Summary: Recalling the older corruption of Microsoft and Bill Gates, especially in light of some news from Europe
n anonymous Scandinavian reader wrote to tell us that Microsoft “has gotten inside the Norwegian public sector.” For context he gives these two links [1, 2] and reminds us that; “In 2007, Norway required that editable documents be in ODF within the state agencies. Now they’re following the “Microsoft too” tactic and “also” permitting OOXML and removing the requirement for ODF. Apparently the head of Microsoft Norway has had a series of closed meetings with the state council(?) (statsråden).
“”statsråden” is minister, but I don’t know which one. It would be good to hear from NUUG because they are the main opposition to the change.
“Apparently the king helped slam it through. Your country has royalty still. How does that complicate matters or does it affect things at all?
“Google Translate does an ok job.”
We wrote about OOXML-related abuses in Norway in posts such as this one. Citing the new article titled “DoJ, SEC investigating Microsoft over bribery claims” Pamela Jones writes: “While they are at it, I wish they’d look into the French about-face on OOXML.”
Nicolas Sarkozy and OOXML scandals in France were covered here before. Here are some of the more notable posts about it:
- More on France and Microsoft’s OOXML; ODF Still a Leader
- White-Collar Crime Pays Off, Shows Microsoft OOXML
- Hewlett-Packard Does Microsoft’s Dirty Job Again, Lobbies for the Monopoly
- Guilty Parties in OOXML Fiasco in France Gets Exposed (Updated)
Separately, adds Jones: “The first thing I thought of was France doing a 180 on OOXML, after reports of a phone call from Bill Gates to Sarkozy and the AFNOR letter from Microsoft France mentioning telephone contacts, the letter sent the day before the OOXML vote deadline. By the way, notice in that last link how Microsoft behaved at meetings of AFNOR, according to Frederick:
Q: Last August there were some reports that the AFNOR commission meetings were heated. Can you tell us anything about that?
Couchet: On August 29th 2007 the AFNOR standardization commission meeting took place with the objective of establishing the position of the commission and therefore consequently France’s position. The exchanges were stormy at some points since Marc Mosse, head of Legal and Public Affairs at Microsoft France, did everything, I thought, he could to sabotage the meeting. Marc Mossé, judging from appearances, seemed to have the very clear assignment to obtain AFNOR’s abstention. Absolutely not constructive, not very polite either, in particular with the representatives of the French administration, Marc Mosse seemed to have decided to ruin the meeting and heighten the pressure — well-known tactic to block the arrival at a consensus. But he did too much, way too much. The end was pitiful enough, notably when he accused one of the State’s representatives of serving a “banana republic”. He claimed by the way to be representing local administrations against the central administration. The resume of Marc Mosse is online but strangely, his stint at the BSA, the Business Software Alliance, is not mentioned in it. The meeting of March 25th 2008 was much more calm and cordial, perhaps because of the absence of Marc Mosse.
Does that not remind you of the behavior this month of those who seemed determined to disrupt Google’s presentations regarding Vp8 so as to avoid consensus, including the one on IPR?” (we just wrote about this in the previous post).
That last part we may cover in a separate post. Why is the English-speaking press not covering these scandals?
At ZDNet this month, Microsoft employee Jason Perlow has been actively bashing Android and promoting Microsoft products under the guise of ‘journalism’ (no links given, on purpose). This is a farce. Corruption is allowed to carry on because real journalism is left for sites like Groklaw to do while Perlow smears those real journalists. █
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Summary: Microsoft is under fire for bribery allegations in governments; now that the UK government says it will adopt Free and open source software while the Swiss government refuses to do so there is more food for thought about the motives and backdoor dealings
Governments are not only being robbed by Microsoft through tax evasion. Taxpayer are constantly being hit by Microsoft tax when they buy PCs and when the government buys PCs. Now we know, based on Murdoch’s press that “U.S. Probes Microsoft, Partners Over Bribery Claims”. Microsoft is Obama’s second among companies that bribed him in 2012, so we doubt anyone will go to jail over it. Bribery is a crime when the small person does it; for a corporation like Microsoft it is just a standard way of doing business. We saw a lot of it amid OOXML scandals.
Here is what the Wall Street Journal says:
Lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining kickback allegations made by a former Microsoft representative in China, as well as the company’s relationship with certain resellers and consultants in Romania and Italy, these people said.
The investigation is in a preliminary phase, according to people familiar with the probe, and the government hasn’t accused Microsoft or any of its business associates of wrongdoing. Such investigations can end with no charges being filed.
The Slashdot summary includes more news links. There are reports in other languages as well. It’s an international fiasco and the thing about the invetigation is that it’s well overdue. Microsoft is a criminal firm with criminal past, so there’s not much of a reputation to keep and not much reason for hesitation in investigating the practices.
