Summary: All signs indicate that Metro is just history, so XPS is no PS (PostScript) or PDF
A FEW years ago people started worrying about XPS, which was supposed to be Microsoft’s proprietary ‘PDF killer’. We opened a whole new category for XPS, only to be accommodated with 8 items as time went on, the last one going over a year back. What’s happening with XPS/Metro then? Despite looking closely at Microsoft news over the past year (close to 1,000 headlines/week) we found nothing about it. Google News currently yields nothing. It’s quite likely that it died faster than Silver Lie, but Microsoft never arranged a funeral or declared the death officially, e.g. with an announcement or a quick blog post. █
Summary: A lump of news about OpenOffice.org, ODF adoption and events, and the usual resistance from Microsoft (through partners and ecosystem)
OpenOffice.org 3.2 is coming quite soon and Oracle is obliged to support it, which leads to responses like: “It was also good today to see a report on Oracle’s plans for OpenOffice.org. Sun Microsystems is OpenOffice.org’s founding and princip[al] sponsor, so the news that Sun was to be acquired by Oracle had set hearts fluttering in the open-source world.”
Over in India, it appears as though NASSCOM continues to act as a barrier to open standards and Free(dom) software [1, 2]. Here is the latest new article on the subject:
THE information technology (IT) industry in India is bitterly divided over the issue of technological standards to be adopted in e-governance processes. This problem stems from the fact that large, state-funded e-governance projects in the pipeline present the recession-hit IT sector with substantial business opportunities.
With the guidelines for setting these standards being finalised by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) under the National Policy on Open Standards for E-Governance, the debate on the nature of the standards – critical to the effective delivery of public e-services – is hotting up. Intense lobbying is on by those in favour of proprietary standards and by the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, which is against it.
When the draft policy was tabled at the meeting of the apex committee of standards for e-governance in June, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) and the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT) pushed for two modifications to it: the replacement of open and free standards with royalty-based ones, and allowing multiple standards in the same technological domain.
The first draft of the policy unambiguously states that the open standard chosen must be royalty-free for its lifetime, but subsequent drafts allowed for RAND terms to be invoked in the absence of an existing open standard. This loophole, FOSS supporters fear, may allow powerful lobbies to hijack these standards in a non-transparent environment inside committee rooms.
If, as the proprietary camp wishes, open standards are redefined as RAND exclusively, a substantial portion of the taxpayers’ money will go towards royalties and software monopolies will be entrenched into this growing segment.
Leading Indian IT companies have supported proprietary software; this was evident from the debate on India’s vote at the International Standards Organisation (ISO) on the Open Document Format versus Microsoft’s OOXML controversy.
“OOXML controversy” is an understatement. Those OOXML corruptions cannot be forgotten, only downplayed by the press. A few days ago we wrote about the OOXML BRM convenor, who was exposed, by no means for the first time [1, 2, 3, 4]. There are some interesting new comments being posted in Silva’s blog where Microsoft partner Jesper Lund Stocholm defends the OOXML corruptions and also his friend, Alex Brown, as always (later pretending that he is neutral. That’s rich!). It’s not a question of taking/choosing sides between vendors; it’s a case of some people choosing corruption of the process over justice, usually for personal gain. Microsoft’s politicisation of the issue (pretending it’s IBM versus Microsoft) was debunked here many times before.
Here is AbiWord 2.8.1, which has just been released with ODF support, as well as several other examples of how pervasive ODF has become, being a standard that is open, free, and one that everybody can implement trivially.
Enter “Solr Cell” (a play on Solr Content Extraction Library, Solr CEL), a Solr 1.4 feature that uses the content-extraction capabilities of Apache Tika to parse common office document formats. With Solr Cell, you can fairly quickly set Solr up to ingest PDF, OpenDocument, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, RTF, ZIP, and other document formats. This is a welcome development indeed.
It was rather upsetting to find this possibility that Microsoft might do with XAML [1, 2] what it did with OOXML and is trying to do with XPS these days. David Coallier wrote: “Just proposed a controversial ODF vs OOXML discussion for the #mswds … and the possibility of opening XAML :D”
We’re fine with (X)HTML+SVG, thank you.
“It was rather upsetting to find this possibility that Microsoft might do with XAML what it did with OOXML and is trying to do with XPS these days.”On the more positive side, Rob Weir is “Working on a demo, showing how to bring ODF data on the web using the ODFDOM Toolkit to generate Atom and JSON,” later adding: “Just finished writing my ODF/Atom/JSON mashups presentation. I am giving 5 presentations in 5 days. Drinking from the firehose.”
