Summary: Microsoft brings proprietary lock-in with OOXML to Android
TECHRIGHTS has explained Google's bad decision to spread OOXML rather than ODF and some ask: Why Is Google Not Supporting The Open Document Formats?
This is a true story: “Today my wife forwarded me an email from her Nexus S asking if I could open the attachment as she could not. I replied, “where is it not opening – your Android phone or the Chromebook?” She replied, “Either.”
“I looked at the email, it was a presentation from her friend in .odt format. A friend who we recently converted from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice.”
“hat this means in practice is that it’s going to be really difficult to displace proprietary formats like .doc and .xls, even with the best will in the world.”
–Glyn MoodyI had a similar experience this month. Now Microsoft makes the Office lock-in worse at the expense of the Windows lock-in.
“It’s clear that Google is aiming at the huge repository of users of M$’s office suite rather than GNU/Linux or FLOSS users,” writes Pogson. Later he wrote that Microsoft sacrifices the Windows cash cow to save the Office cash cow.
Glyn Moody, being timely enough, addresses the issue of network effect impeding open formats like ODF. To quote: “As the research notes, this is a indication that networks are very powerful – exactly as we might have surmised given the experience in the open source world. What this means in practice is that it’s going to be really difficult to displace proprietary formats like .doc and .xls, even with the best will in the world. It also shows the importance of getting governmental affirmative action that explicitly recommends open formats in order to overcome these network effects – or at least speed things up.”
ODF/OOXML remain an important topic here; it doesn’t get the amount of coverage it deserves from the press. █
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Summary: ODF gets the cold shoulder treatment from a prominent participant in the office suites market
THE editor of Muktware learns that Google has taken a step which legitimises and further spreads a Microsoft format that few applications support and none supports fully. According to this, “Google has announced that it is dropping support for older Microsoft Office formats. Google Docs will not export any files in older Microsoft Office formats namely .doc, .xls, .ppt. User will be able to export files in modern Microsoft Office formats such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx.”
The problem is, as I found out while I spent three days in Warwick this week, businesses that use Google Apps start spreading around a lot of OOXML. This is not just a technical problem.
“Spreading OOXML files is just about the worst thing Google could do.”Further down in the article it is correctly stated that “Microsoft OOXML was approved as an ISO standard after a lot of controversy and charges of bribing voters [read the full story here & here]. The ODF was already an ISO standard so there was no need for another standard, but Microsoft wanted it’s own format to become a standard so they got it though hook or crook.”
It was not just bribes. The level of corruption was systemic, too.
Given the fact that Microsoft was left without choice but to implement ODF import filters — however poorly — Google should have fallen back on or defaulted to ODF. Spreading OOXML files is just about the worst thing Google could do. So much for “do no evil” policies… █
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Summary: Microsoft makes it abundantly clear that its closed formats and Fog Computing will be used to deny people choice
In its corrupt pursuit for OOXML standardisation Microsoft ensured that real standards get suppressed. We covered many such stories about four years ago. Mr. Pogson found a new blog post where Microsoft implicitly admits failure to implement ODF support for a long time. As Pogson puts it: “The following statement was released 2012-08-13, promising finally to implement an open standard M$ foisted on the world but did not follow since 2007, five years ago. Deliberately choosing to break an open standard is reprehensible and possibly illegal restraint of trade. The means M$ used to impose that open standards was also questionable. Why bother with a company that offers future standardization when you can have it now with LibreOffice?”
In other news, Microsoft is now forcing users into an even worse lock-in, leading even Microsoft boosters into a mode of dissent. And in Germany, as in several other places, Microsoft tries to halt adoption of ODF. Advocacy groups complain and to quote one report: “The board of the German city council of Freiburg should disclose the analysis that underlies its move back to proprietary office software, say the Open Source Business Alliance, the Free Software Foundation Europe and the Bundesverbands Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie. In an open letter published this morning, the three organisations also call on the city board to keep the Open Document Format as the default.”
Microsoft used German public institutions to promote OOXML. Wherever there is real choice there is no Microsoft. █
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Summary: The sham which is OOXML and what the past teaches us about it
THANKS to some funds from former Microsoft executives, Mono continues to be developed, giving the illusion that there is something “open source” about .NET. We saw the same thing being done to promote the idea that OOXML is “open”; companies like Novell were bribed to become participants. According to this new post from Andy Updegrove, only in 2012 did Microsoft actually get an implementation of OOXML. To quote: “Yesterday, Microsoft made an unobtrusive announcement that brings a degree of closure to a seven year long epic battle between some of the largest technology companies in the world. The same saga pitted open source advocates against proprietary vendors, and for the first time brought the importance of technical standards to the attention of millions of people around the world, and at the center of the action were Microsoft and IBM, the latter supported by Google and Oracle, among other allies.”