Today in the mail I received two letters. One tells me that City Council tax is up almost ten percent and the other says that the bank is slashing an already low interest rate by around 12.5 percent. Inflation is a popular form of hidden tax, more hidden than the notorious bank levy in Cyprus.
So, how does my government save money other than by taxing ordinary citizens who have no access to offshore tax havens like the multi-millionaires and billionaires? Well , it recently seemed like Microsoft was on its way out. As one report puts it:
Open source use in UK government has been establishing itself, in both the Government’s G-Cloud and in procurement standards. Now, the publication of a beta of the UK’s “Government Service Design Manual”, part of the Digital by Default Standard for government services, is writing in a preference towards using open source into the guidance for service managers, developers and web operations.
Robert Pogson, responding to this move from the government, says:
If you read the comments on that blog post you find that previously the IT department were afraid of the security of WordPress, used on tens of millions of web-facing sites…
Sometimes top-down leadership is needed to break log-jams and catch the wave.
Here is another report. We are waiting to see what Microsoft will do other than bribe, openwash, or intimidate rivals or politicians (like in Massachusetts). It affects me personally in my daytime job. Here is some widely-cited post about the news:
Since I’m writing this on St. Patrick’s Day, covering news involving the British government–those perfidious Hanoverians who dispossessed my Irish ancestors several centuries ago–feels just a little off-base. Still, the United Kingdom’s official endorsement of open source software, which became public just a few days ago, seems too important to miss, particularly for the implications it could have for businesses, governments and other organizations throughout the channel.
In other words, this is bad news for companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), whose products the guide discourages.
Microsoft will definitely lobby behind the scenes, as it always does to derail such policies. Bribes are possible too. We saw it before.
Switzerland is a country where Microsoft corruption in government contracts led to a lawsuit which we covered before in:
Here is a nice analogy for what’s happening in Switzerland:
The reason behind the motion was an application called Agate which is used by farmers to report on transport of their animals. The application is available only for Microsoft Windows so if someone is running GNU/Linux system they can’t file the report. So in other words the government is ‘forcing’ people to pay Microsoft tax, buy Windows operating system and then file the reports.
Government related activities should be vendor neutral and citizens must be able to file report using any operating system they deem fit instead of being forced to buy proprietary and extremely insecure Microsoft products.
Corruption in the Swiss government was covered in the following posts around 2009:
- Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
- Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
- Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
- 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
- Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
- Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
- ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
- Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
- Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
- Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
- Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
Corruption in the Swiss banks makes it not far-fetched to assume corruption in the government as well. Here’s where things stand:
The Swiss Parliament on Wednesday rejected a motion calling on the government to create vendor independent e-government services, Swiss newspapers report. With 14 votes against and 12 vote in favour, the Swiss Council of States (Ständerat) threw out a motion, submitted in 2011, requesting the government to create ‘Non-discriminatory eGovernment solutions for Swiss farmers’.
Pogson responds by saying:
I hope the voters wake up their representatives. Apparently a bunch of them are asleep. It is the 21st century and many governments recognize that there is more than one supplier of software for personal computing.
Remember what happened in Switzerland amid OOXML abuses. Someone should investigate to see if here too there are bribes. The outcome of the anti-ODF campaign was clear and today we found this article which says:
…both [ODF and OOMXL] are ISO standard document formats
They neglect to say how Microsoft corrupted ISO to make this happen. Bribes too were involved. Whether Microsoft is found guilty in this latest investigation won’t change Microsoft’s record on bribes. Microsoft is corrupt. █
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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: Without speaking to FOSS experts the bureaucrats in Europe consider giving up on ODF and FOSS
EARLIER THIS year we wrote about how OOXML was interfering with FOSS adoption in the German public sector. IDG has
this report which echoes a few others but places little or no emphasis on OOXML. It says:
Several open source groups such as the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Document Foundation and the Open Source Business Alliance protested the plans in an open letter to the council on Friday, saying the council compared apples with oranges.
“Numerous statements concerning LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are incorrect or outdated,” they said in the letter, adding that the support of LibreOffice and OpenOffice is at a professional level these days. “The assessment of the evaluation that compatibility to Microsoft Office cannot be reached in the next few years, is also wrong,” they said.
According to the organizations, 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.
The council plans to vote on the draft bill next Tuesday.
That is just a few days from now. The cost of lock-in is very high and many managers fail to take this into account. There are 450 comments in Slashdot. The problems in Freiburg are somewhat representative of the excuses made in other places. Microsoft had hired some people whose task is to attack LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org adoption (also see [1, 2, 3]), nut almost nobody in the corporate press reported on that. █
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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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