Weir refers to the event called by abbreviation “OOoCon”, which is taking place right now (November 3, 2009 – November 6, 2009). The ODF plugfest in Orvieto took place around the weekend (November 2-3, 2009), but there are hardly any reports from it.
For a few years the Vole had been trying to create open standards derived from its own XML-based file formats, such as XPS and Office XML. True, much of its work was seen as an attempt to stop competing formats, such as the Open Document Format. However Microsoft did get some support for its cunning plan.
As one person put it, “Microsoft granted patent “..document stored in a single XML..” [http://is.gd/2a8y1]. ODF uses several xml files .. so are we in safe??”
Another individual writes: “Not “new usage” for patents: #Microsoft #patents #fud against #ODF: http://is.gd/29nmu”
There is a fairly new video at YouTube where Jon ‘Maddog’ Hall talks about OOXML and ODF. Have a look.
Although we are seeing more ODF software, Microsoft carries on with OOXML and in the process of putting an office suite on-line, Microsoft proves that it is hostile not only towards competition but also towards Web standards. Yesterday from The Register:
Microsoft’s web Office: No love for Chrome, Opera
Apparently, Microsoft isn’t familiar with Google Chrome or Opera, or, for that matter, Internet Explorer 6 or the Windows version of Apple’s Safari. They’re not on the official list of supported browsers included in a recent blog posting by the Office Web Apps Team – a posting, ironically enough, entitled “The Office Web Apps Love Your Browser.”
Official support for the Office Web Apps limits that love to Internet Explorer 7 and 8; Firefox 3.5 on Windows, Mac, and Linux; and Safari 4 on Mac. And that’s it.
According to Mary-Jo Foley, Silver Lie (XAML) is making its way into this as well. This harms GNU/Linux users no matter which Web browser they use. It is time for regulators to impose open standards on Microsoft, and not proprietary formats that Microsoft pretends (and bribes) to be called “standards”. Microsoft’s ODF implementation is still deficient and harmful [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. █
Summary: ECMA is done with Microsoft XPS, time to shove it down ISO’s throat
LAST YEAR we warned that Microsoft would attempt to repeat something like the OOXML fiasco, this time for a static document format. This was also alluded to in [1, 2, 3].
“It is Microsoft’s proprietary, inferior duplicate of PDF — just another proprietary format in Microsoft’s control.”Now that ECMA, a body that stamps virtually anything provided sufficient payments, is done with XPS (press release from this week), it is expected that Microsoft will try to ram it down ISO’s throat. It is Microsoft’s proprietary, inferior duplicate of PDF — just another proprietary format in Microsoft’s control. As David Gerard puts it, “Microsoft tries to push completely superfluous garbage through ECMA in preparation for ISO.”
Summary: A lot of news about software patents and intellectual monopolies in general
IT HAS been a long time since the last post about patents, so here is a quick summary.
Patents in a Standard and Microsoft
Rambus is an example of a case [1, 2, 3, 4] where so-called standards get contaminated by patents, sometimes secretly. One of the key Samba lawyers (and one who stood up to Microsoft) wrote about patents in standards. He refers to the Rambus case:
We have just heard of a proposed settlement of an EC antitrust action against a private company named Rambus. Rambus has reportedly tabled an undertaking to reduce its royalties for DRAM patents, which would lead, technically, to a decision according to Art. 9 of EC Regulation 1/2003. The Commission has published it for market testing, inviting comments by the middle of July. Although the proposed licenses and royalties still raise questions, it is in the line of successes of EU antitrust activities where USA initiatives have most remarkably failed. But more importantly, it is the first signal to the world of standards that the recent free rides by some players in that field are going to be under vigilant scrutiny of the antitrust authorities.
The move closely follows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s rejection of all 41 claims in seven of the nine patents Rambus asserted against Nvidia and 17 of its customers in the ITC case.
Digital Majority has made the observation that Microsoft may be hiding software patents in XPS. To quote from the XPS licence: “There is a requirement that any XPS implementation that is distributed, licensed or sold contain a notice in the source code of the implementation indicating that Microsoft may have intellectual property associated with the implementation and to provide a link to where the license may be obtained from Microsoft.”
“The TomTom case was another example where a Microsoft promise regarding patents was suddenly broken.”In reference to this Patently-O article, Pamela Jones wrote: “What he is saying is that it is harder to push through an obvious patent, and more exactly that if your patent is found to be obvious, the appellate court won’t help you as readily as it used to, due to the ruling in KSR. To patent lawyers, that is a bad thing. To me, thinking of patents like Microsoft’s FAT patents, it’s a good thing.”