Just as we stated years ago, nobody had implemented OOXML; this was just an excuse for attacking ODF and keeping people stuck with Office. Looking further back we find that Microsoft used similar tactics against old Novell. To quote Pamela Jones: “When Judge J. Frederick Motz recently threw Novell’s WordPerfect antitrust case under a bus, ruling for Microsoft on its motion for judgment as a matter of law, his excuses seemed flimsy to me, at best. One of his reasons was that, in his view, when Microsoft withdrew support from certain APIs back in the ’90s, Novell could have just used what they already had to at least come up with a makeshift solution to tide them over so as to be ready for the Windows 95 launch. He also found it important that Novell bigwigs didn’t complain about the APIs to Microsoft at the time.
“Was he right?
“[I]n the process of corruption Microsoft managed to rip people out of their job (we provided example), simply because they stood up against Microsoft’s criminal activity.”“I want to show you some emails from 1994 and 1998 our volunteers have just transcribed as text, from the collection of PDF exhibits in Comes v. Microsoft. The 1994 internal Microsoft thread includes Jim Allchin saying, in effect, that the company should deliberately make sure competitors’ applications don’t work as well on Windows as their competing applications do. That is precisely what Novell claims happened with WordPerfect, and in that exact time frame. The Allchin email seems to match Bill Gates’ notorious email about deciding to pull back on the API support (“We should wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will be harder for the likes of Notes, Wordperfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage.”). And then there are a couple of internal Novell emails from 1998 on problems with Microsoft, and finally a Gateway thread from the same general time frame, showing how Microsoft could really mess your business up, if Microsoft Help didn’t want to help, which Novell says is what happened right after Microsoft pulled the API support.”
This is very revealing. Microsoft does everything to sabotage interoperability and it still does not get punished for it. Rich criminals are rarely being jailed, even when they bribe, cheat, and bully. See the OOXML abuse index.
Glyn Moody says the latest news “means [Microsoft] *failed* to [implement OOXML] until now” and he links to this submission from Updegrove. Not a single person was sent to prison for what clearly was Microsoft corruption. Not a single person in Microsoft lost his or her job, either. On the contrary, in the process of corruption Microsoft managed to rip people out of their job (we provided example), simply because they stood up against Microsoft’s criminal activity. █
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Summary: How dirty dealings in Europe have been benefiting the convicted monopolist from Redmond, United States
THE always-excellent journalism from Mark Ballard helps expose injustices in Europe. His latest output says that “Europe’s ill-fated 1993 migration to Microsoft Office was rubber-stamped by a committee that failed to see how it would get locked into buying Microsoft without a competition for the next 20 years, show documents released to Computer Weekly.
“The European Commission used dubious reasoning to justify its decision in 1992 to do a backroom deal with Microsoft. Officials at the time said it was based on a survey of the wordprocessing market. But they took that as justification for buying Microsoft’s entire Office suite – with spreadsheet, presentation, email and database software – without opening the business up to any other competitor. And it threw the desktop operating systems DOS and Windows in as well.
“The European Commission used dubious reasoning to justify its decision in 1992 to do a backroom deal with Microsoft.”
–Mark Ballard“”Under the provisions of Article 58 of the Financial Regulation, [the selection procedure] was carried by direct negotiation with the company Microsoft Corporation, owner of the goods concerned (MS-WORD FOR WINDOWS, EXCEL, and operating systems DOS and Windows),” said the EC Information Directorate at the time.
“”The proposed contract with the company MICROSOFT will also extend to other office products offered by the company and are regularly requested from the Commission.”
“The EC was effectively giving Microsoft its desktop monopoly on a plate.”
Simon Phipps, who is now the OSI President, blasts “biased buying” which he blames for the slow adoption of Free software. He, like Ballard, is a Brit, so his analysis is EU-centric. He writes: “The market for public services is very large – almost 20% of Europe’s GDP in 2009 – and continues to grow. It’s consequently a valuable source of business and provides an economic stimulus to Europe that’s far more significant than any individual initiative a government might devise.
“It’s thus in Europe’s interest to ensure that market is as open as possible, so that the effects of the “stimulus package” of public procurement can benefit any qualified player. That’s especially the case in ICT, where there’s a tendency for legacy US vendors to lock in customers and thus lock out European participants.
“How do you do open procurement for ICT solutions? The answer, according to the European Commission, is to ensure that all procurement that requires tendering (and not all does) is specified in terms of the functions required rather than expressing a preference for the brands involved in the solution. That makes huge sense and is likely to create an open, competitive market, with all the cost savings you’d expect.”
“Antitrust action should be invoked.”Mr. Pogson, over in Canada, unearths some Comes vs. Microsoft exhibit to show the ill effects of the monopoly. “For decades,” he explain, Microsoft “has enslaved all of its customers, “partners” and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors). They have all been enlisted to prop up the monopoly in PC operating systems. The ISVs, while supposedly independent, were made dependent by offering “inside information”, special APIs to give advantages over competitors, lots of software-creation tools and, of course, backwards compatibility.”
This limited competition and impeded integration work, motivating bundled purchases and never-ending lock-in. In order to escape lock-in, ODF was introduced, but as we recently learned, it was not doing so well after Microsoft had embraced and ‘extended’ it too.
Speaking as one who works for a Free software integrator in the UK, this affects me personally and professionally. Microsoft has blocked competitors using backroom deals, technical sabotage, and digestion of threats. I saw it for myself; so have many who read this site. Antitrust action should be invoked. █
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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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