Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's Anti-GNU/Linux/ODF Dump at South Africa

Microsoft sponsors shackles of infinitely-duplicable bits

T

hink about the children! It's always the children that Microsoft approaches equipped with the excuse for zero-cost non-Free software. As for poor college students, they can receive considerable Office discounts for their data to be locked in without easy remedy. They'll pay dearly when they grow up.

Today's development comes from down south. For background on ODF and Free software adoption in South Africa, see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. The short story is that South Africa is one of the leading countries in that respect. Microsoft has lost sleep over it, so it sent lobbyists there, to no avail.

Now... it boils down to money.

GNOME WMVWe've already seen this in many places, including Paris and Dubai [1, 2, 3]. Lobbyist Gates was behind some of these anti-Linux deals with high-level officials. He works quietly behind the scenes (also after that so-called 'retirement'), but the press has it documented.

Whenever a places is on the verge of adopting Free software, Microsoft starts throwing money at the problem, in order to stifle competition. And now it's South Africa where Microsoft battles its #1 competitor. Here is an article that does not require subscription to view in full:

Microsoft to give software to 26 000 [South African] schools



Microsoft will supply productivity and server software worth about R750-million to public schools.

The software is expected to reach 26 000 government schools across South Africa, bringing modern information and communication technology to more than 11 million pupils.


A surprise it is not. On several occasions in the past, on the record even, officials said that the country would move to GNU/Linux, starting with the government att he least. There are already some very large and successful deployments, which happen to favour Ubuntu, product of local a 'rock star', Mark Shuttleworth.

“It's a case of buying away children's liberty...”Microsoft is determined to put an end to it. It will probably also give these children Office; You know, in order to stifle ODF and to spur the network effect using lock-in and other dependencies.

It's a case of buying away children's liberty and there will always be those welcoming the gift blindly. Let's wait and see the reactions in coming days (we've informed some people already).

The only thing that can stop this wonderful trend of GNU/Linux adoption seems to be dumping, namely Microsoft paying (or at least donating) for schools to choose Windows, which it already offers for as little as US$18.

To Microsoft, it is the 'dumping phase' now. It warns about it in its SEC filings and tried this with Intel down in Nigeria (paying them to take Windows). Sales of Windows fell 24% in the last quarter nonetheless, so it's a matter of urgency.

Another new announcement from Microsoft revolved around work with non-profits. Little do the journalists know what's in store. It's being described very blindly as goodwill, but didn't Microsoft give money to thousands of Indian NGOs for pro-OOXML pressure? There are always expectations or strings attached.

Examples:

1. Microsoft influencing partner NGOs to support OOXML in India

Microsoft is encouraging its business partners to promote its Office Open XML specification (OOXML) to the Indian Bureau of Standards (BIS) and Ministry of IT. This move has incensed supporters of the rival OpenDocument Format (ODF) who fear that the "soft" Indian state may not be able to stand up to Microsoft pressure tactics.


2. Microsoft "persuades" NGOs to support OOXML

Our friends at Linux Delhi have put up a copy of the form letters that Microsoft has been sending NGOs on the OOXML issue. Apparently, these NGOs have been sending copies of these letters to the Ministry of IT and Bureau of Indian standards.


3. Using NGOs to Push Agendas

The extent to which Microsoft can go in its efforts to get OOXML is interesting. Microsoft has "persuaded" several non-profit organizations to bombard the Indian IT Secretary and the Additional Director General of the Bureau of Indian Standards with letters supporting its OOXML proposal. A copy of the form letter they have been circulating to NGOs is given below. Somebody should interview these NGOs to see how much they really know about OOXML and open standards.

The sequence of events leading up to the spamming of GoI? is:

Letter from an NGO thanking Microsoft (name changed to protect their identity)


Guess who left Microsoft India shortly after this scandal had been exposed?

Microsoft offered them lots of money before the first vote on OOXML, which took place in September 2007. AP reported about it. How desperate is Microsoft?

"It’s nice for you to admit your guys are running scared [of Free software]. They should be."

--Dana Blankenhorn, The sum of Microsoft’s fears

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