The TomTom case was another example where a Microsoft promise regarding patents was suddenly broken. It is similar to what Rambus did and some might call it an “ambush”.
ACTA is a global problem [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. Fortunately, some good people took it upon themselves to address it and Glyn Moody shares some of the details.
One of the frustrating aspects about the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) is that it is a cosy club of rich and powerful nations plus a few of their equally rich and powerful chums in select industry. Meanwhile, hoi polloi – that’s you and me – don’t get a look in, even though we are the most affected.
ACTA will mandate software patents, criminalization of copyright infringements, censorship lists, data retention. States that today resist such measures due to local democratic pressure will be able to cite “Obligations under International Law” as an excuse to move towards eFascism. The goal is to send 4chan, piratebay, and anyone else who offends the powerful to jail.
The most urgent news comes from New Zealand, where Free software folks have noticed some disturbing developments following similar recent attempts to disrupt copyright law.
Software patents are not currently available in New Zealand, although several companies have tried to get “by the back door”, i.e. by tying the software idea they want to patent to some piece of hardware.
A software patent is a state-enforced monopoly on a idea. They exist in the US and some other countries, but not in many places including New Zealand. We don’t need or want them here. If you want some reasons, here are five good ones:
Open-source champions are pushing to eliminate software patents from New Zealand through a Patents Bill now at the select committee stage in Parliament.
Such patents have been accepted by default for many years, but this is damaging to the software industry, which subsists to a great extent on adapting and including the ideas of previous inventors, says New Zealand Open Source Society president Don Christie.
The US Supreme Court will soon hear Bilski on why software and business method patents are so good for the US economy. I was trying to find out where the Bilski’s pending patent application was published, and I ended up writing to the new USPTO President and ex-IBM David Kappos. I finally got an answer from a USPTO official that the Bilski’s pending patent application cannot be seen by the public.
It is important that the Bilski judgment be understood correctly, and not misinterpreted as meaning the end of software patents in the US. However, there is a lack of clarity as to which kinds of patent claim will satisfy the Bilski test, and it is therefore good news that the US Supreme Court has agreed, on 1 June 2009, to hear arguments in Bilski v Doll to review the Federal Circuit decision. The Supreme Court will deal with two questions: firstly, does the Federal Circuit’s decision conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision in Diamond v Diehr where the court held that the only non-patentable subject matter is “laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas”; and secondly, does the “machine-or-transformation” test conflict with the US Congress’s intent that business methods are patentable?
The Supreme Court may uphold the “machine-or-transformation” test, may alter how the test is administered, or may adopt another test altogether. Oral hearings will commence in October 2009, so it will be some time before a decision is issued.
Since the Bilski patent application has never been published, it is hard to determine from the claims if its commodity hedging scheme requires a computer for any practical use. If the hedging scheme requires a computer for any practical use of the invention, then denying the patent just because it does not recite the hardware is absurdly formalistic. If the invention does not require a computer for any practical application of the invention, then it is hard to see how the invention is novel. In this case, the courts should avoid any overly broad pronouncements about business method patents or software patents and rule the invention is not patentable for lack of novelty.
IP Law & Business laments that when the Federal Circuit issued the landmark Bilski decision, some folks were ready to call it the death of (most) business method patents, or even software patents—that view may be a bit premature. Even if Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor joins the court and turn out to be strongly pro-patent, those hoping for stronger limits on what can be patented, there are still a number of way to find a majority. Several justices have, in other cases, dropped hints about what’s in their minds on this subject.
Here is a comment which states the absurdity of patents on sharing of photos.
Patents on “organizing and sharing images online”? Surely these are “business methods”. I hope the Supreme Court (In Re Bilski) can bring some sanity to this ridiculous software patent mess the lawyers have gotten us into.
EFF’s patent-busting project may not be the most effective way to battle this issue at its core, but another little milestone is marked with elimination of the notorious subdomain patent.
San Francisco – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has announced that it will revoke an illegitimate patent on Internet subdomains as a result of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Patent Busting Project campaign.
U.S. Patent No. 6,687,746, now held by Hoshiko, LLC, claimed to cover the method of automatically assigning Internet subdomains, like “action.eff.org” for the parent domain “eff.org.” Previous patent owner Ideaflood used this bogus patent to demand payment from website hosting companies offering personalized domains, such as LiveJournal, a social networking site where each of its three million users may have their own subdomain.
