsoft Office. The German municipalities of Munich, Jena and Freiburg, and the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit (FITSU) and the Swiss Canton of Vaud – who together use OpenOffice on around 18,000 workstations – have jointly raised €140,000 (approximately £109,000) funding for the project.
In December, the OSB Alliance’s Office Interoperability Working Group introduced a specification which mapped out the improvements that need to be made in these areas. The extensions are being implemented by developers from SUSE and by Hamburg-based open source specialists Lanedo.
So here we have SUSE/Novell, once again helping to demote ODF, giving a lift to OOXML in government instead. As for SUSE itself, its latest build is being reviewed:
In overall, I was more comfortable with the KDE version than the Gnome version.
Let’s hope SUSE does not promote OOXML in KDE as well. KDE has probably been most outspoken in its stance against OOXML. A few hours ago in our IRC channel Ryan asked: “Does LibreOffice still keep creepy metadata in ODF files like Microsoft’s office suite does in all its file formats?” LibreOffice developers should recognise the fact that some of them, the people from SUSE, are funded indirectly by Microsoft. There are ways for LibreOffice to help the Microsoft agenda at the expense of other competitors. Microsoft’s occupation of rivals will be recalled in the next post. █
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