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Japan Chooses Openness, FSF Challenges OOXML, and South Africa to Decide on Document Formats (Corrected+Updated)

We have recently lost focus of the Linux deals and found ourselves discussing some of their more worrisome impacts of these deals. Document format debates occupied a large number of the recent posts because they are very important. Microsoft strives to keep its cash cow alive by controlling the standard. it wants the Golden Wand. Recently it recruited a 4th Linux company to help it achieve this. Whether money exchanged hands or not (again?), we probably will never know.

The good news is that Japan has just expressed its support for a truly open document format. From the announcement:

The OpenDocument Format Alliance (ODF Alliance), the leading organization advocating for openness and accessibility to government documents and information, today congratulated Japan for adopting a policy under which government ministries and agencies will solicit bids from software vendors whose products support internationally recognized open standards.

Previously, government agencies could ask bidders to submit bids based on whether their products offered functions comparable to particular software suites. With the new interoperability framework, which takes effect immediately, the government will give preference to procuring products that adhere to open standards, and which interoperate easily with other software.


The situation in the United States is not quite the same. However, You can still make a difference in Massachusetts. As you may recall, because we mentioned this the other day, South Africa is currently looking at the appropriateness of Microsoft's OpenXML. You can help them decide. Just remember to be polite. You can use or re-use some strong and valid arguments.


Among those attendees were some other members of the committee and something of a strategy meeting developed, with ideas being shared as to how best to obtain community input.

What emerged was that bombarding the SABS with petitions would not benefit the cause and would merely further irritate those involved.


As we recently pointed out, Microsoft has strong relationships in the United Kingdom and it is using them for lobbying. Fortunately, the bias of the BBC did not escape the attention (or wrath) of the FSF, which has just published a good rebuttal.

After Microsoft announced it would work with the UK National Archives to help open old digital document formats, Georg Greve and Joachim Jakobs, of the Free Software Foundation Europe, question the US giant's motives.

[...]

What happened: Microsoft asked the UK National Archives to invest in a solution that would grant access to their legacy data.


This whole scenario emerged when the BBC and National Archives published what appeared like Microsoft promotion. I called it a "publicity stunt" at the time. It seems to promoted Microsoft's OOXML lockin under disguise. I later addressed and delivered some criticisms and evidence to back my stance.

Not all hope is lost. There are some encouraging developments at the BBC. Yesterday the Register published an item which indicates that the BBC no longer ignores us. It is willing to explains its decision to enforce the regime of Microsoft DRM and negotiate ways to proceed.

The BBC Trust has asked to meet open source advocates to discuss their complaints over the corporation's Windows-only on demand broadband TV service, iPlayer.

[...]

Before the trust got in touch on Wednesday, OSC CEO Rick Timmis said: "Everything we've done in the trust's direction has fallen on deaf ears. They've completely ignored us."


Correction: previously, the title stated "Japan Chooses OpenDocument Format, FSF Challenges OOXML, and South Africa to Decide on Document Format", but the situation in Japan isn't so, yet. The title was thus corrected.

Update: I have just spotted something which looks rather ugly. It's not truly a surprise because intent was announced some months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft will have some 'OOXML traps' (or hooks) preinstalled on some consumer PCs. Think of it as a teaser, or what Microsoft called "craplets". It puts Microsoft in a position of advantage that capitalises on an OEM chokehold (defended through retaliation tactics). Here is the gist:

Microsoft is shipping limited-use copies of Office 2007 with PCs in a try-before-you-buy scheme to seed the market with its latest suite and drive Windows server and client software sales.


Now, two observations are worth making here. Firstly, the trial version of Microsoft Office does not enable the user to save files in formats other than OOXML. Other options (save as/export) are greyed out. This essentially holds the user's data hostage. The user data is captured in the universe of OOXML format. The second observation to make is that one of the most popular requests in Dell's IdeaStorm is preinstallation of OpenOffice.org. Dell has so far refused to respond to this demand.

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