As we noted earlier, the USPTO denies access to Bilski’s pending patent application, but FFII’s president (Benjamin) claims that he “got confirmation that EPO publishes pending patent applications, not like in the US.” There are barriers however:
EPO website and pending patent applications
Does someone has a link to a webpage of the EPO displaying a pending patent application?
Gauss is for the moment down (once again), it is time to move to make mirrors.
As Benjamin puts it, “things go wrong with the web memory: http://noepatents.eu.org, http://gauss.ffii.org, http://wiki.ael.be all gone.”
The European Patent Office (EPO) does not grant patents for computer programs (“software patents”) or computer-implemented business methods that make no such technical contribution. In this respect the granting practice of the EPO differs significantly from that of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). [IPKat comment: Although, after Bilski, it appears that the USPTO is now even more strict than the EPO]
The notion that software patents can magically intrude Europe through unification is further substantiated by this.
Step forward for an EU patent?
The European Union has moved to address a decisive issue key to the creation of the hotly-contested European community patent. At the end of May, European Industry Ministers agreed to ask the European Court of Justice (EJC) whether draft plans to cut the costs of defending patents in a single European patent court would be compatible with EU law. Because the European Patent Office also grants patents that are valid in non-EU member states – such as Norway and Switzerland – the topic is under debate.
The “community patent” is nothing to do with community in the inventors’ sense. Community of lawyers — maybe.
Green Party and Pirate Party
Not everyone has surrendered to this ludicrous idea that software development deserves monopolies. There are at least two political strands in Europe that explicitly oppose the EPO’s current practices. One of them is the Green Party, whose position is:
Public documents in open formats
Greens want public documents to be written and conserved in an open format, in order to keep public administrations independent from software publishers and patent holders and ensure document accessibility to all citizens, independent of which software he or she uses.
European Patent Office (EPO)
Greens want EPO to become a Community Institution, accountable to the Commission and the EP. The EPO shall be publically funded, in order to discourage their practice of issuing high numbers of patents in order to secure EPO financing, which is detrimental to the quality of patents. Greens propose that 5% of the renewal fees of patents are transferred to an independent research and innovation fund.
“The Pirate Party wants to fundamentally reform copyright law, get rid of the patent system, and ensure that citizens’ rights to privacy are respected.” And as of today, the Pirate Party is represented in the European Parliament, having secured just over 7% of the votes in Sweden in the European elections held over the last few days across the EU.
In it, “Newspapers are elephants in a desert of their own making, desperately wandering from watering hole to watering hole, but the revenue flowing from each tributary of their 18th century monopoly on the sale of copies is drying up,” says Crosbie, adding:
“Neither fencing off the copies nor reinforcing the monopoly will help. Their business model faces absolute drought. So they collect, not to commit suicide, but to assemble their graveyard.
then i realized, i was an artist, and all the articles on ars, /., techdirt and here reminded me of patent trolls, copyright propoganda, ad nauseum.
Despite all that copyright propaganda, ad nauseum etc. it is opposers of such monopolistic abuse who are often described as the “bad people”, where “bad” just means “less wealthy” or simply the digital majority. It is largely the same when it comes to pure politics. █
“It is not the policy of the EPO to require or examine source codes […]. Moreover, given the length and complexity of source code listings, which can often stretch to hundreds of pages, it would be quite impossible to examine them.”—European Patent Officebrochure
Newer versions of Microsoft Office offer PDF support and rather odd partial ODF support…
Oiaohm disagrees with Sutor, stating that Sutor should “Print those darn PDFs [and] compare them to the ones that come out Openoffice. Microsoft really has only partly supported PDF too.”
Is this a way of making PDF look bad, thus promoting the use of Microsoft’s proprietary XPS for static output? Sounds like a similar strategy to that of promoting OOXML by essentially forking de facto ODF.
To Microsoft, interoperability is truly an enemy. It makes it harder to sell (or charge for) Windows and Office, so the unacceptable condition for semi-interoperability is now software patents, which means competitors must pay Microsoft for the privilege of having a bridge. This cost is being passed to consumers who pay “Microsoft tax” no matter which product they buy. █
“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!“
In our previous writings about MS-XPS [1, 2, 3], we presented a case that makes Microsoft’s plan rather clear to see. The company wants its entire platform or stack essentially to be seen (and approved) as a standard so that those escaping Microsoft lock-in on the basis of “need for standards” will lose justification for doing so.
“Microsoft knows all of this which is why it demotes the status of standards as a whole while at the same time pretending to be part of that club.”You see, changing national policies to advance GNU/Linux “because Linux is kind of cool” is very different from “the need to reduce dependency and comply with international standards.” Microsoft knows all of this which is why it demotes the status of standards as a whole while at the same time pretending to be part of that club. It’s no longer a gentlemen’s club. The distinguishing factor, the added value, is at least formally disappearing. Those close to these matters know exactly what is happening (sheer abuse to counter disapproval), but officials at the very top just look for certifications and stare at rubber stamps. The stories told by 'the media' do not help all that much.
It has been quite a while since XPS was last discussed, but quiet progress by no means makes it a slow progress. In fact, this makes XPS more risky because it becomes insensitive to scrutiny. If Microsoft is allowed to practically define standards along with EMCA employees whom it pays, then we may soon suffer from another duplicate standard, from which Adobe suffers and whose licence Microsoft decides on as means of excluding competitors. Here is the gist of this new take on XPS:
What do have OOXML and XPS have in common? Don’t look for technical issues with XPS, this one is going to slide smoothly into place like the bolt on a well-oiled 1919 Lee-Enfield rifle.
Microsoft’s XAML isn’t the only one out there of course. Open source programmers have long had access to MyXaml which went Version 1.0 in 2004. Its sponsor is Ironsuit Software.
Open source programmers are also familiar with United XAML and the Open XUL Alliance, both on Sourceforge.
Ironsuit Software seems like a permanently parked domain (either retired or a shell company) and this brings recollections of Microsoft’s OOXML bogus ‘support’ from Apache [1, 2, 3]. One of the projects above proudly speaks of “turning .NET into a browser.” Wow. Wouldn’t Miguel and his followers get excited?
In Rob Weir’s latest post, which was mentioned the other day, the impact of OOXML on the Web was mentioned also. We need none of that, but Microsoft known better what’s good for the world. █
According to the following bit of information, ECMA does not exactly operate like a standards body should. Have a look (emphasis mine):
Global Graphics’ chief technology officer Martin Bailey has been appointed by standards development body Ecma International to chair a new technical committee that will work on producing a formal industry standard for the XML Paper Specification (XPS), the new print and document format introduced by Microsoft with Windows Vista….
Global Graphics has played a prominent role in the development and launch of the XPS specification from the very start. A recognized expert in interpreting, rendering and converting PDLs, Global Graphics’ leading edge expertise and engineering capability were factors in the Company being chosen by Microsoft in 2003 to provide consultation services on the XPS specification as well as develop a prototype and a print reference XPS RIP for Microsoft.
Now, can you see how approval is won at ECMA? There is not much of a chance of a proposal being rejected, is there? As we said yesterday, ISO seems to have lost its way as well. It is becoming a little assimilated to ECMA, which can be referred to as a Coin-in-the-Slot Standards Organization. Once again, Microsoft’s allies are in the committee, so there is little room for independent judgment. ECMA truly looks like a production line that passes on proposal s– however poor they may be — to the ISO, then boasting some ‘pseudo acceptance’ by an industry-for-industry consortium.
Andy Updegrove and Bob Sutor are among those who try to explain to high officials why poor Microsoft-centric standards must be rejected. You can assist resistance to OOXML adoption in MA.
Preparing such comments is time consuming, but it is also important. I took several hours to do so yesterday, and have just sent them to the ITD just now. You can to, and I hope that you will. The ITD’s comment address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the deadline is next Friday. If you’re a believer in open standards, please don’t let that deadline pass without making your thoughts known.
More information can be found here. According to Newton (of Alfresco), Microsoft has just taken its battles to the United Kingdom as well. It continues its lobbying campaign with an XML du jour and a twisted definition of “open”.
With OOXML and XPS, Microsoft has chosen to not work with existing standards, but to create new ones, as they have in their recent announcement on Web3S instead of working with the rest of the industry on the Atom Publishing Protocol. In the case of OOXML, this is a logical move on Microsoft’s part, since it is an evolution of Microsoft’s XML strategy started with the Microsoft Office 2003 version and ODF will be a technology diversion from that strategy. With Microsoft controlling 90% of the office productivity tools market and OOXML being the default file format for Microsoft Office 2007, OOXML is likely to be widely-used.
The article suggests that the BBC article on digital preservation may have been nothing but a publicity stunt. There are some prior incidents where Microsoft did questionable things in the United Kingdom. It ‘faked’ support for OOXML and got slammed by the Open Source Consortium, with which I’m sort of affiliated.
The petition is an attempt to make it appear that Open XML has “pseudo-grassroots” support, argues Mark Taylor, the founder of the Open Source Consortium.